Kindness and leadership aren’t often synonymous. Ask someone to describe "good leadership" to you and you will hear many adjectives used: authentic, bold, challenging, charismatic, decisive, empowering, fearless, goal-oriented, humble, inspiring, original, passionate, role-model, strategic and transparent, to name of a few. And though there are many more that come to mind, kindness isn’t one of them. And here’s the problem with that.
Leaders lead. And the way a leader leads – how they do what they do – influences those they lead. From the president of the country, to the president of a company, from middle managers, right down to front-line supervisors, what a leader models – how they think, speak and act – influences the people they lead. Leaders who think, speak and act unkindly give legitimacy and permission to those they lead to think, speak, and act in exactly the same unkind ways. Today, in a world where a leaders’ words and actions travel quickly through social media channels such as Twitter, their influence – unkind or kind – is amplified through repeated views and sharing. In an increasingly fragmented, polarized and divided world, we need leaders who will bring people together not divide them. Leaders who value and model cooperation and collaboration over competition. And who model ways to think kindly, speak kindly and act kindly. We need kindness to become synonymous with good leadership. So that when someone is asked to describe the traits of a good leader, kindness will be the first word that comes to mind.
Essentially, the purpose of this book is to teach leaders how to lead with kindness so they can influence the people they lead to create kinder workplaces, organizations and the world. Each chapter contains a mixture of theory, case studies and reflections from leaders and the people they influence. As well, the book follows the fictional stories of Kay’La Janson and Kevin Landrell, as they become leaders in a failing organization that is ultimately turned around through kind leadership. Between chapters there are a series of practical exercises based on concepts presented in the previous chapter with space to record outcomes and reflections on the practice process.
This book gives you a deep theoretical understanding of the importance of leading with kindness and also provides practical exercises for you to use to turn theory into practice. Because "change means doing things differently," and because we only really "learn by doing" to create kinder organizations, kinder communities and a kinder world, leaders must be able to begin practicing kindness right away. By the time you finish the book, you will feel confident in your ability to lead with kindness and also to address organizational problems at work, at home and in the community, with kindness.
Table of Contents
1 Isn’t Kindness a Sign of Weakness?
2 The Five Key Characteristics of a Kind Leader
3 Why How We Get There Is as Important as Where
We Are Going
4 Think Kindly: Kind Leaders Assume Positive Intent
5 Speak Kindly: Use Words of Encouragement and Growth
6 Act Kindly: Kind Leaders Put Humanity First
7 Collaboration, Cooperation and Kindness, Not
8 When Things Don’t Go Kindly
Karyn Ross is on a mission to Help People Create a Better, Kinder World. An artist, internationally acclaimed speaker, award-winning author, consultant, coach and practitioner, Karyn travels the globe teaching people her unique system of combining creativity, continuous improvement and kindness to make a better world. As well as being the owner of KRC (Karyn Ross Consulting) Karyn is one of the Founding Mothers of Women in Lean – Our Table, a global group of more than seven hundred and fifty women lean practitioners. Karyn is also Founder and President of the Love and Kindness Project Foundation, a registered public charity and The New School for Kind Leaders. She has created both of these initiatives to help people around the world think, speak, act and lead more kindly.
Karyn’s sixth book, The Kind Leader: A Practical Guide to Eliminating Fear, Creating Trust and Leading with Kindness will be available late spring 2021. Karyn’s five other books are: How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence: A Lean Coaching Workbook, the Shingo-award winning The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations, I’ll Keep You Posted: 102 of My Reflections to Help You Start – and Deepen – Your Own Active Reflection Process, Think Kindly – Speak Kindly – Act Kindly: 366 Easy and Free Ideas You Can Use to Create a Kinder World…Starting Today, and Big Karma and Little Kosmo Help Each Other. Proceeds from books fund The Love and Kindness Project Foundation.
When not traveling, Karyn spends time designing and sewing her own clothes! Follow Karyn on LinkedIn for a daily inspirational post about creativity, kindness and/or continuous improvement.
