Chief Advisor to WKUSA Michael Lloyd-White talks with leaders in business and politics on why budgetary constraints and self-interest should not usurp our instincts to show kindness in our everyday interactions.
By Michael Lloyd-White
Recently, I attended a conference in Melbourne called the Gathering of Kindness where 400 healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and administrators engaged in a four-day conversation in kindness.
Interestingly, many of the comments raised were around perceived barriers to kindness and kindness versus budgetary constraints. One health care practitioner said, “The budget does not allow us to choose the kinder option”.
There were other perceived barriers too that kept popping up; fear of discrimination, unconscious bias, cliques fatigue, overworked, personal problems at home, conflicts, broken relationships and toxic workplace cultures. The barriers to kindness were coming in thick and fast.
My response to these fears is simply, “What about friendship? How is friendship a barrier to kindness?”
Taking this theme further, I interviewed several colleagues in business, politics and the Defence forces, and here’s some of their responses:
Mayor of Annapolis, Gavin Buckley, USA:
“I think people are getting involved in politics now because it feels like we are losing our humanity in national politics. On a local level, kindness begins when we reach out to our neighbours and build community.”
Immediate Past President Bombay Management Association, Nirmala Mehendale, India:
“What’s in it for me? This question is the one most of us confront as Leaders, though we may not admit it. When it comes to kindness there is an unseen need though often not admitted, to feel good about the kind act rendered. I led the Bombay Management Association as its first Women President after 62 years with my definition of Kindness which is to balance self-interest with the common good. The opposite of self-interest is other-interest and both in my view are not practical as we strive to reach defined objectives and goals.”
Formal Naval Officer RAN and Political Adviser (LibDem Shadow Minister) House of Commons, Noel Hadjimichael, UK/Australia:
“As someone who has been in uniform at the start of my career and now in my 50s in the NGO space, there are common, yet surprising characteristics, that echo. When in service you are mentally and emotionally bolstered by the clarity of purpose, consistency of diligence and the comradeship of belonging. It was my experience in Navy and it has been mirrored by experience in a wholly different field: the volunteer driven charity or social justice sector. You find clarity of purpose – what cause you are supporting – at the same time valuing a communicated culture. You are empowered by the dedication of your peers, either paid or unpaid, towards the mission. Finally, you are bound by a sense of separateness driven by a partial tribal identity as a team member of something you “chose”. Kindness comes in many ways and under various labels. Giving people clarity, consistency and comradeship are powerful ingredients to them doing their best for the greater purpose and themselves. In the Royal Australian Navy the tag line was and is ‘The team works’. At a time when you need strength of character and willpower to be kind in the face of challenges, a similar mindset is warranted. To do good, to do well, you are best to be kind and use the empowerment it gives you. Strong can always be kind, weak is never kind.”
In light of these comments, here’s a few of my personal reflections on what it takes to overcome perceived barriers to kindness:
Authenticity and Strength – You can be selfless, but if there is no strength to call out the truth as it is, then it gains nothing.
Principles and Feelings – Testing times require a deep moral resolve, a strong conviction of principles over feelings. An ability to look beyond surface feelings of enmity towards someone and seeking to meet the needs of others despite one’s personal reluctance.
Peace over Trust – The need to discuss, debate and then decide is more important than the “selfless” desire to remain passive in order to keep the peace. Saying ‘no’ can be kind at times as a Leader.
Cause and Commitment – When we became absolutely clear of the cause only then can we became willing to make the necessary commitment.
Leading with kindness is always possible. It is not always selflessness that brings about true transformation, but rather, choosing the right truth principles that then generates the needed strength and stability to do what is best for both people and task at hand.
It sure takes courage to be kind.
(feature image of Major of Annapolis, Gavin Buckley courtesy of arundelpatriot.org)