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If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader

-Dolly Parton

a kind mind: leading with kindness

Let me share with you an experience I had many years ago when I attended one of my very first leadership training courses. 

On the first day we were split into smaller groups and asked to depict on a piece of flip chart paper all the qualities that make up a great leader. The caveat was that we had to use illustrations rather than words. I drew a heart in the centre of the page with a red marker pen. One of the people in my group frowned and asked why I had done it. I responded that I was symbolizing kindness and empathy as an important quality of a leader. This particular colleague vehemently disagreed with me and I was dismissed as being too “fluffy”. 

This was way back in the days when a more autocratic style of leadership was favored over compassionate leadership. And even now, the metaphor or image of a heart can be associated by some, in a business context, as something to do with yielding or even weakness. This I find even more curious considering that the heart itself is something that is so strong and powerful and ultimately the driving force of life itself. 

I truly believe that there is nothing weak about being a kind leader and in fact it takes a great deal of strength, courage and emotional intelligence. Kindness in many ways is the glue that keeps relationships, organizations, communities and entire countries together.

So, what is kindness?

Being kind is an important way of bringing meaning to our own lives as well as bringing joy and happiness to the lives of those around us. It is a way that we can spread goodness in the world and make a positive difference. Kindness is the innate ability we all share as human beings and is defined as the quality of being friendly, warm, generous, and considerate. Being kind allows you to communicate better, be more compassionate, and to be a positive force in the world. 

There are many benefits of kindness and when we are kind to others, we will feel happier. Kindness is a positive mental state and we can ultimately choose to be kind in every given situation.

How can leaders spread kindness at work?

Kindness, from my experience, has to genuinely come from the heart. We can learn to be kinder every single day of our lives. When we choose to be kind to one another, we can really benefit from cultivating a happy and healthy work environment that encourages collaboration and helps people to feel part of something special. A kind and caring heart goes a long way especially during uncertain, stressful and chaotic times and is a real gift.

Here are my top three ways to spread kindness at work, within teams:

1. Empathize

Empathy and understanding are part of an emotional process that builds connection between people. It is about ‘reading’ another person’s inner state and interpreting it in a way that will help you to be able to support them. Empathy also has the added benefit of developing mutual trust. Helping a team member feel secure enough to open up and share their experience will help them to establish perspective. This, in turn, is a kind way of helping people to feel more empowered.

2. Give feedback and say thank you 

Giving feedback to a team member by telling them something that they have done that you really appreciate is a kind action. It is also important to set aside time to explain the positive effect they had so that they can bask in the glow of knowing their effort didn’t go unnoticed. Appreciation can go a long way in helping people feel good. Communicating gratitude is one of the simplest and most powerful things that you can do as a leader.

3. Celebrate success

In the busy and fast-paced world that we live in it is so important to stop and take some time out to celebrate success. These intentional pauses and planned celebrations are a fundamental part of helping teams stay motivated especially through challenging times. Celebrating success, no matter how big or small is the best way to help people truly understand their purpose and the value of the contribution that they make to the wider team. 

Promoting Kindness at Work 

Kind and compassionate leadership goes a long way in helping people feel that they can bring their whole selves to work. A leader who truly cares about their team and each individual member within it will make an effort to promote kindness at work, setting a positive example for others to follow. Kindness will win the hearts and minds of people and create an environment where teams can thrive. 

This is how great leaders can best support their teams to be truly empowered and kind.

When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home

—Betty Bender

For more Mindfit resources, check out free sample courses from Cornerstone’s Original Learning Series, Empowering Minds with Liggy Webb.

Read about Liggy Webb's "Mindfit" model here, or take a closer look at the other four elements in the model: a Resilient Mind, a Curious Minda Flexible Mind and a Creative Mind.