Kindness in business pays off for leaders.
Kindness and compassion, qualities many women entrepreneurs value, have proven good for business. (Credit: Mayur Gala on Unsplash)

“Kindness” is not the first quality most people associate with business leaders. Instead, words like “fierceness” or “ruthlessness” tend to spring to mind — and that can be alienating for women entrepreneurs, who typically work more collaboratively and don’t approach running a small business or corporation with a “quitters never win” mentality.

It’s time to change how we think about business leadership. Recent studies have indicated that kindness can pay off, especially in the modern workplace. Last fall, the global nonprofit collaborated with Oxford University on a campaign called “Sincerely, Kindness,” which encouraged participants in 39 countries to perform acts of kindness each day for seven days. Data revealed that performing kind acts increased participants‘ levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Major companies like SoulCycle, BOND Collective, Energi Life, and Ogilvy New York brought the campaign into their offices with “kindness walls” for employees to engage with, and an uptick in kindness spread across their social-media channels.

Amazing things happen when leaders eschew an aggressive approach and choose compassion in business. Here’s a look at how kindness pays off in everything you do.

1. Kindness begets trust.

This is a proven fact, according to Emma Seppälä, PhD, and author of “The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success.” When leaders are compassionate, they make their team members feel safe. And once this trustworthiness is established, the dominos fall forward in favor of the business and its success.

When a leader exhibits kindness, it encourages employees to think in a more creative, innovative fashion, because they do not fear the consequences. They take initiative on projects they feel passionate about, and challenge themselves to keep learning and growing. From my own personal experience, I have found that when leaders establish a culture of kindness within their business, the attitude reflects off them and onto their team members, customers and partners.

2. Kindness leads to a strong work performance

If you had a choice between working for a boss who was grumpy versus one who was positive, it’s a no-brainer that you’d choose the nice one. Stanford University’s Compassion & Business conference held in 2013 explained that this all ties in with emotional contagion.

Here’s the thinking: People who work for kind people are more likely to exhibit a strong work performance and build each other up, because they have caught on to the emotions of their leaders. And employers are naturally inclined to hire people in the first place that exhibit characteristics like generosity, kindness and evidence of being a team player. Helping everyone succeed within their roles helps the business reach its goals, making it a win-win for everyone.

3. Kindness makes everyone healthier.

If you’ve ever worked under intense leadership, you’ll recall how the experience took a toll on your physical and mental health. You might have felt anxious about your ability to perform or felt like you were teetering on the brink of burnout due to an overwhelming workload and a lack of fulfillment. Studies in Greater Good Magazine produced by UC Berkeley have shown stress is linked to coronary heart disease and higher blood pressure. When your workplace begins to negatively impact your health, many employees make the decision to quit or find new jobs that are much less intensive. 

The best way to prevent this is through what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls a state of “elevation.” When we witness a compassionate act, we are inspired to behave similarly. It’s the same in the workplace. According to Haidt, when leaders treat each team member with respect and kindness, employees are elevated by their behavior. They feel encouraged to help out their fellow team members, even if there is nothing in it for them. Fair leadership causes an uptick in productivity, both within a team and solo, and encourages employees to develop loyalty to the business and its leadership.

It may sound like a cliché to say, but kindness is contagious. If you put a kind attitude at the forefront of everything that you do, then you’ll watch it pay off for the reputation of both you and your business in the long run.

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.