Kindness: A Foundation for Leadership
Executive Operations Director
- Oct 24, 2023
At the heart of my leadership philosophy lies kindness.
There is a common misconception that kindness equates to tolerating mediocrity, avoiding conflict, or lowering expectations and that kindness shies away from honest criticism or striving for excellence. Kindness is frequently underestimated, primarily due to its confusion with being “nice.” Often, though, nice is the opposite of kind. Being nice entails pleasantry, leniency, and is often demonstrated by an aversion to conflict or discomfort. In contrast, kindness requires courage to engage in ways that could serve as an inspirational force and is a commitment to another’s potential and development.
To me, kindness is courageous behavior fueled by generosity, consideration, assistance, vulnerability, and honesty provided with empathy. Expecting excellence isn’t unkind, rather it’s a genuine demonstration of care and commitment to individual and organizational growth and development. It signifies a commitment to seeing potential in people and organizations and being actively involved in successfully maximizing their potential.
I believe that authentic kindness involves challenging individuals to transcend their current limitations, rise above their comfort zones, and embrace discomfort as a catalyst for progress.
Kindness has served as my North Star, inspiring me to pursue my full potential. I am grateful for the people who have invested in my growth, even when it was uncomfortable to do so—whether through a hard conversation or making me aware of things that were holding me back. In many cases, it would have been easier for them to withhold the information, constructive criticism, and high expectations, than to sit me down and give me that moment to consider my own accountability, approach, and impact. Instead, they showed me kindness. Hard things presented in honest, frank, and empathetic ways can create good change.
Over my career, I have had many opportunities to lead with kindness. One that stands out is an instance in which I was someone’s performance coach. The exchange was difficult for both sides and ended abruptly. I felt the loss of an important person and believed that an opportunity had slipped away. Months later, I received a note from them. They thanked me for my kindness during our conversation and recognized it as a call for accountability, which led to soul searching and ultimately, changed the trajectory of their career.
I believe that every individual possesses their own unique authority that deserves to be uncovered, nurtured, and unleashed. My entire leadership approach is built upon active investment in helping others find and use that authority. And it is why kindness sits alongside, and informs, the way I apply my other defining values: trust, courage, and authenticity. I advocate for excellence in professional environments and pair that high standard with clear expectations.
Conflict or performance gaps are bound to happen in work environments. I approach—and encourage others to approach—obstacles with the fundamental belief that everyone strives to do their best. If we enter all scenarios with the assumption of good intent, remain open to learning and understanding, and provide feedback as an act of care, resolution is possible. Clearly articulating expectations of excellence is a challenge for others to take ownership of their actions and subsequent outcomes.
In leadership, kindness represents a genuine concern for individual growth. It offers a platform for improvement, underscored by empathy. Crucially, the expectation of personal growth must be complemented by the provision of essential resources, time, and a culture of constructive feedback as a form of care and mentorship. When we hold others to high standards with a kind perspective, we communicate confidence in their abilities and dedication to their success.
Whether you find yourself leading at work, or not, my goal is that the time you have spent reading this will result in a moment of personal reflection, and that going forward, when given the opportunity, you find the courage to lead with kindness.