Lead Kindly, Dear Leader

Kindness goes a long way. Businesses have to be profitable and grow, but a harsh regime is not the key to long-lasting success. When a subordinate makes a mistake or is slow, how his manager or leader treats him has far-reaching consequences. If the leader corrects abrasively, the junior may acquiesce and seem okay with it but is probably swallowing his dismay. A few may be thick-skinned, but most are your stock standard normal humans who feel bad if they are treated imperiously or harangued.

A pattern of coarse management will demoralise and demotivate the team. The sure signs will be passive-aggressive behaviour, reduced productivity and uninterest in initiative or innovation. Ultimately, it will outdo any short term gain, and the company will suffer. And consider morality and ethics, as material success may not trump humanity.

It’s not easy for everyone to be always kind, that too when he or she could be under pressure and afraid of failure. It can quickly turn into anger. Falling back on a sense of humour, forcing yourself to smile and taking a moment to rephrase the message can produce kindness.

The latter stratagem is especially powerful, in my experience. For example, if you feel like flaming, “You’ve got it at all wrong again and you’re creating a disaster”, you could instead try, without sarcasm or condescension, with a smile on your face and gentleness in your voice, “My dear John, kiddo, let’s try this again. Do you remember what we discussed the last time? Super. I know you got it. Go, go, go, change it quickly and be back in 30 minutes. Time is running away, dearie.” Something like that. You get the drift. It will become second nature after a dozen times.

I do not mean leaders should be soft. Firmness is essential with responsibility, and, when appropriate, leaders should be direct and final. But they need to know the difference between strength and roughness.

You have it in you to consciously practise unrandom acts of kindness towards your flock. Build up this skill. Let your mantra be – ‘Forgive and Teach’. And be kind to yourself too, ‘Forgive and Learn’.

Life is an inexplicable experience that should be lived with as much grace as possible.

So, lead kindly, dear leader. You will look back with a warm glow of satisfaction and peace over your career when you end up. And you’ll probably see success basking in it too.