What Does it Mean to be Kind?


Some people look at kindness and think it’s a weakness. They believe you have to be ruthless to succeed in life. They think kind people are soft people who allow others to walk all over them. I think they don’t understand the true meaning of kindness.

“Kindness is a strength. It takes a unique blend of both heart and spine.” Kindness includes setting boundaries. You can be kind and still hold your ground. You can be kind and still fire someone from a job. You can be kind and still speak up or disagree with someone. 

You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no.

Leaders who exhibit kindness are rewarded with employees who work harder and businesses that are more profitable. Kindness is one of the traits that make a great leader, and it’s a very important one. They also need to be motivated, creative, focused, innovative, and good at problem-solving and communicating.

One of the biggest studies on kindness found, “respondents who did have kind bosses were more likely to say they would stay at their company for at least another year, that their team produced outstanding work, and that their company was doing well financially. Meanwhile, 96% of the employees that took part in the survey said that being kind at work was important to them, suggesting that kindness at work does matter if an organization wants to succeed.” – Claudia Hammond.   

Joe Folkman, who studied the 360-degree feedback ratings of more than 50,000 leaders, “found the leaders rated by their staff as more likable also tended to be rated highly on effectiveness. Perhaps more tellingly, scoring low on likeability and high on effectiveness was so rare that there was only a one-in-2000 chance of it happening. Folkman also found that businesses with likable leaders scored higher on a whole range of positive outcomes, including profitability and customer satisfaction.”    

None of the leaders are pushovers. They’re kind, strong, and effective. They are not people you can walk all over. They encourage a culture of kindness and respect in their organizations and that ripples through the entire organization encouraging more kindness and respect. 

A perfect example is the recently retired Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, who put kindness at the heart of her leadership style. When she retired, she said,

“I hope I leave behind a belief that you can be kind but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused.”   . . . . .  and she did!

Anybody can be a bully and push people around. Being harsh and critical with others is easy. When emotions are running high, and you have every right to be mean, but you don’t, that takes strength, that’s kindness. 

Being kind means you are focused as much on the delivery of your message as you are on the message itself.  That’s something we all need more of in today’s world, more kindness, more compassion. 

PS – Thanks Geoff for sharing the BBC article that got me thinking about the definition of kindness.

Is there someone who inspires you with their kindness?  Nominate them for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Award of $250.

Do you have an act-of-kindness project you want to do but need help funding it?  Submit your idea for the Matt Kurtz Kindness Grant of $500 and let us help you spread kindness.


2 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be Kind?”

  1. Well said Jackie….in business and in life, kindness is a leadership quality that earns respect, and earned respect creates teamwork and strong leadership. Those that choose to lead through intimidation and disrespect may get results in the short term but without the earned respect of those they lead, they will ultimately fail…..bottom line; respect is earned, not demanded.

Let Me Know What You Think