Leading With Kindness

Good leaders are tough-minded. They’re able to take the heat. They can handle the difficult stuff that comes their way.

Leaders who are considered soft, weak, or indecisive are not respected.

But there is another side of leadership. It brings the heart into play. It balances out the tough side.

Without heart, leadership can feel like medicine; necessary, but undesirable.

The heart brings, among other essentials, kindness into leadership.

Kindness is the No. 1 overlooked quality of a leader.

We don’t talk about kindness much in leadership circles—at least in terms of what is required to be a successful leader. Intuitively we all know it’s a Godly virtue, but it’s rarely a quality we focus on.

Kindness is a basic human quality that allows trust, connection and genuine exchange to take place.

At the airport this week, I noticed a strong young guy jump off the rental car shuttle to help an older gentleman get his suitcase up onto the bus. It took less than a minute, but the expression on the older man’s face was priceless. He was surprised, but his grateful smile said it all.

Kindness lowers stress in everyday situations.

Kindness brings peace and joy into pressure-filled situations.

Kindness is not a new idea, but it’s often undeveloped as a leadership trait.

God delights in kindness.

“‘But let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 9:24).

You can see the balance. Justice, righteousness and kindness.

As I read through both Old and New Testaments it’s easy to see that kindness is a consistent expression of God’s heart.

It’s not complicated to be kind, but it can be difficult to practice on a consistent basis at the pace that most leaders run.

I don’t believe that leaders generally lack kindness. In fact, I think most good leaders are kind at heart. The problem is that there are things that steal a leader’s kindness which in turn has a huge negative impact on any leader’s effectiveness.

Which of these four unintentional thieves is most likely to temp you to be unkind?

The 4 Great Thieves of Kindness

1. Pressure

The higher the pressure you’re under, the more you are tempted to behave in an unkind way.

You are expected to produce results, and the demand for results can become an unintentional contributor to the lack of kindness.

It’s counterintuitive, but an expression of kindness helps bring relief to the pressure you feel. It takes your mind off you and the load you are under and replaces it with joy from the experience of being kind to another human being. That joy lasts for a surprising amount of time.

2. Busyness

Kindness can’t be rushed. It requires time, but when you are super busy and feel compelled to maintain speed, kindness may be squeezed out.

The encouraging truth is that kindness often does not require a lot of time, but it does need a mindfulness about its value.

Slowing down, at least a little, is necessary in order to create space for kindness. Then two things can happen. You can be looking for and aware of opportunities and the Holy Spirit can prompt you in a way that you will hear. The response is up to you.

3. Impatience

I can be impatient. How about you?

Leaders with Type A personalities are often driven, want things “now”, and don’t like roadblocks. If you can relate, here’s the caution flag. We don’t always see it. We can miss that someone needed a breath, a moment, a smile, a little grace – the little things that make a big difference.

Drive is necessary and good, but without patience, kindness may escape you.

Practicing patience is difficult but necessary.

4. Insecurity

This is the sneaky one. It appears in reverse. Insecurity can cause you to want to please people, seek approval, even make unwise decisions that gain favor. These can appear kind, but because it’s not truly genuine, it’s ultimately unkind. (It’s more about you than them.)

Kindness isn’t weakness, it’s the expression of strength from someone who has something to offer. Kindness is not automatic, it’s a gift that you must choose to give.

You can be tough and kind, but weak leaders are often mean. They can be bullies. It’s only through bluster that a weak leader appears strong. Strong leaders delight in kindness.

Kindness embraces 3 essential elements.

1. Genuine humility 

Humility is based more on the idea that you don’t feel superior or better than others because of what you have, your status or power, and equally, it’s not about feeling inferior to others.

Humility reflects the disposition of your heart.

Humble leaders live for others more than they live for themselves. Humble doesn’t mean insecure. Don’t confuse the two. Humility is an attractive virtue, insecurity is not. Humility is directly connected to strength, insecurity is tied to fear and our weaknesses.

2. A desire to serve others

It’s a major warning flag if a leader begins to consistently see people as annoying, an imposition or an inconvenience, rather than a joy to serve.

It’s not always easy and it can be draining, but the heart of a shepherd leader cares about and has compassion for the people. We can’t serve everyone, but for those we serve it must be heartfelt.

3. Personal peace and contentment

If we lack inner peace and contentment, it creates an uneasiness within us that makes it difficult to be kind. This restless disposition causes us to be consistently searching for our own needs to be met, rather than others.

Contentment understands kindness and seeks to pass it on.

All three of these naturally bring kindness into play.

Kindness from a leader demonstrates itself in nearly limitless ways such as:

  • Giving someone a second chance.
  • An intentional expression of benevolence.
  • Listening lovingly and carefully when you don’t have time.
  • Giving an unexpected or even undeserved gift.
  • Taking time to explain something … again.
  • Slowing down so someone can catch up.

Sometimes we need to stop and think to be kind. Hopefully, however, over the long haul, kindness becomes as natural and automatic as breathing for anyone who leads.

There are only nine words included in the cherished set of “fruit of the Spirit” found in Galatians 5:22–23.

Kindness made the list.

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This article originally appeared on DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.

Dan Reiland
Dan Reilandhttp://danreiland.com

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and the author of several books including Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One (Thomas Nelson).