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  • Writer's pictureOlivier S.E. Courtois

Is Kindness a Subterfuge for the Weak?

In a recent speech, Gary Vaynerchuk, stressed the importance of kindness in business. According to him, 'soft skills' are the best sustainable investment you can make. What is your opinion on this? In my experience, the trust generated depends on three key factors: 1/ Capabilities: experience, personality, IQ & EQ, ethics... Let's say it's the basis! 2/ Strong and consistent values: these values, associated with capabilities, make it possible to define the "purpose", they serve as a compass in the current whirlwind, they make it possible to hold the course with both firmness and agility. A leader who remains true to his or her values inspires more confidence than a leader who is prepared to make any concessions to hold on to his or her position. 3/ Care, kindness: they allow us to create an authentic link with those around us, marked by a real interest in the person and not by petty calculations. They allow us to create a need for reciprocity. Offering time and attention without calculation creates strong relationships with people who are naturally inclined to 'give back'. Some call this an investment in one's karma. Kindness, as Gary describes it, falls into the latter category. It is the glue that makes the work environment human. However, this calls for some comments: 1- Kindness does not mean weakness. It has to be genuine kindness, based on a strong self-confidence. To repeat the three factors mentioned above, it should not be used as a means of compensating for deficient capabilities or values, of buying favours. It is a soul supplement, not a substitute. A strong leader at ease with self will be able to express kindness without fearing for his/her image or ego. Lack of kindness is sometimes the signature of the weak. 2 - Kindness is not synonymous with naivety. It is possible to show kindness without calculation and without sinking into angelism. Not everyone is motivated by benevolence or selflessness, and we need to be able to show kindness at some point without expecting any immediate or automatic return. 3 - Kindness in content and form must not prevent the ability to make firm and confident decisions. Intimacy does not mean promiscuity. Many leaders are wary of too much "closeness" and prefer to keep their distance to preserve their status and independence. In my opinion, this is respectable, but it is not the only possible approach. I have known and observed leaders who combine kindness, benevolence and a genuine interest in the person without losing their impartiality, objectivity, capacity for discernment and without losing the respect of their interlocutors. On the contrary. It is easier to explain a difficult decision to someone whose respect you have earned through kindness, competence and values, than through fear or distance. Is it not a noble quest to become a great leader while developing one's humanity?

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