Do you practice kind leadership? I train leaders both in the business community and nonprofit sector and I've both cringed and been impressed by many kinds of leadership styles. I've noticed over the years that leaders often fall into two categories: Those who think they have to dominate their employees and those who think they have to be their best friend. The results are predictable for each approach.
People who feel a need to dominate employees may get a lot of work done but people are rarely happy. The myth dominating leaders believe in is that you can't get results unless you're tough and personally involved. On the other hand, the leaders who want to be friends frequently run a chaotic, drama-filled operation which ironically, also leaves most employees unhappy. The myth they ascribe to is that you have to be liked to run an organization.
Why is it that such different styles can both lead to unhappy employees? Lack of balance. I'm a big fan of finding a practical balance point in leadership and I've found that we can practice leadership that is kind and gets excellent results. Here are a few ideas on how you can practice kind leadership.
- Be consistently kind to employees.
- Set clear goals but ask employees to contribute to setting them.
- Listen to employees on a regular basis.
- Ask employees for input on assignments.
- Be consistently and genuinely friendly to employees without expecting anything in return.
- Give your employees opportunities to grow.
- Allow people to choose the work they would prefer to do.
- Stay away from having favorites.
- Set firm personal boundaries so you avoid getting enmeshed in other people's problems.
- Keep your workplace relationships professional.
- Practice empathy.
- Expect results but do so by consulting with employees.
- Praise your employees every day.
- Behave kindly.
- Did I mention being kind?
There's no mystery to kind leadership. You just focus on behaving kindly while practicing the other things that get you positive results in the workplace. The bottom line is that you don't have to be a jerk or pushover to get great results. You can do it by being effective and kind at the same time. For leaders who are a little on the tough end of the spectrum, just dial in a few more kind behaviors and give your people a say in what goes on in the workplace. For those who want to be everyone's best friend, try setting some limits and boundaries while remaining friendly.
The reason for much of the difficulty we encounter in leadership is that we tend to go to extremes. We believe there are no other options except for how we currently do things. I've found that the best leaders get stuff done, are friendly with people and do it with kindness. What's your experience with practicing kind leadership?