A kind leader can be very pleasant to work for. They want the best for their people and offer support wherever they can.
However, being a kind leader is not easy. In fact, it can be a delicate balancing act. The problem facing kind leaders often poses itself as the question: “Am I being too nice or too supportive of my team members?”
A coaching client of mine was once struggling with the feeling that she was being too kind to her team. She felt torn between trying to support them and managing her own time.
The more she stepped in to help, the less time she had to fulfil her own role. The more she assisted her team members, the less self-sufficient they became.
During our coaching sessions we worked together to develop three questions that she would use to remain mindful of her behaviour, and work out whether she was being “too kind” to her team.
The reason for much of my writing is to prompt leaders to think differently, and to help to raise self-awareness. In this article, I want to pose these “kind leadership” questions to help you test your own leadership.
If you’re a kind leader, try them out for yourself and see if they can help you strike the right balance in your leadership. Leave a comment below the post and let me know!
Listen to this related Thoughtful Leader Podcast episode: People-Pleasing Leadership & How You Can Stop It.
Kind Leader Question #1: Are My People Growing, Developing and Improving From My Support?
Being a kind leader can be amazing for a team, because support is always available. In some cases, kind leaders will drop everything to help their team when they are struggling.
However, this can lead to problems, especially when team members start to use their manager as a crutch to lean on when they feel uncomfortable. I’ve observed quite a few situations where team members will stop thinking for themselves and deferring to the team leader becomes the default approach.
It’s good to help your team, but only if you are seeing signs of improvement from the support you provide. Consistently stepping in to help when your team members should be thinking for themselves is not really helping at all.
Being available to help your team every time feels like a kind thing to do. But it can actually be unkind if you are stifling team member development in the process.
Sometimes, the best thing a kind leader can do is to gently push their team member away and tell them to think of their own solutions first, rather than to be the first port of call.
Learn More: 3 Traps Supportive Leaders Must Avoid.
Kind Leader Question #2: Is Supporting My Team Stopping Me From Working On My Own Priorities?
One of the common themes I find with kind leaders is that they feel as if they must always be available for their teams. While it is good to be available, it can also be a huge impediment to your own productivity.
It’s always good to remember that when you fail to work on your own leadership priorities, you will start to fall behind, and look like a bad leader, or at least one that isn’t coping.
Leaders who aren’t coping with their workload can start to attract unwanted attention, often coming under scrutiny from their own managers. In turn, this can lead to even more pressure and more effort to satisfy their manager’s expectations!
A leader can only support their team properly if they are also performing credibly in their role. In other words, you need to make sure you are able to fulfil your own obligations, at the same time as being able to support your team.
A team that sees you struggling may start to lose confidence in your ability to support them at all!
How Kind Leaders Can Focus On Their Own Priorities
It’s important to set boundaries so that you have time to focus on your own priorities. As a kind leader, you should try:
- Booking specific times where you will make yourself available for your team. Outside of these times, provide no guarantee that you will be available to help.
- Setting guidelines for when team members should ask for help. Another of my coaching clients decided that she would tell her managers to make a decision themselves, and then inform her of what they decided. This enabled her to maintain some oversight, without being part of every decision her management team made.
- Understanding the top priorities. Instead of reacting to the demands of the workplace, leaders need to understand what matters. The important aspect here is to understand the capacity that you have to support your team, so you can balance your team needs with your own. Sounds obvious … but many leaders spend their days reacting and fire-fighting.
Question #3: What Do I Want For My Team, and Have I Let Them Know What It Is?
If your team members are using you as a crutch, taking advantage of your kindly nature, would it be more appropriate to show them some tough love, and have them work out the answer for themselves?
If your team members are behaving badly, perhaps being kind and supportive is not the answer. You may instead need to deal with the situation more directly.
After all, kind leadership is about helping your team develop, grow and flourish in the team environment. It isn’t necessarily catering to a team member’s every need. Team members have roles they must fulfil, and being soft on them may not be helping.
The key here is to understand what you want for your team, and to communicate this to them. If you want them to take more accountability or work more autonomously, having an open conversation about your expectations can help.
Then, when you tell somebody to work out the answer for themselves, they’ll know you have their best interests at heart. You aren’t just being mean. In fact, you’re showing them a great kindness, because you’re helping them to develop and grow in their role.
Being a kind leader is not about being a pushover. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. It can feel like a tricky, uncomfortable balancing act.
However, asking yourself these three questions will hopefully help you to remain mindful of the way you are dealing with your team, and whether you are helping or hurting.