By William F. Baker, PhD, and Michael O’Malley, PhD
When I first started reading Leading with Kindness, I wanted to run out and buy it for about 10 executives I have known, whose style can best be described as “Attila the Hun.” They represent the antithesis of kindness. After I got about halfway through this book, it became clear to me that those individuals would be turned off by the title and as a result it would not be an effective solution.
Nonetheless, this is an excellent primer for young executives-to-be. The book begins by discussing how “kind” leaders operate, that is, executives who understand that people are individuals and should be treated as such. The authors cull their examples from large companies, but all of the lessons can be applied anywhere, in any kind of organization. In the foreword, the authors use the reality television show “The Apprentice” as an example of what is wrong with a lot of American businesses in terms of the way they treat their employees and customers.
There are only six chapters, but they capture the essence of what a young executive-to-be needs to know about human relations in order to run a company in today’s environment. The chapter on expectations is excellent and covers such topics as clarity, values, focus, goals, and consequences. These are not new concepts, but how they are considered is important. These are ingredients that people do not necessarily think about when the pressure is on.
Leading with Kindness devotes an entire chapter to a discussion of why “The Truth Matters.” In light of the recent meltdowns and finger-pointing, it is a good read for those who wonder how such events could have occurred. This chapter is not only about telling the truth; it focuses on the fact that kind leaders are also good at listening to the truth. Many executives who have not learned this valuable lesson are blindsided when their empires collapse.
In summary, this book is a powerful vehicle for driving home the reality that the long-term viability of an organization might just rely on leaders who understand what being kind really means.