Why kindness is the must-have superpower you need to lead

As the old saying goes, a little kindness can go a long way. In this blog, Julie Adam, Radio and Television Arts ’92, shares four ways you can use kindness to help you in leadership.

"Kindness is a superpower" written on a wall using chalk
Julie Adam
Julie Adam, Radio and Television Arts ’92, is the President of News & Entertainment at Rogers Sports & Media. Her leadership book Imperfectly Kind: Why Kindness Is The Must-Have Superpower You Need To Lead was released in December 2021.

Practicing kindness in leadership will force you to shift focus away from yourself to the things which matter most — your customers, your employees, your shareholders and your community. If you want to transform from good to great and excel in leadership, you need a north star and a superpower to guide you. Make it kindness.

Whether you are a new leader who has just started your first managing gig or a seasoned executive who needs a better approach, here are four quick ways you can use kindness to help you.

#1 First, be kind to yourself 

Self-esteem and self-importance are critical to your success. If you want to be an exceptional leader and are committed to leading with kindness, the first person you need to focus on is yourself. 

#2 Be kind in failure 

Failure is the fastest way to grow and learn. Give yourself and your team permission to make mistakes and hold everyone accountable to learning from mistakes. Kindness isn’t only about praise and positivity — true kindness is rooted in honesty and accountability. When you make a mistake, own it, analyze it and move on.

#3 Be kind with feedback  

Constructive, meaningful feedback is the kindest thing you can do for a teammate. Your team needs you to provide feedback to help them achieve their goals. But not all feedback is helpful and most of us give terrible advice from time to time. Here are a few quick tips on how to do it well:

  • Ask a lot of questions. Your job is to guide and coach. It’s the team’s job to solve problems.
  • Don’t be too positive. Top talent needs constructive input to help them get better.  
  • Be specific, not generic. “That was great” and “That was bad” doesn’t help anyone. Be clear with your commentary.
  • Be selective.  Be realistic in how many things someone can work on, be empathetic and don’t overwhelm them with a long list of things to fix. Pick one or two most important areas.
  • Be consistent. Don’t tell someone one thing one day and the exact opposite the next unless you have a good reason for the change. 
  • Watch your moods. We all have good days and bad days. Your mood can drastically change your view on something. Body language, emotion and tone all play a significant factor when giving input. Be conscious of how you feel before you start a coaching session.  If you’re in a terrible mood, perhaps reschedule.
  • Be kind with your words. No matter what, ask your questions and deliver your input with kindness. Remember kind doesn’t mean positive — it simply means you will be present throughout the discussion and think deeply about how your words will impact the other person. Don’t shy away from the tough stuff — the kindest thing you can do for someone is give consistent, specific, balanced feedback explicitly designed to help your all-star be their very best. Kindness will allow you to focus on the other person and do whatever is best for them.

#4 Build an all-star team and get rid of the jerks 

While strategy is critical to your success, the most important thing you will do as a leader is build, retain and coach a high-performing team.

A common leadership mistake is holding on to an abusive or disruptive high performing jerk.  Don’t do it. Sure, they may be a star performer achieving incredible success for the organization but keeping them on the team is at best a short-term benefit to the bottom line. Their attitude will wreak havoc on your long-term business. Having someone like this on the team suggests you don’t care about the others. Culture is defined by the worst behaviour you’re willing to tolerate and if you keep someone like this on the team, you’re signing off on having a culture full of negativity.

The best part about being a leader is you get to weed these folks out. If leading with kindness is your mission, there’s no way you can keep them around. 

Bonus — Have Fun!

Show kindness by giving your team permission to find happiness and delight in what they do. Aim to be the “most fun place to work.” For most of us, work should be fun!

Good luck & stay kind.

Julie Adam, Radio and Television Arts ’92, is the President of News & Entertainment at Rogers Sports & Media. Her leadership book Imperfectly Kind: Why Kindness Is The Must-Have Superpower You Need To Lead was released in December 2021.