Are kind people more popular? Do you look up to people who are kind or those who are unkind? How about your role models, kind or unkind?
Take a moment right now and think about a leader who you admire. Is your leader involved in business or politics? Are they an entertainer or a spiritual guide? Do you know this person intimately, or only through the media? Did this person live in the past or are they alive now? Is this person a good role model for your family or friends? Would you like your children to grow up to be like this person? Do you aspire to become similar to this person? Is your leader kind?
As people, we fundamentally want the same basic things: to be appreciated, to belong, to feel good about ourselves, and to make a difference. The reason that kindness is so important in leadership is because it implies these basic human desires are acknowledged and protected by those who lead us.
Kindness creates trust and respect and enables cooperation. In your lifetime, have you experienced the great pleasure of working with leaders who were sensitive, empathetic, caring and gracious—which are all important qualities of kindness? On the other hand, have you worked with leaders who were self-centered, thoughtless, rude and demeaning?
Under which leadership style did you contribute your best work? Within which leadership culture did you learn and grow most rapidly? Did kind leadership influence your loyalty and trustworthiness?
If you asked me a few years back if I thought kindness was essential to leadership, I might have laughed out loud. But today, I understand the power of kindness. Stories throughout history and literature praise the traits of a “Good King.”
I recently attended a breakfast meeting here in San Francisco hosted by “The Forgotten International,” an organization that’s mission is to bring together people in the world who have great resources with people who have great needs in order to help alleviate poverty and suffering. The event was hosted His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, who is considered by many to be one the world’s greatest leaders.
The message I took away was clear and simple, “Work with those around you who have so little and suffer so much. In doing so, you will feel blessed in return.”
You have daily opportunities to follow Dalai Lama’s directive. You have the opportunity to feel pleasure, the opportunity to no longer be a victim, and the opportunity to feel your own power changing our world through kindness.
Next time you think of the leaders you admire, the role models you have, think about if you would describe them as being kind or unkind?