Is Kindness a Core Leadership Competency?
Great team leaders are often remembered for their kindness. It’s the type of kindness that stretches beyond a smile and enriches the working experience. Kindness doesn’t have to be mellow or soft – in many cases, it takes courage, vulnerability, empathy, and transparency to create a culture of compassion.
Why is kindness absent from the leadership narrative? It’s a common thread among engaged, positive, and performance-driven teams, yet it seems to be an underrated theme in the modern workplace.
A recent study in the U.S. found that 89% of young people regard kindness and mental health as a main priority at work – what’s being done to ensure that the needs of the people (and therefore, the business) are being met? Reframing kindness as a core leadership competency could be part of the solution.
Nice or Kind?
Despite being distinctly unique, niceness and kindness tend to get used interchangeably. In many instances, choosing to be nice comes at the cost of kindness, particularly when agreeableness (being nice) is favoured over helpfulness (kindness).
The difference between the two can have wide repercussions in the working environment. Psychologically safe teams can successfully disagree, and they grow as a result. Choosing agreeableness instead of taking action can prevent that meaningful growth.
For example, delivering bad news to your team isn’t nice, but is it kinder to withhold the information instead? How will that help them in the long run?
There is a time for agreeableness, but it’s not when leadership demands care and actionable support.
What Does it Look Like?
If you’re hoping to lead with kindness, it’s important to consider what it looks like in action. Kindness takes practice just like anything else. Some of the most common traits that kind leaders share include:
· The Ability to Actively Listen
Kindness is contagious. When your team sees you champion kindness, you set a precedence for the culture you’re trying to create. Acts of kindness can take many forms, including:
· Celebrating Achievements – Employee recognition is harder to get right than it seems. The best leaders don’t wait around to celebrate their team’s achievements. Their feedback is personalised, they encourage peer recognition, and they platform their people.
· Encouraging Growth – Growth is uncomfortable. Trying something new is uncomfortable. Many elements of the working day are uncomfortable – it takes a good leader to encourage difficult growth.
· Taking Accountability – People notice when leaders shirk responsibility, and it’s difficult to come back from. Leaders that hold themselves accountable are better at investing in their personal development and building trust with their team. In many ways, kindness is commitment, and that’s hard to get right without accountability.
· Putting People First – People buy from people. Whether that’s buying products, buying services, or buying into a shared vision. Kind leaders have respect for their team, and they use a range of interpersonal skills to ensure that the human element isn’t lost in their communication.
· Offering Actionable Feedback – Setbacks are inevitable, as are mistakes and challenges. Criticism must be abandoned in favour of actionable, personalised feedback. It can be tough to deliver it, but it’s the only way quality can improve.
Kindness can be a route to restoring trust in a business, both externally and internally. Is it a core competency of a great leader? It certainly strengthens the traditional leadership framework, and it resonates with those lucky enough to work with a kind leader.
If you’re unsure about where the concept of a kind leader fits into your business, it’s time for a wider change. We can support you with the bespoke training needed to level up your leadership. Reach out to me at email@example.com to find out more about the services at Trinnovo Consulting.