The Underestimated Superpower You Need in Your Leadership
Type ‘what is good leadership’ into Google and you’ll be met with about 36,300,000 results.
Your screen will fill with lots of articles telling you that you need to display qualities such as being assertive, self-assured, logical, and confident to take risks. You will read all about how good leaders have grit, resilience and are mentally tough.
You will probably see mentions of empathy and other traits that have traditionally been seen as softer skills, but there will be very little focussing on them, or more specifically, on the importance of kindness.
Of course, I’m not saying that the things listed above are not important, but for far too long, understanding the power of kindness and other ‘soft’ skills, such as being nice and caring in business and in leadership has been underestimated, and worse, it has come with negative connotations such as being weak, ineffective, or naive.
It’s time to change the narrative, because I know from experience that being a good leader and a nice person are not incompatible. I am confident that it is not only possible, but essential for us to work in a demanding industry, lead with authority and be able to do so with kindness.
The future of leadership is already starting to see the ‘softer’ skills as the ones of power, and we must adapt with this and recognise the benefits of both.
Going forward, a good leader will need to combine the two, where traits like compassion, empathy and kindness play a much more pivotal role.
So, what does this look like in practice?
If we take the dictionary definition, kindness is ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate’, not hard to argue that these are all qualities of a good leader.
Being friendly can be as simple as operating with a meaningful smile, showing you enjoy what you do and who you are doing it with. The saying ‘smiling is infectious’ is not wrong and leading with that kind of warmth will build trust and make people feel safe.
Being considerate may take a little more thought than a simple smile but can still be relatively easily achieved. As leaders’ part of our job will inevitably involve things like giving feedback, having difficult conversations, and managing change. These elements of our role can be tough, but when we stop to be considerate of the individual, and how these things might feel on the receiving end, then we can approach them through a lens of kindness, and in the process, we can build trust.
Finally, let’s take the aspect of generosity in kindness. Being generous as a leader is a little more multifaceted than the first two, but there are three main approaches that I want to talk about here.
1. Being generous with your time
As a leader you need to take time to actively listen so that your team feel heard and you need to invest time to understand where people are coming from, so that they feel safe and cared about. When you do this, they will trust that you have their best interests at heart, and this will show in their productivity and results.
However, I know this is not easy, because if I asked any leader what they wish they had more of, I bet time would be right up there!
Key to getting this right is understanding the impact and value of your time and knowing that to be generous with it, you also need to protect and be precious with it.
Fundamental to achieving this is learning to relinquish control and delegate, which leads me to my next point on where you need to be generous – with your trust.
If you’d like to hear more insights around how to be generous with your time, please tune into my podcast, where I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sergio Lopez, EVP. Global Head of Production at Publicis Groupe on my podcast, who shared some incredible wisdom on his experience of doing this.
2. Being generous with your trust
To get the best out of others, you must be able to confidently delegate, and in doing so empower your team to learn and give things a go in their own way. Whether you are training your graduate trainees to be an Account Manager, or you are onboarding a new team member, you need to be generous in your trust with them.
Trusting your team will empower them to shine, so long as it is underpinned that you will be their safety net if things go wrong.
When people feel trusted to do a job well, and have trust that you will support them and have their back when mistakes happen, they will give their all, and feel safe to ask for help – and that really is the golden key in leadership.
3. Being generous when building relationships
It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing building relationships and networking as a means to an end, and so when you don’t see immediate results from it, you can get frustrated and give up.
However, when you approach doing this generously, and without any expectation that anything is going to come from it, or hoping for something in return, then it becomes so much more meaningful and rewarding.
Building relationships because you are genuinely interested in that person will always come back to you, even if it is years down the line. You will build your reputation as an authentic leader and a kind person, both traits that you as an individual, our industry, and the wider world will always benefit from and needs to see more of.
In summary, never underestimate the impact of being kind because it can be the superpower that activates your team’s full potential; and showing kindness in your leadership will be a gift that allows you to unfailingly get the best out of everyone you work with.
So, who wants to join me in building a future of kind leaders?
If you answered yes, I’d love you to join me as a member in the Courageous Leaders Club, where you will receive monthly training and support, keep expanding your courageous zone and be part of a growing community of leaders who are helping to shape the future of leadership in a way that they want to see it progress.
You can find out more, and apply here.
Joanna Howes is the CEO of The Change Creators. She is an award winning international coach, behavioural expert, and No 1 best selling international co-author, who specialises in leadership and performance coaching. If this has resonated with you and you would like to explore how a coach can guide you to achieve your success, please book a free call using this link to discuss how Joanna can help you achieve your goals faster and easier than ever before.