I believe in kindness. Especially in my work life, or at least, I try!
This comes partly from a book that a friend of mine gave me, a few years ago, which has stayed with me, ‘The Power Of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits Of Leading a Compassionate Life’ by Pierro Ferrucci (ISBN 978-0143129271). Sounds pretty fluffy, but I think it can be used in work too…
I also try and live by a mantra from the Cinderella film:
‘To have courage and be kind.’
(I watch alot of children’s films at the moment, they are full of morals to take into adult life, and this is from the one with Helena Bonham-Carter as the fairy godmother.)
Increasingly, especially for the millennials, people hope and need to have understanding and kindness in their workplace. Everyone is on the wheel of life, working to make ends meet, raising the kids, supporting elderly parents, trying to maintain a social life… while often working full-time. As a result, in work if people do not acknowledge the other parts of your life which are, in some ways your more important life, then things may start to go awry.
I’m being fluffy again, but emotional connection is why most people stay in a job or a company. The support each person receives from colleagues, bosses and peers is fundamental to their loyalty to that role, whether they admit that or not. The ability to influence change and participate in decisions ranks next on the list, giving a fundamental connection to your role in a company.
Having managed a fair few teams in different environments, up to 50 people, I have reached the conclusion that a leaders job is to ‘shape’ the team, not to give interventional management directives. This means both looking at the individuals and their skills, reflecting on the overall company aims and creating a kind of people puzzle. The puzzle includes skills, personalities and roles as well as environment and sometimes training, that will enable the team to reach it’s goal, mostly independent of the leader.
As a result, I like the saying:
‘Bad leaders are feared, good leaders respected and great leaders are not noticed at all.’
(Apologies I can’t find this quote online, so don’t know who to accredit it to, please let me know if you do!)
I believe much of the ability to lead without being noticed can be attributed to a style called ‘servant leadership’. To me, this is treating people with kindness and rewarding kind behaviour in others. Needless to say it requires empathy, true understanding and care. It enables an organisation to make appropriate adjustments to support the team, respond to feedback from the team, overcome unforeseen hurdles and allows people to be themselves, truly getting into their personal zone and working at their best.
I call it People Architecture. The Taj Mahal is the physical version of what it looks like to me, virtually! (Plus I love this photo and the story behind the building!)
Servant leadership is about presence, influence and setting an example. It’s hard. It requires consistency, rooted in underlying values and honesty. That’s hard.
It also requires giving credit where credit’s due. Plus letting go of feeling that perfect can only be achieved through your vision of the solution, else there is no flexibility for others to problem solve and create their own solution.
By understanding the underlying needs of each individual, a leader is able to build on each person’s self-esteem, talking to the real person, not the image they may like to portray. Of course there is a level of boundary setting to maintain performance, but this can be mostly emotional boundaries and does not have to be just functional objectives.
I hope this has given food for thought and is reasonably interesting…
Love Ruth x
P.S. My grandfather was the kindest man I know… for example, I am useless with directions, so pre-sat-navs, he would lead me out of his home town, my car following his car, until we reached the roundabout he knew, I knew. I miss him. I hope he’s up there reading this and thinking well of me.