If you’ve ever had a boss that tried to rule through fear and intimidation, you know how dysfunctional that approach can be. Years ago I started a job in a company that I had longed to join. Within the first few hours on the job, it became apparent that everyone feared the boss. I decided on the spot to quit within the first week. The atmosphere was tense and unsettling. The employees acted like kids trying to avoid the school yard bully. Kindness was non-existent.
Within the next few years, I was not surprised to hear that the boss had filed for bankruptcy. What looked good on the outside was a swirling cauldron of unhealthy emotions: stress, fear, and anxiety. I can only imagine the pace at which the HR department had to replace people. And as the word spread, the pool of potential employees dwindled. Moreover, the employees who stuck it out were not immune to the workplace stress that affected their performance.
Perhaps this boss should have read Tom Peter’s book, In Search of Excellence, first published in 1982, and heralded as one of the greatest business books of all time. Tom Peters and Robert Waterman were sent to conduct research on successful companies and determine what set them apart. They concluded that it was the interpersonal skills of management that made the difference. People want to be in a company that cares for them and makes them feel happy. In a recent podcast, Peters lamented the failure of businesses to implement the simple idea of being a decent human being.
The initial research by Peters and Waterman was dismissed as too soft to really be the answer. It seems science has caught up to the enduring ideas illustrated in their book. UCLA recently launched the world’s first interdisciplinary institute of kindness. UCLA scientists, as well as others, have made a clear and compelling case for the positive health outcomes associated with kindness.
If you want to supercharge your leadership, start with kindness. Your first principle should be to treat others with respect and dignity. Establishing basic human decency as a foundation is a good place to start with your leadership. By creating an atmosphere of respect and caring you can begin to build a strong foundation for the pursuit of excellence. Your kindness will support the health and well-being of everyone in the organization. Engagement and happiness will increase, and happy employees are productive employees.
Challenge yourself to never take the low road of lashing out in anger, especially when a measured and articulate response will do. Course corrections need not end in a collision. Practicing kindness will support your health, the business outcomes of your organization, and the well-being of your employees.