leaders and the power of kindnessI recently asked a male colleague for his thoughts on why so few women are included in the multitude of leadership guru/expert lists.*

Our fascinating exchange…

“Most women don’t write solely about leadership. They throw in other stuff that keeps them off those lists or doesn’t make them top of mind.”

So where do they go wrong in your view?

“I’m going to use you as an example. When you write about leadership, you throw in that phrase about using your heart to lead. That’s getting outside the parameters of leadership.” 

How so?

“Leaders — and remember, Jane, this is just my opinion — set direction and define the vision. They create alignment. They play the devil’s advocate and identify problems. Leaders manage change. They motivate people and develop other leaders.”

Nothing there I disagree with. Wouldn’t using one’s heart come into play with most or all of those items?

“Not really.”

It seems to me there’s lots of room for caring, and dare I say, love, in executing those responsibilities.

“That’s where you and most of the other women, and even some men, go wrong when you write and consult about leadership. You have to leave love out of it. I know you’re not talking about romantic love, but you are talking about affection and fondness. Leadership is about business, about economics, about getting the job done. People who focus on those things are the ones who get included in the lists you asked about.”

That’s an interesting perspective. So what about kindness and compassion. Is there room for that in leadership in your view?

“You know I don’t advocate or support abusing people or being mean to them. No good leader stands for that happening.”

Of course.

“I’m just saying that no one’s performance gets evaluated on kindness or compassion.”

True, but don’t you think it’s time for some of that to change?

“Jane, I’m just telling you the way it is, which I know isn’t the way you want it to be. Enough said?”

Enough said.


Today is Valentine’s Day, so I’m inviting all leaders — especially those with big job titles and formal organizational chart power — to bring a little kindness and compassion (and dare I say love) into your interactions today (and tomorrow). Focusing on both task and relationship, rather than focusing on one over the other, pays big dividends in lots of ways both large and small.



*This list certainly isn’t scientific nor representative of scads of exhaustive research! It’s what popped out in a quick Google search: 

– 1 out of 25 on World’s Top 25 Leadership Gurus.

– 4 out of 50 on October 2011 Top 50 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter.

– 18 out of 100 on NeverMind Awards 2011 – Top 100. 

–  5 out of 12 pickers in selecting the top leader of 2011 on the Washington Post.


Image source before quote:  morgueFile.com