Leaders are often depicted as cold-hearted, no-nonsense figures without a trace of a soul (think: Miranda Priestly). But recent research shows that successful leaders have a completely different attribute that’s contradictory to the previously taught leadership qualities: true kindness.
According to research, employees enjoy working for a leader who takes charge and creates her own rules in a nice way. A leader who seems to actually care about them, their livelihoods, their families, their work-life balance in a genuine way.
It can be difficult for most leaders to exude under the stresses of management, but kindness in a leader has been found to create not only a happier work environment, but more loyal and committed employees who work harder and produce better work. If you’re someone who is able to keep your cool — and care — even when your team is driving you nuts, you were born to be a leader. Here’s why.
1. Kindness improves employee well-being and productivity
When employees are friendly and help one another with tasks, they develop better relationships with coworkers (seems obvious, right?) These relationships create a healthier work environment, one that is not based on fear of repercussions, which, in turn, improves employee productivity. Workers are also more likely to perform better and be more efficient with their time without being watched and told to hurry up by a mean boss. Seems like kindness really can pay off.
2. People’s brains respond to kindness in a way that improves teamwork
“When someone is kind and respectful to us, our brains produce more oxytocin and dopamine, which helps us relax, feel open to others, and be more sharing and cooperative,” Glaser said. Being open and allowing collaboration is beneficial to the teamwork necessary in most professions.
3. Kindness in the workplace leads to trust in the workplace
In a survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 1,409 CEOs in 83 different countries were interviewed on improving employee performance. The survey discovered that kindness leads to greater employee dedication and commitment to their company. Kindness also breaks down communication barriers that may exist, reduces dangerous competition among employees, and improves relationships with company shareholders.
4. Kindness creates learning and innovation
Kindness, along with the qualities of empathy and understanding, is important to innovation. These qualities lead to personal psychological safety, according to research from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and the University of Michigan. This “psychological safety” makes employees more likely to learn from their failures, rather than be discouraged. Those who are psychologically safe are more likely to share personal information, as well as work together to come up with creative solutions to problems in the workplace.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.