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Make Kindness your Authentic Leadership Principle

We are all thinking about making changes to bring a fresh focus in these difficult times, even if the end of ‘lockdown’ is in sight. The new year has passed but it is not too late to look back on what went well (maybe not a lot in 2020!) and forward to what we can do differently.

One of the most interesting observations from Pandemic World has been the hugely positive impact on wellbeing, motivation and mental health of random acts of kindness and the simple practise of just being nice to others.

And yet, when we talk about Leadership Attributes, kindness seldom features and it is rarely on the list of qualities organisations prioritise when looking for their next leadership appointment.

Now is the time to change that.

Kindness is often mistaken for ‘being soft’ when in fact it is nothing of the sort. It can be about showing compassion (not just sympathy or empathy). On other occasions it is about delivering tough messages in a way that helps someone deal with a difficult situation.

Research from the University of California suggests that kindness helps people perform at their best and has a ripple effect on organisational culture. People who received random acts of kindness felt happier and more engaged.

Transforming the culture into one which has compassion, dialogue and high-performance at its heart should be a primary focus for Leaders. In the study, those showing more kindness felt greater satisfaction and more autonomous.

It involves listening to your people with curiosity and making it clear that views are valued and respected, no matter how disparate.

This is not new, of course, but in these particularly challenging times where uncertainty is the only thing that you can be sure of, it shows an authentic interest in the individual.

Everyone’s personal circumstances are different. Whether it is home schooling to living alone or sharing bandwidth to having no outside space, people need support to help them navigate their lives and work is a large part of those lives.

Start with yourself

Leaders find themselves in an unenviable and stressful position because we don’t have any certainty and there is a need to constantly adapt to a rapidly changing environment.

If leaders are to show compassion towards their teams, they must start by directing it toward themselves. Self-care can come in many forms, from the sophisticated to the simple. Maybe you should put time aside for meditation or just go for a walk. Practising meditation cultivates a kinder mind that enables leaders to direct goodwill towards others.

Lead with compassion

Bringing the best out of people requires empathy with the challenges they face. People in authority must connect with their teams in this way.

Check in with teams and notice the signals that go beyond what people say. Reflect on energy levels and tone of voice; listen without judgement and encourage people to express how they feel.

Pause, to see the range of emotions and respond thoughtfully, with kindness, and without imposing your mindset or judgement.

Think about it

We are all feeling anxious – leaders included – but our team members might have unique circumstances adding to their stress. Anxiety must be addressed in a tactful and methodical way because concerns about health are made worse by worries over job security, family and education.

Increased stress and anxiety during the current situation are natural, but as Leaders we can take steps to adopt habits that encourage kindness and compassion for ourselves, our colleagues and loved ones.

If things go wrong, and they will, take an approach that is based on dialogue and discussion rather than one based on bureaucracy and legal strength; consider the wellbeing of everyone from the start because kindness equals high performance.

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… confident, caring, knowledgeable; handled the team dynamics very well; informative and fun.

Tailored advice and feedback to the individuals and teams as he got to know us better; personal.

Great at defusing tricky situations.

Respectful and caring Educator and a wonderful individual.

Extremely good facilitator of many discussions, valuing everyone in the group.

Clear presenter; good at bringing across the material.

Very good facilitator; great listener and a great sense of humour.

On a personal level I felt it was the first time that I had been able to draw a breath and think about all you discussed since the start of Covid. So, a huge thank you, the content, slides, interaction on chat etc was all brilliant.

Special kudos to him for creating the psychological space that enabled the group to publicly share feedback

In addition to the training material itself, Hans was able to provide deeper answers on specific topics that came from more experienced managers.

Super confident, had answers for everything or helped find them. Really, good. Pretty impressed!

Great speaker, leaving sufficient space for attendees to get involved in the discussions

Hans was an engaging facilitator and was able to both answer questions expertly and cultivate a healthy dialogue including the whole room.

Good sense of humour, effective at delivering content and soliciting questions from the audience.

Hans did great job in involving people to have discussion about the various issues instead of just presenting them, much appreciated!

Clear, engaging and committed to helping us – amazing facilitator