Book overview

Kindness at work (even in a crisis)

When push comes to shove, leaders may sometimes need to sacrifice being kind in order to get results… Right? Wrong! Too many confuse benevolent attitudes with weakness —to the detriment of their ability to lead.


If you happen to be charismatic, great, but that isn’t the signature characteristic of a great leader. We think kindness is.

(Quotation taken from Leading with Kindness).

1. Do not confuse kindness with naivety
Being “unconditionally nice” opens the door to “cults of yes.” But true kindness, because it is honest and rooted in a desire to see others do better, is not always “nice.” A kind manager would not allow staff to persist in error or maintain false illusions; instead, a kind manager is direct, open, and sometimes even there to give a push as needed.

2. Kindness in the day of a manager
Being a manager means fulfilling three main roles: framer (defining clear boundaries, standards, and goals); interpreter (helping others to understand how and why they went wrong or right); and enabler (orienting teams towards a dynamic of ongoing improvement). These three aspects of good leadership all have one point in common: the care of others!

3. Lead by example
The attitude of top company leaders influences the extent to which kindness is shared as a corporate value. Robert Sutton emphasizes that, especially when someone is in a position of authority, their caring behaviors will spread to those around them like a contagion. “For better or worse, the CEO sets the emotional tone,” says psychologist Judith Sills.

Expert Advice
For Michel-Edouard Leclerc, President of France’s number one supermarket chain, E.Leclerc, kindness is gaining ground in the workplace.“Originally paternalistic, management styles are becoming more rational, more methodical, and participatory. For example, I think I am kinder — but also less charismatic! — than my father.”

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Read our Focus
Kindness at work (even in a crisis)

Business Digest no. 222, December 2011 – January 2012

Based on Leading with Kindness, William F. Baker and Michael O’Malley (AMACOM, August 2008); “Peut-on être gentil et réussir? (Management, December 2011); “La bienveillance est superproductive,” (Le JDD, November 11, 2009).

Caroline Schuurman
Published by Caroline Schuurman