The Kind Product LeaderSep 01, 2021
Does your organization see kindness as a weakness or an asset in leadership? Does your product team see leadership as a strength to building innovative teams?
I once worked for a senior product management leader who was so unkind that I would come home each night and just collapse in front of the TV in exhaustion. It didn’t matter that my 2-year old son needed me or my 5-year old daughter wanted to show me her latest art project. My leader would belittle the entire team and make us feel worthless. Unkind leadership creates a toxic culture that negatively impacts every part of the organization.
What does it take to build a culture where each person can bring their best self to work each day? The root element of a human organization is simple – it’s kindness. Kindness makes people happy and happier people are 12% more productive, according to a study by Warwick University. Organizations with a culture of kindness through positivity, recognition, and mentoring also have higher retention and a more positive employee experience.
What does it take to be a kind leader? Here are my suggestions.
Do not hide.
Kind leaders bring their whole selves to work each day and want their teams to do the same. They embrace differences and respect each team member’s insights. Kind leaders realize they are not the center of the universe.
Kind leaders are also visible. They do not sit in their office with the door closed. They support their teams and sincerely encourage individuals to approach them with questions and ideas. A kind leader knows the names of the people around them, whether another leader or a front-line employee.
Lead with humanity and vulnerability.
Kind leaders bring vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency to their leadership. They know that their job is to motivate and inspire others and understand that strong leadership and vulnerability go hand in hand. When they bring their own humanity to their teams, it creates a sense of psychological safety – the number one factor for productive teams, according to Google.
Set clear expectations.
As Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind and unclear is unkind.” Kind leaders set expectations and keep employees apprised of their progress. Kind leaders communicate in a way that is clear, motivating, and empowering. The context behind expectations is communicated along with how the expectations are tied to broader corporate goals.
Appreciate your employees.
Being kind means you sincerely celebrate the successes of others at work. Kind leaders do not hesitate to give others detailed and public recognition, building both trust and connection. Not only is appreciation good for individuals, but it is also good for business. A large body of psychological, behavioral, and social research has identified the impact and power of gratitude with findings that have profound implications for creating a harmonious, humane, and productive workplace culture.
Poor communication is a sign of toxic leadership. When employees get mixed messages or are unsure what is going on, they move into fight-or-flight mode, wasting a huge amount of emotional resources. Kind leaders are honest with their teams. They understand that honesty, even with bad news, fosters trust and connection while reducing emotional waste.
Encourage people to grow and develop.
Kind leaders are always looking to lift their employees and help them grow. For example, if an employee is in a position that’s not a good fit for their skills and expertise, the kind manager either supports them in acquiring new skills or helps them find a better fit in another group.
Kind leadership creates human cultures where each individual can bring their whole, authentic self to work each day and go home each night with a sense of accomplishment and positivity.