A few years ago, during my time in the Army, one of my fellow soldiers told me that my biggest flaw as a leader was that I wore my heart on my sleeve. He told me that people take advantage of people like me because I trust to easily and that’s a bad thing. I will never forget that day because he went on to tell me that I would never be a good leader because I was “too kind”. The sad truth is, he believed it. We live in a world where people see being “too kind” as a bad thing, especially for leaders. In fact, he isn’t the only person who has told me that being “too kind” was a flaw of mine. For some reason, people have convinced themselves that leaders must be firm, direct and intimidating to be effective in their roles but that can’t be the only way to be a good leader…Can it?
I refuse to accept that kindness is a weakness in leadership. In fact, I would even argue that putting others first and leading with compassion and kindness is a major strength in effective leadership. I will wear my heart on my sleeve until the day God calls me home because that’s who I am and it’s who I will always be. I will always trust people until they give me a reason not to and I will always choose to see the good in people before all else. Without a doubt, that mindset has burned me before and I’ve been taken advantage of, but that doesn’t change a thing.
See, I was the person who took advantage of people’s kindness and compassion before I joined the military. I was the person who squandered opportunity after opportunity but my leadership (parents, teachers, friends, mentors, etc) never gave up. No matter how difficult I was or how many times I took advantage of someones kindness, they didn’t quit on me. My leadership continued to provide me with opportunities to change my ways and prove that I could do better. And looking back now, had they given up on me, God only knows where I’d be…
The simple reality is that we as leaders have a choice to make for what type of leader we want to be and nobody can make that choice for us. Not everyone will agree with my compassionate approach to leadership and that’s ok but they will never convince me to change my ways. We can either model our leadership off of what society tells us leadership should look like or we can decide for ourselves what we want leadership to mean to us.
As I have mentioned in my blog posts before, leadership to me is the responsibility of one to care for many.
Sure, the production of results and the accomplishment of goals and objectives are important in leadership but that comes second to my responsibility to care for others. My priority as a leader is to motivate and inspire those I lead to want to be better. I want to challenge those I lead to break out of their comfort zones and truly explore their potential regardless of how difficult they make make that for me at times. And most importantly, I want to show those I lead that I truly care for and about them. It’s after I have accomplished those things that I pursue the production of results and the accomplishment of goals. My relationships with those I lead will always be more important than what we accomplish.
If those priorities make me a poor leader in the eyes of others then so be it. But here is what I have realized along the compassionate road I lead…
- By giving everyone the benefit of the doubt you eliminate the possibility of not trusting and believing in the right person
- You will undoubtedly get taken advantage of at some point or another but you will also have a lasting impact on those who come to appreciate what you have done for them
- Some will never appreciate your kindness and that’s ok. Your goal should be to always be kind anyway.
A few days before I wrote this post I was cleaning out the paperwork in my desk at home. Upon cleaning, I came across the tear jerking letter that my wife Kelsey Rose gave me on our wedding day. As I was balling my eyes out reading that letter, I was stopped in my tracks with her words towards the end. She said that she loves how I am always kind to others regardless of how they treat me. As I read that letter it began to sink in that although most people may take advantage of my kindness, it only takes one person to truly appreciate it to make everything worth it in the end.
Lead the way your heart tells you to lead and don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise….
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