Leaders who rely on their legitimate power often use command and control to achieve whatever they want. They see no need for kindness and often view kindness as a weakness in leadership decision-making.
In their book, ‘Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results’, William Baker & Michael O’Malley state that kind executives understand that people are individuals and should be treated as such. They also write that “For companies to improve, the organization’s people have to become smarter and more resourceful and work together more effectively over time. For this to work, people have to care about their work, the company, and one another. This requires the expert orchestration of a kind leader”.
How can we lead with kindness? How does leading with kindness impact people, your culture, and your business results?
Ebere Akadiri sat with Stefan Tonnon, the Vice President of Human Resources at EMEA – Insight, who shared his experience with kindness in leadership. On his LinkedIn page, Stefan often shares inspiring messages and initiated the hashtag #KindnessMatters so his followers and connections can share their own stories. In talking about the future of leadership, Stefan stresses that kindness should be a quality aspiring leaders possess, especially with how the global pandemic has changed the way we live and work.
“You don’t necessarily hear a lot about kindness when it goes to leadership. It’s relatively new, or you don’t hear that a lot. We hear a lot about leaders who need to be agile. You need to be emotionally intelligent, mentally tough. You need to be gritty and many more of those objectives. And I think kindness matters because we’re all human beings. With the lockdown, we need to change our behaviors as leaders because we want to make sure that people on the other side of the camera are doing fine”, Stefan explains.
He also advises people to “listen with your heart to try and understand the other party, not just listening to answer it, but listen with your heart. You understand what they are saying”.
A leadership marked with kindness can also actually help organizations build a stronger team of people. Here’s how:
- It Helps Increase Employee Performance: A company culture built on kindness contributes to higher employee performance. Stefan shares, “if you touch the people differently, you know, companies that value kindness, normally have a lower turnover in the teams, lower recruitment costs and a higher productivity”.
- It Builds Loyalty Within the Team: Stefan explains, “if you are kind as a leader, it also creates long-term loyalty towards the company and yourself. You create a team of people that are thinking the same and are kind to others as well. And that creates loyalty. So teammates stay longer with you”.
- Kindness Increases Health and Happiness: With the change in the way we work and the global concern for physical and mental health, companies need to pay more attention to not just their team’s performance, but their overall well-being. Stefan explains, “one of the most important things is kind people are healthier and happier. And I think that that is essential. I mean, especially in the times that we live now in the COVID area, it’s important that we take care of each other and that we support our employees wherever they are, whatever they do”.
- Kindness is Needed During These Challenging Times: The global pandemic has affected everyone, some much more than others. Many of us feel like we’re always standing at a precipice and a small act of kindness could tip the balance between a lousy workday or a good one. Stefan says, “unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change”.
- Kindness Still Has a Place in Difficult Conversations: Stefan relays in his message how kindness comes hand in hand with respect. Kindness comes from having respect for someone, not just because of their work or what they’ve achieved in their careers, but because of their humanity. Even when leaders have to make difficult decisions or have difficult conversations (including having to let go of an employee), kindness can still have its place. “Although the conversation is very, very tough, it doesn’t get any easier when you have the conversation, but it’s still a human that talks to a human. And if you do that out of the kindness of your heart, no matter how hard the conversation is, you just be true to yourself and be true to the other person; both parties will then understand that it’s not a personal thing”.
Check out Rise and Lead’s full interview with Stefan Tonnon, where he talks more about why kindness matters in leadership and how it will help workplaces evolve and grow as we move toward a new age of leadership. Watch the full interview below.
Ebere Akadiri is an accomplished entrepreneur and an advocate for women in leadership. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.