For leaders, being kind brings the best rewards in their companies, family environment, and daily life. How can you put it into practice?
César Mejía Acosta
Social Communicator, Specialist in Psychosocial Interventions and Master in Journalism
If you go into a store, do you prefer being helped by a person who looks friendly and shows interest, or someone who seems unconcerned and even annoyed? The answer seems logical because friendliness connects people. And this happens in any life situation.
But, what happened to the shop assistant who seems annoyed? What caused that attitude? What if you put yourself in the shop assistant’s place in order to understand? Taking the first step with a kind act such as sharing a coffee, greeting them with a smile, or approaching them with some words of encouragement combines two behaviors that go hand in hand to create healthier environments: empathy and kindness. These are chain reactions which happen through daily actions.
“What you do every day should be done with the wellbeing of others in mind. But the key is in acting, and I am very insistent on this, because we are a society with good intentions,” explains César Mejía Acosta, professor of leadership and consultant on the spread of kindness.
However, this attitude should not be faked, he clarifies. Normally, a friendly person will be kind to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, “while someone who is not, normally only treats people who are in their interest with kindness.” Mejía Acosta also states that there is a myth that needs to be dispelled: that whoever does something kind for someone else should keep it a total secret.
“This is not being kind or doing something out of vanity or ego. However, we have been told historically that good things are not to be shown. So, I help someone, but I do it quietly, when the truth is that it has to be made known. Jamil Zaki, a North American scientist who works on the spreading of goodness, showed that this attitude is contagious, so it must be seen; being witness to goodness inspires goodness. And this is how kindness works as well.”
In an issue of Harvard Business Review dedicated to emotional intelligence and leadership, shared by Mejía Acosta, the close relationship between leadership and kindness is addressed. “A growing amount of research suggests that the best way to influence and lead starts with kindness, which is a conduit for influence: it facilitates trust, communication, and the adoption of ideas. And all it takes is a small, non-verbal sign – a wink, a smile, or a kind gesture – to show someone that you are delighted to be with that person and that you are looking out for their concerns.”
Being kind does not imply losing authority, which is what many bosses and directors fear. Leading by force is an idea that has been dismantled over time. We are in an era of knowledge, dialogue, and humanness. “I cannot ask my employees to get along or work together if I, as a leader, have mistreated them. What a team does is project what the leader is.”
Moreover, when the leader is kind, their employees have a better time accepting their decisions. Leading from kindness, expresses César Mejía Acosta, facilitates all the organization’s processes, because in order to be kind, one must be empathetic and be able to actively listen. “Kind leaders are normally more receptive, and when I am more receptive, I am better able to listen to the difficulties my company has. A leader who is not kind thinks that he knows everything and therefore does not listen.” Kind leaders inspire.
In the business world, too, we must break the old pattern of thinking that we must go above others in order to achieve great things. “One of the most beautiful things is that the key to individual and collective progress is cooperation, which is very close to kindness.”
And, as explained by the Mayo Clinic on its website, acts of kindness also make those who do them feel good. What is called the exercise of kindness influences perspective, attitude, and personal health. By applying it, you can live more in the present and have better relationships, which encourages a good attitude.
Feeling like a good person because no one is being harmed is not enough to spread kindness. The main challenge is to act.•
Nurture it as a family
Beware of micro-aggressions. When sharing a space, it is easy to find living together difficult, or small things that cause problems at home. You should not wait for the other person to take a step towards creating a friendly environment; you need to look at how you can contribute.
Avoid “sincericide,” which is what Mejía Acosta calls it. He explains, “The truth does not have to be told whenever and however. We have been taught to tell the truth to someone’s face even if it will crush them. But, be careful with truth and sincerity without empathy. Before having these conversations, it is necessary to think about them.”
Break the chain of bad times. Do not wait until the other person is experiencing a series of problems that make him explode. Ask yourself, how can I prevent the emotions at home or at work from running high?
Coffee relieves tension. Serving a hot drink facilitates kindness and encourages conversation.
Empathy is tied to kindness as well, as both qualities help us connect with others. Also, it is important that these qualities stem from honesty are do not feel fake or imposed.