Kindness, another way to say Leadership

Kindness, another way to say Leadership

Kindness is Leadership

The pandemic has challenged managers as never before, but one powerful leadership strategy is being overlooked, as Boris Groysberg and Susan Seligson say in their Harvard Business Review Article “Good Leadership Is an Act of Kindness”. 

Be kind. 

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Henry James

“People can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help,” 

Ritchie Davidson, University of Wisconsin

Great leaders attest that it is not a sign of weakness or relinquishing authority to be consistently kind and to offer encouragement and show genuine interest in employees’ mental well-being in punishing times. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, at once forceful and compassionate, remarked that one of the criticisms she’s faced over the years is that “I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong”

What can CEOs and managers do to infuse their leadership with kindness and empathy?

Groysberg and Seligson share some effective ways to practice kindness as a matter of course:

“I hear you.” Really listen. Be fully present and don’t judge. Encourage employees’ questions and concerns. 

“Are you okay?” Show a willingness to provide comfort and monitor for signs of distress such as social withdrawal and poor performance.

“What can we do to help?” Being kind might also involve taking an active role in offering mental health resources or creating a virtual support group or sounding board.

“How are you managing these days?”. For employees experiencing the pangs of social isolation, one company launched daily virtual coffee breaks. For those working while caring for children, leaders must be sensitive to issues of exhaustion and the difficulty of working during pre-pandemic office hours. 

“I’m here for you.” Let your employees know routinely that you are there for them when they need to share concerns or simply require a sympathetic, nonjudgmental ear. 

“I know you’re doing the best you can.” This statement is, with few exceptions, true. In scores of first-person accounts and on social media, people are reporting they are working harder than they did pre-COVID. This makes perfect sense; as layoffs and furloughs skyrocket, employees live in fear of losing their jobs. 

“Thank you.” Say it with sincerity and say it often.

kindness is one of the most essential soft skills for good leadership. But in these times, it might be the most crucial one. To paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, kindness is an investment that never fails.

The Leadership you need NOW

The Leadership you need NOW

The Leadership you need now

In these difficult times, Harvard papers are providing a lot of useful articles with insights that help us face the challenges brought by COVID 19. We want to share this valuable content with our readers, in the way to decisive action and honest communication. More than ever, good leadership is needed. These are the key insights we found from recent publications.


“When the situation is uncertain, human instinct and basic management training can cause leaders — out of fear of  taking the wrong steps and unnecessarily making people anxious — to delay action and to downplay the threat until the situation becomes clearer. But behaving in this manner means failing the coronavirus leadership test, because by the time the dimensions of the threat are clear, you’re badly behind in trying to control the crisis. Passing that test requires leaders to act in an urgent, honest, and iterative fashion, recognizing that mistakes are inevitable and correcting course — not assigning blame — is the way to deal with them when they occur”

Michaela J. Kerrissey and Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business Review Article

The Harvard Business Review Article “What Good Leadership Looks Like During This Pandemic” goes into the current situation, that afects at all levels, and gives the following lessons brought up from the cases of Silver and Arden, to draw the best path for leaders to take nowadays:  

1. Act with urgency.

“Against the natural tendency toward delay, acting with urgency means leaders jump into the fray without all the information they would dearly like. Both Ardern and Silver acted early, well before others in similar circumstances and well before the future was clear. It was what Ardern publicly described as an explicit choice to “go hard and go early”.

2. Communicate with transparency.

Communicating with transparency means providing honest and accurate descriptions of reality — being as clear as humanly possible about what you know, what you anticipate, and what it means for people”.

3. Respond productively to missteps.

“Problems will arise regardless of how well a leader acts. How leaders respond to the inevitable missteps and unexpected challenges is just as important as how they first address the crisis”.

4. Engage in constant updating.

“A leader’s advisory team in the face of an ambiguous threat may change over time because new information often means new problems have surfaced and the necessary expertise will shift accordingly. Finding and leveraging the right people for evolving problems is part of the updating challenges”.

“We believe that leadership is strengthened by continually referring to the big picture as an anchor for meaning, resisting the temptation to compartmentalize or to consider human life in statistics alone”

Leading with Intentionality

Leading with Intentionality

Leading with Intentionality

New Harvard Paper

Robert Wilkinson, RCC at Harvard Executive Program’s 2019 Edition

Robert Wilkinson teaches courses on leadership and negotiation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, specializing in team and group dynamics. He is also our Negotiation and Leadership program speaker. He shares his wide experience (and humor!) through case studies and business dynamics. Robert Wilkinson is coming next May 2021.

