Why the world needs your kindness
Seriously, you might be thinking why we need to think about kindness and the world needing it when it should be part of our daily lives like eating and even breathing! However, is it? We should all be kind? However, are we? Please don’t confuse kindness with being nice. You can still be strong, assertive, and honest with kindness.
When I have conversations with people around the world about our vision of building a world of kind and courageous leaders and leadership, some get it, many didn’t. People are still today seeing and experiencing this lack of kindness and courage we are seeing across the world. We need to change this. We can change this! Leading with kindness (and courage) matters today more than ever before and you can be a part of this!
This story is about how I see the world of leadership and why we must practice kindness and courage today and every day! In my book First Comes Courage, kindness is the first and most prominent point on the Courage Compass, the north point. And, in this book, I ask the question, what is kindness? It’s officially defined as the qualities of friendliness, generosity and consideration. As leaders, this means being friendly to your teams, being generous with your time and praise, and being considerate of their individual needs and feelings. Understanding their goals, dreams and motivations. Helping individuals to achieve their own vision of their future.
It became a very long day on a Saturday as I had travelled from early morning to fly down to Sydney (this was a few years back mind you) for a magazine interview. I was tired and I knew the interview was going to be tough, vulnerable and empowering however for some reason I felt uneasy about it. I had to share my journey and as much as I knew it would help others, it was challenging. It ended up being a wonderful day however working with a team of remarkable and caring women.
I had to take a late flight home because I was juggling between supporting my daughter and with work commitments and I was exhausted after the day. I was waiting in line to board a flight and for some reason, I noticed there were many people boarding the plane who seemed distracted. Maybe it was the first time I noticed. I think out of the hundreds of people boarding this full flight, around five people acknowledged or even said thank you to the flight attendants checking us in. I like to board last as I am not a fan of flying and as I handed the flight attendant my boarding pass, she said welcome on board Ms McDonald and I smiled and said, how are you? She looked at me in surprise and said she was exhausted as it was a long day. I laughed and said I know how you feel however I told her how beautiful she looked. She thanked me profusely.
Soon we were in the air and I took out my laptop. The same flight attendant and another one who was assisting served us food and drinks. I was engrossed in my emails and when she got to me, I made sure I closed everything down and turned my focus on both of them with a smile. I said thank you so much for my drink and food. They both stopped and looked at me and said do you know how often people show kindness, gratitude and manners – almost never!
I was truly surprised. Then they said, here take another wine for later and thanked me for my kindness. I laughed.
I started to reflect on this encounter and wondered why this is so? Are we too busy? Too distracted? Do we not see the importance of kindness? Don’t we care?
How would we feel if it was our child checking us onto a flight and there was no kindness or respect? I used this analogy in our programs and coaching around how we speak and treat people at work – we are all someone’s child! Don't we want our children and future leaders to be in a world that is kind and courageous? It is up to us today to lead this movement.
I hear and see more and more unkinder stories of how people treat each other at work and in life than I do kind stories. We need to change this and lead the way! This will change our world no matter how small our words and actions. I am not perfect with kindness every single moment of every single day as life does get in the way. I do get busy. I do get distracted. However, I make sure every interaction is dealt with kindness even during those times I am needing to be strong. My first book, Just Rock it supports you in focussing on what makes you rock and being strong.
I know as a kind leader that my actions and words make a great impact. A big one. In turn, kindness is not a weakness as I said before as you can still be strong and be kind as a leader.
My mantra is to always be a brave and kind leader and empower brave and kind leaders around me and across the world. Research has shown that kindness is a strength for leaders and that being kind makes us happier and our employees more productive! Who doesn’t want that? And don’t we want to lead by example for our generations of today and tomorrow? I am sure you would like to do this too! And, make Kind the new cool!
Compassion is an important aspect also in relation to kindness. The Thrive Global Community has focussed on compassion with the work of theologian and Nobel Laureate Albert Schweitzer. “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” But what is compassion?
