Lead With Kindness: You’ll Get Better Results

In the end, only kindness matters

What happens when we put kindness at the center of our leadership? There’s plenty of hard evidence that kind leaders get better results.

Emma Seppala, Ph.D, a Research Scientist at Stanford University and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, details several studies in Being a Kind Boss Pays Off:

  • A kind leader may actually be good for “followers” hearts. In fact, a study out of the Karolinska Institute conducted on over 3,000 employees found that a leader’s qualities were associated with incidence of heart disease in their employees.
  • Employees feel greater trust with someone who is kind. Harvard Business School’s Amy Cuddy and her research partners have also shown that leaders who project warmth—even before establishing their competence—are more effective than those who lead with their toughness and skill. Why? One reason is trust.
  • Employees are inspired by kindness. Jonathan Haidt at New York University Stern School of Business shows in his research that when leaders are self-sacrificing, their employees experience being moved and inspired. As a consequence, the employees feel more loyal and committed and are more likely to go out of their way to be helpful and friendly to other employees.
  • Kindness leads to bonding which boosts employees’ health. lack of bonding within the workplace has been shown to increase psychological distress. Meanwhile, positive social interactions at work have been shown to boost employee health—for example, by lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and by strengthening the immune system.
  • Kind leaders finish first. Contrary to what many believe, data clearly shows that nice gals (and guys) can actually finish first, as long as they use the right strategies that prevent others from taking advantage of them.

(See also Seppala’s article, Hard Data on Being A Nice Boss, at Harvard Business Review.)

It Ain’t Easy Being Kind?

“Even the briefest touch of kindness can lighten a heavy heart. Kindness can change the lives of people.”-Aung San Suu Kyi

As leaders, it takes conscious choice, moment-by-moment, to slow down and refocus minds, hearts, and actions away from individuality toward kindness. In the era of the Selfie, with self-promotion and personal branding prized, leadership grounded upon kindness sounds countercultural. Revolutionary in fact.

1393350772000-SonyaSotomayorFINALFINALAlso revolutionary is the idea that kindness equates to strength–not weakness. I loved when Sonya Sotomayor joined the U.S. Supreme Court and gave fair warning that her politeness should not be mistaken for weakness.

Why get acutely conscientious about being kind? Why risk being a revolutionary leader?

Beyond all the hard data showing that kind leaders get great results, the Dalai Lama reminds us:

…because my future and yours is connected with everyone else’s. So we have to take seriously our concern for all of humanity. When we focus on our individuality, humanity inevitably suffers, each one of us will suffer.”

Kindness Quotes to Inspire Revolutionary Leadership

  1. Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness. -Seneca
  2. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. –Leo Buscaglia
  3. Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. –Plato
  4. The more you extend kindness to yourself, the more it will become your automatic response to others. –Wayne Dyerimages-3
  5. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love. –Lao Tzu
  6. A little thought and a little kindness are often worth more than a great deal of money. –John Ruskin
  7. Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you. -Princess Diana
  8. You cannot do a kindness too soon for you never know how soon it will be too late. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
  9. The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love. -William Wordsworth
  10. When someone is kind to you, you feel understood and seen. -John O’Donohue

Dear revolutionary leaders, try this simple nightly reflection:

Whose heart did I lighten today?  How will I do more of that tomorrow?

Amp up your leadership courage: Lead with kindness.







Photo of Justice Sonya Sotomayor by Mary Altuffer, AP (2009).


  1. […] Lead With Kindness: You’ll Get Better Results by @Jone Bosworth, J.D.   Think kindness equals weakness? Kind leaders actually get better results–there’s proof. […]

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