“Compassion and kindness, two marks of all great leaders”

Someone once said, “Use your voice for kindness, your ears for compassion, your hands for service, your mind for truth and your heart for love.”

Growing up in the 50s and 60s I learned quickly that the prevailing leadership model was “command and control.” This style of “leadership” assumed that people are naturally lazy and need frequent reprimands or threats to get maximum effort. Kindness and compassion were considered an invitation to slack off and let others do the heavy lifting.

Showing compassion and kindness not only feels better, it also builds confidence, adds to the bottom economic line, creates a healthier work environment and increases loyalty and productivity.

In your push to fulfill your vision and achieve your goals don’t overlook the individual emotional needs of every team member. No matter tough someone looks on the outside, or how harsh their tone, most of the time that is just a cover for past or present fears, failures and hurts.

Holding the team to high standards and showing them you really care are not mutually exclusive. My leadership experience since 1966 shows that leaders who model kindness and compassion every day lead more successful organizations and experience far less staff turnover.

The productive and supportive tone of every great place to work is set in the front office and shows up on the front lines, you can count on it. The consequences of setting the opposite tone are also true. If not corrected they will show up at the least desirable moment and not expected.

Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, was perhaps America’s most passionate corporate leader for the cause of love in the workplace. Without apology, he said, “We’d rather have a company run by love than by fear.”

Southwest flies out of Dallas’ Love Field. Its stock exchange symbol is “Luv,” the company communication is called Luv Live and its 20th Anniversary slogan was “Twenty Years of Loving You.” You should also know that they just happen to be one of America’s most profitable airlines.

Mr. Kelleher knew kindness and compassion were signs of strength, not weakness and one which his team members reflected on a daily basis. What do your team members reflect every day? Start by looking in the mirror. Most people reflect the leader they follow. If you’re still not sure, ask those that you and your team serve.