Discovering Leading with Kindness
Monday, July 7th, 2008
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Michael O'Malley

“Leading with Kindness” is a research-based book supported by evidence from scholarly reports, interviews with renowned leaders and our own observations. Our starting point was to examine interview data for common themes and to superimpose that information onto what we know about organizations – and then to make adjustments as needed. In the end, what we were told, what we have read, and what we have witnessed are in close alignment and collectively form the organization for the book.

In particular, we were able to define the key attributes of kind leaders including humility, authenticity, gratitude, integrity, humor and compassion, and to describe their meanings in the context of organizational life and their relationship to organizational performance. For each of the six attributes we identified, we offer a rich analysis of their essence and their particular relevance to sound leadership.

Next, we focused on the behavioral sets of kind leaders, vacating the usual discussions of what leaders are like in preference to explaining what they in fact do. Thus, we give substance to kindness in action. Specifically, we provide details on how leaders do three things particularly well: set expectations, provide honest assessments and feedback, and promote growth. There is quite a bit to each of these components of leadership practice and we duly dissect them so the reader of “Leading with Kindness” can take the requirements for each and implement them. In summarizing leadership behaviors, we liken leadership and the leader to a work of art and an artist who intrigues and engages the viewer, incorporates them into their sphere of influence and invites them to participate in a worthy pursuit.

We caution that it isn’t so simple to apply these behaviors as if following a recipe or checking off a list of ‘to dos.’ One reason for this is that it just isn’t that easy and another reason is that leaders operate within, and often inherit, problematic cultures in which employees fight against progressive changes or, worse, cynically remain idle bemoaning a futile future. Thus, in beating back helplessness, we demonstrate how leaders can create what we refer to as ORE cultures: open, resilient, engaged. It is a culture that is more permitting of creative action and sustained results: that is more receptive to what leaders have to offer.

In the end, our research reveals that great leaders are able to pass along four invaluable gifts to followers that enable followers to subsequently develop into fine leaders of unique character and style. Those gifts are the 4 Ss of self-confidence, self-control, self-awareness and self-determination gifts that allow them to manage with self-possession, aplomb and maturity.

Although our investigation is empirical and, we believe, our conclusions sound, there is no grand theory that lies behind our text. Our analysis is predicated on a basic observation that all people want certain things for themselves and all desire to be treated a certain way. Further, good people want those very same things for those they love and care about. Our book to some degree, then, is about how to keep things that can get in the way of respectful and advantageous relations, out of the way.

Michael O’Malley

Coauthor, “Leading with Kindness”

  • aaron kominsky

    i agree too many mgrs lead with the my way or the highway mentality no more those days are over if you expect full engagement from your employees internal satisfaction leads to external loyalty

  • michael omalley

    A “my way or the highway” mentality” robs an organization of the thoughts and observations of the people who often are in position to relay more accurate information. It also produces a sterile, uncreative place from which the best employees flee.

  • Jim Fleming

    Your web-cast was inspirational. This web site very encouraging. As one who was hired to “fix” a “…problematic culture in which employees fignt aganst progressive changes or, worse, cynically remain idle bemoaning a futile future…” if the book will help, I’ll buy a copy this weekend. It’s an up-hill battle when employees are so distrustful that they will not enter into conversation.

  • Jim Fleming

    The book is a great read. It does offer some concrete ways to go about initiating positive change in the workplace. My copy seems though to be missing the chapter “Patience, Patience, Patience”.

  • William Moorhouse

    Joy, Peace, Patience,Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control aren’t these the Christ like qualities and characteristics that lead to a more abundant life ? I think that is what He told us they would do for us corporately and individually

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