Kindness in Leadership

September 29, 2017

Travis Bradberry, contributor for, wrote an article last year titled, “6 Things Great Leaders Do Differently”, in which he compiles a list of qualities that strong leaders possess compared to mediocre ones. The first comparison covers kindness versus weakness, which we’ll unpack here today.

As Bradberry explains, “One of the toughest things for leaders to master is kindness.” The reason for this problem is multifold, but we can boil down to two considerations that will go a long way towards transforming a person’s rank into genuine leadership.

First, there’s a perception that kindness is itself a kind of weakness. No one wants to be walked all over, to be seen as too sensitive, of course, but this is an uncharitable view. After all, “Telling people the difficult truth they need to hear is much kinder than protecting them (or yourself) from a difficult conversation. This is weak.” In other words, truth is kindness, and to flee from it is cowardly. Weakness is self-serving and thinly veiled. As Bradberry further expounds, “…true kindness is inherently strong—it’s direct and straightforward.” That’s not to say there’s no place for tact: how you word the truth is almost as important as the truth itself.

The second consideration is tightly connected to the first: it’s the simple concept of empathy. This is not to be confused with sympathy, which is to feel bad for someone, to feel pity; empathy is to feel what someone else is feeling, to put oneself into that person’s shoes. As the first consideration explains, showing directness and straightforwardness—demonstrating honesty—are signs of respect, and it comes from a position of strength. The Golden Rule applies here (as it so often does in all aspects of life): “Do to others what you want them to do to you.” If a leader expects authenticity, honesty, directness, and yes, kindness, then he or she ought to show the same towards his or her employees. Not just in return, importantly: to only show these qualities to others after they’ve been shown to you is to follow, not to lead.

Kindness is a respect that emerges from honesty and empathy, and is but one of the many important tools of an effective leader. Management is difficult. There are a million books on the subject, but nothing beats a one-on-one class with The Brandt Group. Reach out to us today and learn more about the leadership courses we provide.

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