The ability to exercise leadership effectively requires skills and capacities that must be developed; they are not innate.
(Robert Wilkinson, Paper Abstract, Sept.2020)
Decision Making

Decision Making

Decision Making

Visit our Program Dates, join us, and have a unique Harvard Experience!

In their Harvard Business Review article “Deciding How to decide” Hugh Courtney, Dan Lovallo and Camina Clarke share a model for matching the decision-making tool to the decision at hand, through three factors:

  1. How well you understand the variables that will determine success,
  2. How well you can predict the range of possible outcomes,
  3. How centralized the relevant information is.
  1. Here’s some inspiration for lightening your decision-making, shared by Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Prize-Winning Psychologist):

    Overcome WYSIATI

    “WYSIATI is short for What You See Is All There Is, and it is something that our brains are trained to believe — that all of the information gathered from our impressions is enough to make a good judgment.  It prevents us from seeking new, critical information.

When making important decisions, we too often believe that WYSIATI. Utilizing ‘slow thinking’ (System 2 in Kahneman’s theory) can allow us to take in all of the important information to synthesize better and more discerning strategies”

Founding Circle


Try a Premortem

“Say you’re facing an important decision. Now imagine that you had the wrong solution, and then picture yourself a year later, and figure out, with the benefit of (prospective) hindsight, where it all went wrong. Say you’re a doctor who has operated on a patient. That patient died. Why? Figure it out before you ever make the misstep — that’s a premortem”.

Map Your Decisions

You will recognize repeated mistakes that you have made and you will be aware of them when you are making decisions in the future. You can track this in a Moleskin notebook, a bunch of napkins you keep in a drawer or in a digital text document. Whatever works for you. Be diligent about it. Approach it like a project, and refer back to it often.


Watch BBC’s 3 tips if you want to know more about this decision-making

Post-Pandemic Business Guidelines

Post-Pandemic Business Guidelines

Post-Pandemic Guidelines


Harvard Business Review Article, written by Carsten Lund Pedersen and Thomas Ritter

“The management theorist Henry Mintzberg famously defined strategy as 5 Ps: plan, ploy, pattern, position, and perspective. We have adapted his framework to propose our own 5 Ps: position, plan, perspective, projects, and preparedness. The following questions can guide you as you work to bounce back from the crisis”.

It can be good to take a moment and start working on the following questions prepared by these two authors, in order to help us confront the world outside when the confinement is over and the market, business, and social life are slowly back again to real. This is a new scenario for all of us, but the goal here is simply to adapt the management tools to this new situation. Now, more than ever, we need to think big and get as many learnings as possible to strengthen our team and objectives. We hope these questions are useful in your way!

These two authors have also prepared a WORKSHEET to work better on your corona crisis strategy for your project or company. You can also download the PDF version here:

1. What position can you attain during and after the pandemic?

“To make smart strategic decisions, you must understand your organization’s position in your environment. Who are you in your market, what role do you play in your ecosystem, and who are your main competitors? You must also understand where you are headed. Can you shut down your operations and reopen unchanged after the pandemic? Can you regain lost ground? Will you be bankrupt, or can you emerge as a market leader fueled by developments during the lockdown?”

2. What is your plan for bouncing back?

“The lack of a plan only exacerbates disorientation in an already confusing situation. When drawing up the steps you intend to take, think broadly and deeply, and take a long view”.

3. How will your culture and identity change?

“It’s crucial to consider how your perspective might evolve. How prepared was your organization culturally to deal with the crisis? Will the ongoing situation bring your employees together or drive them apart? Will they see the organization differently when this is over? Your answers will inform what you can achieve when the pandemic ends”.

4. What new projects do you need to launch, run, and coordinate?

“The challenge is to prioritize and coordinate initiatives that will future-proof the organization”

5. How prepared are you to execute your plans and projects?

“The resources at hand, along with the speed and quality of decision-making processes, vary greatly, and the differences will determine who achieves and who falls short of success”

About the authors:

Carsten Lund Pedersen is an assistant professor at the Department of Marketing at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, where he researches B2B digitization strategies, employee autonomy, and market strategies in times of change.

Thomas Ritter is a professor of market strategy and business development at the Department of Strategy and Innovation at Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, where he researches business model innovation, market strategies, and market management.

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