Leading with Kindness

How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results

 Leading with Kindness

Authors: William F. Baker, Michael O'Malley, Ph.D.
Pub Date: August 2008
Print Edition: $18.95
Print ISBN: 9780814439425
Page Count: 256
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814401750

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Too often in the world of business, kindness is regarded as a weakness. True or not, the perception of kind leaders is that they are either too timid to be truly effective, or that they rely on their inherent “niceness” in place of knowledge, courage, toughness, and the ability to persuade. Consequently, the development of kindness as a leadership trait is sorely overlooked—if not scorned outright.

But as it turns out, being kind is one of the most crucial attributes of some of the world’s most successful business leaders. Far from a euphemism for “soft” or “wishy-washy,” true kindness demonstrates a powerful confidence in oneself and those one leads. And not some intangible quality that one either “has” or doesn’t, kindness is an amalgamation of quantifiable, learnable, and refinable traits and skills.

Leading with Kindness identifies six ingredients of kindness—compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility, and humor—none of which might readily spring to mind when envisioning the archetypal business leader. But they are absolutely essential to powerful leadership. The book also points out obstacles to each of the six qualities, and (crucially) offers real-world, everyday management and leadership approaches that build and demonstrate each one. For example, an obstacle to compassion is distance. A simple solution is to get out of the executive suite and into the field with the rank and file.

Obvious? Then why doesn’t every leader do it?

And why doesn’t every leader deal in the truth? “The truth matters,” write authors William Baker and Michael O’Malley. “It would not be kind for leaders to allow others to persist in a world of untruths by misrepresenting how they, others, or the company are doing—good or bad. Kind leaders endorse reality.”

Similarly, while every good leader is eager to promote the growth of his or her charges, truly kind leaders know that part of growth is the experience of failure. Kind leaders will not shelter their employees from every single setback or mistake, but rather offer the response and guidance that will help employees learn from mistakes and unforeseen circumstances, and build knowledge for the future.

Based on interviews with two dozen executives and leaders from corporations worldwide—including John Deere, Disney, Time Warner, Citibank, GE, and Smuckers—the public sector, the cultural arts, the military, and other realms where effective leadership is vital, Leading with Kindness identifies those qualities that help the best leaders:

- Motivate their employees to excellence

- Nurture all employees universally while recognizing unique talents

- Stimulate calculated risk-taking

- Adapt to change

- Prepare the next generation of leaders

You can’t assume that you are a respected leader simply because you are nice, fun, and non­threatening. But if you are truly kind—that is, genuinely committed to the welfare of your company and your people through thick and thin—you will reap the broad and sustained benefits of trust, honesty, commitment, and loyalty from every corner of your organization for years to come.

William F. Baker, Ph.D., is President Emeritus of Educational Broadcasting Corporation (Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21) and Executive in Residence at Columbia University Business School.

Michael O’Malley, Ph.D., is Executive Editor for Business, Economics, and Law at Yale University Press, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School.

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