'Leading with Kindness'

There is an interesting book and associated US public television series I'm intrigued by entitled 'Leading with Kindness: How good people consistently get better results'The two authors areWilliam F. Baker, Ph.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor

There is an interesting book and associated US public television series I'm intrigued by entitled 'Leading with Kindness: How good people consistently get better results'

The two authors are

William F. Baker, Ph.D., (Chief Executive Officer of Educational Broadcasting Corp Thirteen/WNET and WL1W21, (who made the TV program) is also 'Executive in Residence' at Columbia University Business School, and University Professor at Fordham.

Michael O'Malley, Ph.D., Executive Editor for Business, Economics, and Law at Yale University Press, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School.

Published by Amacom books, the publishing arm of the American Management Association, Baker and O'Malley propose that 'Leading with kindness' will enable you to

* motivate employees, committee members, and others * recognize unique talents while nurturing all employees * establish a supportive and productive work environment * drive continuous organizational growth * adapt and guide employees through periods of change * stimulate calculated "stretch" and risk-taking

Using 'sincerity, honesty, and respect for the good of the organization as a roadmap to success' is a hugely attractive but vulnerable concept in my opinion. In my opinion and experience, you are only as good as your most opaque and unscrupulous manager, particularly in larger command and control organizations.

If dependencies are predicated by your size in the organization, as illustrated by the Matryoshka nesting dolls at the top of this post, then bigger dolls are responsible for the smaller ones which work on agreed deliverables in increasingly focused teams.

We are all familiar with the type of unscrupulous management Baker & O'Malley are railing against: here's their 'five worst no-nos':

Micromanaging, Failing to follow though, secretiveness, playing favorites and deceiving underlings.

Training management to 'be nice' is a tall order; it's tough to to get a leopard to change its spots, and even tougher to promote change management within an organization that has 'unkind management' painted onto each nesting doll or layer of command.

Survival in the trenches of middle management in most companies, particularly for the talentless, involves setting up rivalries, stealing successful projects from underlings and/or blocking rival project progress, and anything else it takes to look good to the people above.

There are basic rules of good behavior and ethics which are unmeasurable in the current top down review process of employees in the vast majority of firms; even those with progressive ideas inevitably have significant personality friction issues - it's just human nature.

Finding the weakest links - and they are often the people most adept at hiding in the woodwork- is critically important at a time when many companies are downsizing to a core team. Many of the management currently letting people go will perpetuate the above issues as times improve, having eliminated structurally important people they worry could replace them.

W. L. Gore & Associates, a company management guru Gary Hamel cited as an example of the future of management during his recent keynote at the HCL Global gathering, (which I also spoke at) has holistic integrity in its DNA.

Gore has been a team-based, flat lattice organization that fosters personal initiative. There are no traditional organizational charts, no chains of command, nor predetermined channels of communication.

Instead, we communicate directly with each other and are accountable to fellow members of our multi-disciplined teams. We encourage hands-on innovation, involving those closest to a project in decision making. Teams organize around opportunities and leaders emerge. This unique kind of corporate structure has proven to be a significant contributor to associate satisfaction and retention.


Associates adhere to four basic guiding principles articulated by Bill Gore:

* Fairness to each other and everyone with whom we come in contact * Freedom to encourage, help, and allow other associates to grow in knowledge, skill, and scope of responsibility * The ability to make one's own commitments and keep them * Consultation with other associates before undertaking actions that could impact the reputation of the company

This is not new fangled thinking: Bill Gore founded the company 50 years ago around this management model, which lends itself to the type of management enterprise 2.0 software companies assume their technological innovation will enable, but which is actually relatively rare.

Companies that fail to adopt this type of thinking will become increasingly brittle in an era of increasingly complex partnership and business process outsourcing. The type of management that dragoon their staff to man the defenses of their silo will find themselves isolated and irrelevant, even if they succeed in enlarging their fiefdom through hostile action.

You are always going to have to deal with obnoxious, paranoid, passive aggressive, aggressive and egotistical people - add your pet peeve to the list, as any human resources person will wearily tell you.

In my opinion creating a holistic framework which dilutes the worst traits of human nature while encouraging the best is the key to a happy, innovative and productive organization.

Amazing things will happen if you supercharge these types of methodologies with associated open business methods.

Editorial standards