The Chopra Centre also highlights the importance of compassion and says ‘Compassion’ takes both sympathy and empathy yet another step further. It is recognising someone else’s pain, feeling that pain, and then actively doing something to alleviate that pain.
In the words of the Dalai Lama XIV: ‘Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.’ I argue that this applies more importantly in leadership. Kindness, shown through compassion and consideration of another person’s situation, is a leadership essential. It is the most prominent point on the courage compass. The north point that all other points align to, and which should be the strongest leadership driver.
In the context of leadership, kindness empowers people to lead with positivity, purpose and open-mindedness. It empowers leaders to embrace new ideas and encourages trust. If leaders show kindness they accelerate trust, and in turn create happier, more empowered employees, who will be inspired to deliver better results.
Berkley University researchers say the solution to improved leadership is compassion. What Berkley means by compassion is what we have called kindness here. Compassion or kindness in leadership has proven to deliver happier workplaces, reduce healthcare costs for employees, reduce absenteeism and also reduce turnover. Not only this, kindness or compassion also improves the bottom-line.
In this fast-paced business world, technology has offered endless opportunities for efficiency, and we have become slaves to it. We trade in knowledge, proficiency, competency and efficiency. We have taken the impact of human connection out of the equation. Human interaction is becoming a casualty of efficiency, with artificial intelligence and automation being adopted to drive cost savings, to make more profit. And it has changed the way we interact, the way we lead. Kindness and compassion have taken a back seat, and that is, ironically, ultimately affecting our bottom-line, the wellbeing of our staff and our performance
It takes courage to be kind. Extending kindness and compassion to others, and even to ourselves, risks judgment, rejection and being seen as going against the norm in some organisational cultures. Sometimes it means we make ourselves vulnerable, which might be uncomfortable, but in the long run it leaves us in a position of strength.
Are you seeing kindness as a weakness when it is actually a strength? I challenge you to build your leadership capabilities with this superpower. Use your courage to build kindness and compassion into your practices, relationships and interactions and you will definitely see the benefits
Flexible leaders are able to accept what they cannot change and either work with it or work around it. They also have a growth mindset, being able to take advice and learn from failure. They use emotions and fear to fuel compassion and courage. They turn negative emotions into positive energy to drive teams. They search for opportunities and meaning in adversity
Have you noticed that sometimes we are “too busy to be kind?’ Those who constantly talk about how “busy” they are, adding adjectives in front like “super” or “crazy”, are unintentionally putting a big “I’m too busy for you” sign on their forehead. If your talk of your busyness starts making it sound as if you can’t make time for anything else, you’re making yourself appear unapproachable. Talking too much about how busy you are makes people think you’re too hard to connect with. When I see a busy sign on your forehead, I’m reminded of a John C. Maxwell quote I recently read:
“The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness”.
And, when we are too busy, kindness can get left ou! Do you recall situations like this?
In addition to all the issues we are facing globally, workplaces are very competitive, sometimes showing confidence to the point of being arrogant and this is what success seems to be about. However these cultures create toxicity. The focus is now on being authentic, courageous, and kind, and with good reason. Being kind isn’t hard to do, and it has incredible results.
With the issues we are facing in the world and lack of focus on kindness, the healthcare system is seeing rising rates of mental illness occurring. In support of this the World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the WHO Special Initiative for Mental Health (2019-2023): Universal Health Coverage for Mental Health. What’s missing in all this is kindness as it makes a lot of the adversities bearable.
The World Kindness Movement shows that we are experiencing natural disasters, wars, famine, and economic crises and what better way to help people deal with their problems than showing a little kindness?
So remember that kindness can be provided through simple everyday acts you can carry out as illustrated in this chapter, which then became simple habits for you to build into your everyday life!
You have an opportunity to play an important part in creating a kindness movement!
Are you ready to change the world with me?
Stay Kind & Courageous Sonia x
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