7 Reasons Kindness Is the Most Important Leadership Trait, According to Science
Treating others with kindness is the right thing to do, but if you fill a leadership role, following the Golden Rule can be especially important. Several scientific studies indicate if you’re in charge, the best way to lead effectively is to treat employees with kindness. Who benefits from kind leaders? According to science, everyone.
1. Compassion earns status points.
Three experimental studies conducted for the Personality and Psychology Bulletin revealed that people who seem altruistic placed higher in social status. Participants were tasked with making a social decision that would either positively impact themselves or the group. In the first study, contributions were public, and participants were more likely to make the choice that would benefit the group. Group members who made the most generous choices were awarded higher status than those who chose the option that benefitted themselves.
2. Happy employees are healthy employees.
The Karolinska Institute conducted a study wherein they analyzed data concerning the health of over 3,000 employees. The results showed that managers who behaved considerately were less likely to have employees on their team who suffer from ischaemic heart disease than those who did not.
Another study conducted by the University of Michigan and McGill University considered the overall health impact of social interaction at the workplace. Researchers found socializing has a significant physiological effect. Employees who encountered positive interactions in the workplace showed lower heart rates and blood pressure and a stronger immune system than those who did not.
3. Kind employers manage productive workers.
We’ve already shown that working for a considerate boss benefits employees—but it turns out that leaders who are kind also enjoy a few advantages. A study from the Journal of Product Innovation Management examined the impact of perceived fairness on both individual performance and team performance overall. When teams worked for leaders they perceived to be fair, individual performance, interpersonal citizenship behavior, and team performance were all stronger than when fairness was not perceived.
4. Positive attitudes are contagious.
The University of Michigan and Georgia State University conducted a study that revealed when employees are friendly with each other and work in an environment that isn’t fear-based, customers receive better service. Additionally, employees developed better relationships among themselves and worked together more productively.
5. Trust matters most.
Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School conducted a study that revealed leaders are more effective when they demonstrate strong communication skills and trustworthiness than when they demonstrate toughness and strength. The study determined employees are more willing to be led by someone they find warm than by someone who uses fear as a motivator.
6. When others are put first, organizations succeed.
Research conducted for the Journal of Positive Psychology shows that self-sacrificing leaders are more likely to inspire employees than those who are not. When employees see leaders putting others before themselves, they are more likely to commit to team goals and help other employees. These facets make for a stronger team overall, which leads to more positive results for the organization.
7. Trustworthiness pays off.
Subjects were asked to determine how much money should be allocated to different individuals in a study of trustworthiness conducted by behavioral economists. The people who received the most funds were evaluated as having the most trustworthy disposition, even when subjects had no guarantee of financial return. The study went on to suggest that leaders who are open with subordinates are more likely to cooperate and feel comfortable sharing ideas—which in turn, strengthens organizations.
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