Random Acts of Kindness Day: 11 Characteristics of a Kind Leader

February 14, 2020 Lynne Levy

3-minute read

practice kindness

When you think of a stereotypical leader, strength, courage, and resilience may come to mind. You may think of a leader who does whatever it takes to ensure the business is thriving. One virtue that’s not typically high on the leadership quality list, and yet is critical for success, is kindness. Kindness is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of courage and integrity. And because today is Random Acts of Kindness Day, let’s talk about the kind leader.

William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley, authors of “Leading with Kindness,” define the critical values of kind leaders as humility, authenticity, gratitude, integrity, humor, and compassion. Which leaders had the most impact on your career? Did they exhibit these qualities?

Kindness at work is a critical element to employee experience and directly tied to engagement. Former Workhuman® Live speaker Amy Cuddy has conducted research that shows leaders get more buy-in by projecting warmth as opposed to toughness. Kindness and warmth accelerate trust.

Kind leaders have a sincere desire to help an employee become their best self and create strong relationships with their teams, colleagues, and stakeholders. A 10-year study by Harvard Business Review showed the number one thing holding back lower-level executives is their inability to create trusting relationships.

How can we each create cultures within our teams where kindness and humanity become a core tenant?

  1. Recognition: Kind leaders celebrate the successes of others. They go out of their way to recognize individual and team effort both frequently and publicly.
  2. Helping vs. blaming: When faced with a mistake from a team member or colleague, kind leaders try to help versus blame. For example, asking “How can I support you?” is much kinder than saying, “You made a terrible mistake.”
  3. Calling out bad behavior: Kind leaders overcome the discomfort that comes with calling out bad behavior – especially when that behavior is coming from someone more senior in the organization.
  4. Curiosity vs. defensiveness: Kind leaders do not get defensive when they are questioned or challenged. They are curious and open to other ideas and opinions.
  5. Finding common ground: Kind leaders seek common ground to strengthen relationships in the face of adversity. It is much easier for people to come together to solve challenges through kindness as opposed to negativity. 
  6. Constant encouragement: Kind leaders know how to speak the words each employee wants to hear and the words they need to hear.
  7. Clarity: Kind leaders are clear on expectations and goals. When a team does not understand what they need to do, it creates unnecessary stress, anxiety, and turmoil.
  8. Respect: Kind leaders are open to new ideas and respect every employee, no matter where they sit in the organization.
  9. Bias awareness: Kind leaders are aware of their biases and take steps to minimize the impact of these biases in their interactions with their team and colleagues.
  10. Feedback: Kind leaders give constructive feedback to their teams. When giving feedback, they provide it with the intent of helping the other person grown and learn.
  11. Connect with others. Kind leaders connect with their team and others. They proactively seek out the opinions of people who are not in their inner circle, building trust and connection.

Kindness shouldn’t be something you put on and take off in the workplace. You can’t fake kindness, but you can make a big impact in your everyday interactions at work. Kind leadership is one of the key elements for creating world-class cultures and productive, profitable organizations.


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About the Author

Lynne Levy

Lynne Levy is a Workhuman evangelist who lives and breathes helping organizations build cultures that bring out the best in the employees. Her mantra is “do what you love, love what you do.”

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