The Superpower in Every Leader

A little kindness can go a long way. And it's cost-effective too.

The Good Samaritan by Luigi Sciallero, 1854 (Wikimedia Commons - public domain)

"Three things are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."

— Henry James

When you interact with someone, what makes them memorable to you? I mean truly memorable.

Maybe you they made you laugh, or called you by your first name, or remembered something about your background or hobbies that had nothing to do with the interaction.

Or perhaps that someone said something hurtful or didn't even take the time to acknowledge you were there.

Or quite simply, maybe they were kind to you.

Kindness is an amazing superpower.

When I was a child, my heroes wore capes. They flew through the air, or had superhuman strength, or the ability to move faster than anyone else.

As an adult, I've realized that there are powers that we each have inside of us that can help other people, without having to resort to feats of strength or fictional abilities.

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

— Mark Twain

The thing with kindness (and decency) is that it seems to be in such short supply these days. So the act of being kind and decent is amazing to people.

And yet it's so easy to be nice to others.

Consider two industries for a moment: healthcare and hospitality. In each labor costs are a large part of the budget. What makes a difference to patients and guests? Usually, it's the interactions they have with the staff: they way they were greeted at the front desk, the warm welcome from the housekeeping staff, the nurse who ensured your comfort in a very uncomfortable setting.

The neat thing about all of those interactions? They're free.

Kindness is Free

You've likely seen the bumper sticker or billboard: Kindness is free.

Indeed it is. But applying it is the part that takes effort.

Whether it's in an interaction with an employee, a customer, or a supplier, we all have the ability to offer decency:

Sympathy when you can see an employee is having a bad day.

Understanding when a customer is upset about a problem with one of your products.

Generosity and mercy when a vendor needs to be paid more quickly than your Net 120 policy.

"The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away."

Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

Real toughness comes not from how much we pummel a competitor; it comes from how kind we are even when we aren't required to be.

People will always remember someone who was kind to them, even when that someone didn't have to be.

As a leader and as a human being, how would you like to be remembered?

Fit To Be Tied

In the latest #FitToBeTied, a call to resist the outrage machine and commit to decency.

For the Curious Mind

"I have gathered a posy of other men's flowers, and only the thread that binds them is mine own." – Michel de Montaigne

Curiosity is a curious thing. We’re curious about specific things, and different people are interested in different specific things. It's a function of motivation plus direction. For you see, curiosity depends on what you already know, not on what you don't know. (Nautilus)

Curiosity can seem random at times. But if you understand that we feel most curious when exploration will yield the most learning, it can help you understand patterns of advertising, packaging, offers and more. (The New York Times)

Our age reveres the specialist but humans are natural polymaths, at our best when we turn our minds to many things. (Aeon)

Recommended Reading/Listening

"Let me recommend this book." – Arthur Conan Doyle

Philosophize This! is great podcast for anyone interested in philosophy, where you don't need to be a graduate-level philospher to understand it. In chronological order, the thinkers and ideas that forged the world we live in are broken down and explained.

Michael Brenner’s Mean People Suck uses real-life experience and proven research to show why instead of blaming others, we can look inside ourselves, and learn how to use empathy to defeat “mean” in every situation. This insightful guide shows leaders and employees how more emotional communication increases profits and enhances lives. Bonus: it's by one of the nicest guys I know.

What else is influencing me? You can check out my sources of inspiration here or in the Timeless and Timely Flipboard magazine I curate.

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