Taking Steps toward Leadership–Kindness

So are we Boy Scouts yet?  We are striving to be Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly and Courteous.  Most of those traits would be common in someone that wanted to be a Boy Scout.  The courtesy might have to be learned, but it wouldn’t be a stumbling block.  Being Kind is a difficult concept.  Here’s the definition:  Kind–having, showing, or proceeding from benevolence.  Benevolence is charitable feelings, good wishes  (bene-good, volencia-feelings).  The perception of other people not as objects but part of yourself and the greater community is endemic to kindness.  You give people the benefit of the doubt.  You are mindful of people’s feelings in what you say and do.  You cannot act kind, you have to be kind.  

Some will tell little white lies to be kind to a person.  It’s still lying.  Some will withhold information or keep secrets from people thinking they are being kind.  That is not kindness, it’s avoidance.  Kindness takes the utmost in communication skills.  The best path is always the truth.  You do not have to be brutal when you tell the truth.  There are times when telling the truth kindly will change a person’s direction and benefit them.  This would be a kindness.  “Do these pants make me look fat?”  “No, those 40 pounds in your butt makes you look fat.”  That would be brutal, not kind. “I don’t think those pants flatter you.  You know what?  I take a walk during lunch hour every day.  Would you care to join me?  Then as we travel this fitness path together, we can find more clothes that actually flatter us.”  That gives the other person a choice and a well needed truth that might change the perspective on the unhealthy path currently traveled.  1/2 the problems and conflicts we see on super hero movies and t.v. shows are the consequences of keeping secrets to protect the ones closest to the hero.  We dealt with this in the part about truth.  But the fact is, truth and kindness and all the rest of the qualities we’ve dealt with thus far are interrelated.

What does Kindness have to do with leadership though?  It is, I believe, the difference between leading and managing.    If you are managing people or projects or what ever, you’re looking at the final product.  The idea is that no one is going to know the effect of getting the product finished on the people that finish it.  They are just going to look at that jar of peanut butter and say, “I really like this peanut butter, it doesn’t stick to the roof of my mouth!”  They will go to the contest and think, “Wow, that was amazing!  Did you see those competitors?”  They are not going to be thinking of the vendors, the registration desk, the admins, the clean up crew, or anything else except the competition.  They will go to the motel and enjoy the quiet and the channels they can get on the TV and the restaurant or the room service, not the fact that it doesn’t smell moldy.  I am not saying that the final product is unimportant to the leader as opposed to the manager; I’m saying that the end product is not the focus, but the result of the growth and development of the people that put it together.  Let’s say our final product is a winning football team.  The coach A watches his players practice.  He encourages, he helps them work together, he helps them develop the necessary skills.  He is KIND.  Does that mean he doesn’t yell?  Of course not.  He does not insult, he does not demean, he doesn’t single out players for special treatment (good or bad) to motivate his team.  He comments on the action and the skill, not the player.  So when Bobby drops his 5th pass, he says, “Bobby?  Look over your shoulder and then watch the ball come into your hands before turning your focus on the 1st down.”  When the boys doe their push ups and Sean can’t keep up, he says, “Sean, come in on Saturday and we’ll work on your form.”  When the team’s morale is down, he will gather them together and say, “This team is not just you and you and you…It is us as a single unit, moving toward a goal.  We can do this because we think together and we play on each of our strengths!”  The team wants to live up to his expectations.  They will put the needs of the team ahead of their personal needs because they see the example of the coach.  Coach B  watches his players practice.  He encourages, and helps them work together and teaches them the necessary skills.  He is a MANAGER.  He yells of course.  But if Bobby drops the pass, he says, “AGAIN?  Bobby! do you have grease on your hands?  Can’t you catch a single one of these?  What’s the matter with you!”  When the boys do their push ups and Sean can’t keep up, he says, “Look at you!  You lard bucket!  The other team will be afraid you’ll eat them!”  When the team’s morale is low, he’ll say, “C’mon Ladies!!!!  This isn’t a dance.  You gotta be mean and tough.  You’re such weaklings, we’ll be lucky if we win 1 let alone a championship!  Do you want to go out like that?!!!”  Now the team is split.  1/2 believe they cannot win, and the other 1/2 believe that they could win but only if the losers would just quit the team.  Who determines who are the losers then?  They begin to think of themselves 1st, and then the team. Each one hopes there’s a scout in the audience that will see the individual performance and recruit him to a winning college program.  One coach is thinking about developing the young people into a cohesive unit, and teaching them what it’s like to achieve something that no one player can achieve by himself.  The other coach is thinking about the trophy in the case.  The kind coach is a benevolent coach.  The manager wants to get a job done and see a result.

The true leader is Kind.  Watch Harry Potter 5 and see how he works with his team.  Then look at how Dolores Umbridge works with her students.  Both Harry and Dolores were seeking order out of chaos.  Harry saw the villain as the pure evil incarnate in the person of Voldemort.  Dolores saw the villain as the behavior caused by fear and distrust which led to disorder, and imposed order by tightening her grip on the actions and not inspiring unity or order.  She was managing a behavior, not leading a group.  She definitely was NOT kind.  Kindness inspires trustworthiness, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness and courtesy.  Being kind requires thought and an inward change of perspective.  It is not an easy character trait to attain, but it is absolutely essential to being a good leader.

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