I’ve scanned a lot of articles and commentary lately with the well-intended message that the future of leadership is ‘kindness’. There’s an element of rhetoric here which must make us feel some level of warmth and gratification that we are talking the right language with statements like this. But with this approach we are simply running the risk of over-simplifying and distracting us from reality.
Kindness, consideration, care, empathy, etc are all characteristics of a good person and all very admirable qualities – I’m not disputing that. I am convinced that these are also unfortunately grossly underdelivered in many organisations I’ve seen, let alone the ones I’ve only read about. However, kindness alone- and that’s not to be confused with weakness and vice versa- is not the future or determination of leadership.
I could never argue the fact, let alone convince anyone, that a reorganisation (code for cutting jobs and somehow delivering efficiency) to attempt to save a business and keep the majority of a workforce employed is ‘kind’ to those who will be negatively impacted. Even the trauma of the possibility of losing your job is hardly kind. But there are decisions that must be made that will ultimately cause grief and angst; with these decisions it must be about the delivery and sensitivity of that process and the genuine concern for those impacted.
So what is the future of leadership if it’s not kindness?
It lies, as it has done in the past, in decisiveness and engagement.
The ability to make well-considered decisions for the overall betterment of an organisation and its people.
To keep your word when you have made commitments – and make those commitments.
To deliver on your promises – and without compromise.
To support and be interested in the people you serve.
(It’s much, much more than mere kindness…)