Five Habits of Remarkably Kind Leaders

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. – Emerson

British statesman and financier Cecil Rhodes, whose fortune was used to endow the world-famous Rhodes Scholarships, was a stickler for correct dress, but apparently not at the expense of someone else’s feelings.

A young man was invited to dine with Rhodes arrived by train and had to go directly to Rhodes’s home in his travel-stained clothes. Once there he was appalled to find the other guests already assembled, wearing full evening dress. After what seemed to be a long time Rhodes appeared, in a shabby old blue suit. Later the young man learned that his host had been dressed in evening clothes, but put on the old suit when he heard of his young guests’ dilemma.

Kindness is not a virtue that is typically high on the list when one thinks of leadership characteristics. Given the recent news of one well known politician it might be time to revisit the topic. Countless stories abound about bullying and dealing with difficult people at work. Unfortunately, these are issues that have been around for a long time and will only continue until more kind leaders step up.

When addressing the issue of kindness in leadership I am speaking more to the temperament of the person who happens to be a leader. Kindness is a disposition. It’s not something you put on and take off like your apparel. To be sure, in your place of business you are more attentive to the disposition that is needed to deal with your employees and customers. So what are some common characteristics of remarkably kind leaders? Here are five for your consideration.

They are considerate of the needs of others.

It sounds sound simple, right? Kind considerations are given when the leader realizes that he or she is not the center of the universe. Kind leaders make the needs and considerations of others a top priority and then execute their actions off of that premise. Yes, the habit is elementary but the payoff can be huge.

They find common ground.

Kind leaders have learned the secret of relational strength. They know that more positive things can be accomplished through kind words and actions than through negative ones. To that end, they will seek common ground whenever possible to fortify relationships. It’s much easier for people to come together through kindness than through adversity. Kind leaders find common ground and build from there.

They are remarkably confident.

This is perhaps where kind leaders are most underestimated. Kindness should never be misinterpreted for weakness. Kind leaders are confident enough to treat everyone with respect. They are kind enough to not allow others to be bullied or treated with disrespect, and care enough to confront when necessary. Kind and confident leaders are the ones you want in your corner and the type you should aspire to become.

They are relentless encouragers.

Kind leaders are encouragers. They know how to speak not just the words you want to hear but the words you need to hear. They know how to get in your head as well as your heart with the encouragement and inspiration you need. They will challenge you to be your best, reach your potential, and care enough to speak hard truths you need to hear. But at the end of the day, they always encourage.

They are game changers.

If bad bosses and bad employees can create negative or toxic work environments that makes it difficult for people to thrive in then I believe the opposite is true. Only kind people can be kind leaders. I believe it’s time for kind leaders to step up, be heard, be seen, be promoted, and be the game changers we need. Call it wishful thinking, call me naive, but I think it’s time we understand that the days of bullying and meanness has not and will not work. It’s time to shine the spotlight on the good and let kindness rule the day.

What do you say?


© 2014 Doug Dickerson

* If you enjoy Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted. Order them at