Strong Enough to be Kind

Do you have the strength to be kind? 

In the midst of an increasingly caustic, blaming, shout-over-you culture, you could perhaps be wondering if those two things — strength and kindness — really go together. I would contend that today more than ever, we need leaders who are strong enough to be kind.

Kindness is about being considerate and respectful. You can say hard things or hold people accountable and still be kind. In fact, it is much easier for people to actually hear what you have to say when you share your thoughts in a considerate, respectful manner. When you offer feedback — even feedback that may be hard to hear — with a positive intent, people tend be to less defensive and more likely to consider the perspective you are offering. Kindness often fosters the kind of genuine conversation that rarely happens with a strong-arm, command and control approach.

In many cases people mistakenly equate being kind with making people comfortable. But think about it . . . is it considerate and respectful to withhold feedback from someone that would help them be more successful just because the conversation will make them – or you – uncomfortable? Too often, we dance around the issue we are trying to address, alluding to the point but not actually making it, all under the guise of being “kind.” But that approach really isn’t. What often happens is that we are “kindly” unclear as to our expectations, we then get frustrated because the person didn’t get the point or change their behavior, which increases the likelihood that we will ultimately respond in an unkind manner. It’s a vicious cycle that far too many people fall into.

You can be considerate and still be clear. You can be respectful and still challenge someone’s perspective. You can be kind and still have high standards. If someone reacts negatively to your message, you do not have to respond by matching their tone or tactic. While that may feel momentarily satisfying, it ultimately diminishes your impact. You display greater strength as a leader when you remain respectful, share your intent and don’t get sucked into an escalating tit for tat. Granted in some situations, that is easier said than done. At the end of the day, however, the reason you should be kind is not because someone has earned it or deserves it, but because it is a reflection of your leadership. 

Are you strong enough to be kind?

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