Michelle Jorgensen, Holistic wellness leader:
We need to focus on kind leadership because our society has forgotten what that it is! Kindness is often looked down upon as weak rather than being the ideal we are all working toward. I am grateful Karyn has clarified what it really means to be a kind leader, and has provided guidance for us to become one. Kindness can heal the world, and it's time it did. You can read my story in Chapter 5.
Skip Steward, Healthcare leader:
Kind Leadership is important because we are all interconnected through multiple socio-technical systems. If you step back and reflect for a minute, everything we are trying to accomplish is through people. Without their trust, cooperation, and creativity it is going to be near impossible to accomplish anything. Kind Leadership provides a better atmosphere to work, play, survive and thrive in everyday life! As we go through each day of life I would rather be saturated in kindness than much of the strife that exists today. You can read my story in Chapter 3.
Amir Ghannad, Manufacturing leader and author, The Transformative Leader:
Kind leadership proves that there is no conflict between treating people kindly and holding them to high standards at the same time. It also dispels the myth that kindness is a sign of weakness. Kind leadership takes a great deal of courage and strength and kind leaders inspire others who look up to them to grow into kind leaders. You can read my stories in Chapter 3 and Chapter 6.
Debbie Eison, Career Coach and former Human Resources leader:
In my early career as a secretary, the VP that I worked for asked me how things were going. He qualified the question by adding that he wanted to know what things I said about him when I was at home. I suspect he knew that typical workplace stories shared at home were cautionary tales of unkind acts leading to anger, frustration, and stress and guidance on how to survive it. Adding kindness to the Leadership toolbox can support creativity and change the tone and script of what we pass on so that motivation to do a great job is inspired by collaboration and not driven by fear. You can read my story in Chapter 2.
Stewart Bellamy, Manufacturing sector leader:
Until Karyn raised the topic of kind leadership I hadn’t realized just how many of the people I know, particularly young people, have yet to encounter their first workplace kind leader. That got me thinking: Why is that? When kindness can only lead to positive outcomes! You can read my story in Chapter 6.
Grace Bourke, Continuous Improvement practitioner:
The way water nourishes the planted seed and helps it grow and blossom, kindness is the nourishment that helps people thrive and grow. As a leader, we guide people and teams to collaborate and grow. Whether the growth and progress are individual or collective, kindness is essential to nourish people’s growth towards their potential. I believe that kind leadership is a gift we are given to help people blossom toward their potential. You can read my story in Chapter 2.
Petrina McGrath, Healthcare leader:
I’m Petrina McGrath and I believe that kind leadership is about finding and creating spaces to identify and celebrate the uniqueness each individual brings to their work. It’s also about assigning challenges and then helping people and teams learn and grow in safe environments because you believe they are capable. You can read my story in Chapter 2.
Gretchen Dieter, Service sector leader:
I believe kind leadership is important as I truly believe your people are a reflection of you. Leading with kindness perpetuates kindness in the workplace and will carry over into personal spaces. Acts of kindness continue to compound until it has become a part of our everyday thinking and actions. You can read my story in Chapter 2.
Deondra Wardelle, Business owner and former human resources leader:
Kind leadership is essential because leaders set the tone for fostering inclusive work environments. Kind leaders take charge of cultivating a culture that ensures differences are welcomed; different perspectives are respectfully heard; and every individual feels a sense of belonging. In environments where leaders are kind, policies and procedures are instituted to ensure kind behavior is infused into every business aspect. You can read my story in Chapter 3.
Lili Boyanova, Non-profit Foundation Director:
People are kind at heart. When treated kindly, we all open up to our full potential, and we can create an impact beyond measure. We're faced with new challenges every single day, and each of us has so many choices to make daily. Every time we choose love and kindness over fear, we sow the seeds for lasting change and open up the possibility for creating a better world for our children. Read my story in Chapter 3.