Leaders Aren’t Nice

What makes you a leader is not your title; it’s that you give a damn. You care about the person sitting to the left and to the right of you, and pull together with those around you to achieve a vision greater than yourself.

Now here is the hard truth … leaders aren’t nice.

Leaders who play nice are agreeable and keep the environment even keel by sparing people’s feelings. They tell you what you what you want to hear while creating stagnation, tension, and an environment where people don’t feel safe.

Nice is the breeding ground for politics in the workplace.

Politics is nothing more than people spending their energy protecting themselves from each other because they don’t feel safe, rather than focusing on the work. Niceness erodes trusts and psychological safety because people can sense when they are not being told the whole truth. It just feels … incongruent and unsafe.

Don’t be a nice leader, be a kind one.

Kind leaders have the courage to say no.
Kind leaders have difficult conversations.
Kind leaders engage in conflict for the sake of shared understanding.
Kind leaders speak the emotionally charged truth without blame.

I worked with a leader once who was suffering through her regular staff meetings that she described as painful. The whole room was filled with palatable tension of everything that was unsaid. She decided to privately speak to the owners of the company and let them know how the meetings were feeling to her and directly ask them for a change. It was difficult to be the one to speak the truth that everyone was feeling, and it was kind because it was in service of all the staff at the company. It was for the sake of clearing the toxicity so that people can breathe, speak, and flow again.

That is leadership. It may be uncomfortable and not nice, but it is kind.

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Alla Zollers is a leadership coach and culture designer partnering with creative leaders to design a new way to work. Her clients range from executives at a large public financial institution to the owners of family businesses.

Find out more at allazollers.com