I had a curious and memorable series of events occur to me last week. Those of you who know me are aware that I no longer can drive due to failing eyesight and I now generally use taxis for local trips.
One of the members of my Vistage CEO peer group was visiting for his monthly one-to-one mentoring session and kindly offered to give me a lift to the local supermarket afterwards.
The shopping having been done I rocked up at the checkout and started to open the bag that I had for a change remembered to bring with me. Somewhat to my surprise a gentleman took over and started to help to pack the groceries into the bag. He said with a big cheerful grin: “Now that I have retired I have to find things to do”. I thanked him for his kindness, paid the checkout and went on my way.
I was just telephoning for a taxi when a lady who lives very close to us came over asked if she could give me a lift home.
Three acts of kindness within the space of a couple of hours and they really made my day. Is that because acts of kindness are rare or just because so many had happened to me?
It was brought to mind again recently by the excellent “In Business” programme on BBC Radio 4 when presented Peter Day interviewed several people who had experienced kindness being shown to them in their businesses for apparently altruistic reasons.
For example a well known author had written some advertising copy for a woman who was in a start-up business marketing unusual and rare teas, and there was a taxi driver who had shown kindness to several deserving people without thought of reward.
Classic examples of old fashioned leadership invariably include plenty of loud shouting and a hard man approach to personal relationships. There is little doubt that more sensible and intelligent methods are taking the place of that authoritarianism.
Indeed the great families who built sustainable businesses like Cadbury and Lever Brothers realised the power of kindness to the people they employed and actually built villages for them with all the necessary amenities.
Yes, there was method there and they knew that a happy workforce is less likely to give trouble but nevertheless acts of individual kindness were evident and normal.
The fact is that modern thinking leaders accept that everyone deserves the respect and courtesy of being treated as human beings, that people are not just numbers or cannon fodder but rather that they all have something of value to offer.
To show kindness without the thought of reward may be rare in business but if we are to grow away from the authoritarian neo-bullying approach to a more inclusive and sensitive form of leadership then voluntary and indeed involuntary acts of kindness will and should become a major part of the canon.
Moreover the great Judeo-Christian religions say that acts of kindness evinced by giving charity should always be anonymous so that there is no other self-aggranising reason for giving.
J M Barrie wrote:
“Always be a little kinder than necessary” and that encapsulates it for me.
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