Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results

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Overview

Advance praise for Leading with Kindness:

“Familiar notions about ‘leadership’ and ‘kindness’ are unseated when the terms are redefined by two savvy observers, doctors Bill Baker and Michael O’Malley. Then, with help from a roster of superachievers, Baker and O’Malley do a captivating mash-up, creating a timely concept sure to motivate any ambitious reader who really wants to ‘make things happen.’” — Charles Dolan, Chairman, Cablevision Systems

“Kindness, as the authors define it, is a sign of strength, and every...

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Leading with Kindness: How Good People Consistently Get Superior Results

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Overview

Advance praise for Leading with Kindness:

“Familiar notions about ‘leadership’ and ‘kindness’ are unseated when the terms are redefined by two savvy observers, doctors Bill Baker and Michael O’Malley. Then, with help from a roster of superachievers, Baker and O’Malley do a captivating mash-up, creating a timely concept sure to motivate any ambitious reader who really wants to ‘make things happen.’” — Charles Dolan, Chairman, Cablevision Systems

“Kindness, as the authors define it, is a sign of strength, and every organization could use more of it. This book is a thought-provoking guide for leaders, and aspiring leaders, who want to stand out from the crowd and achieve extraordinary things.” — Anne Fisher, Fortune magazine and CNNMoney.com “Ask Annie” workplace columnist

“The American workplace would be a lot more productive, and fun, if only man­agers would follow the advice of this book. Let’s hope they do. Baker and O’Malley show us through numerous examples that kindness brings out the best in workers and is the key characteristic of great leaders.” — Susie Gharib, Anchor, PBS-TV’s Nightly Business Report

“Baker and O’Malley transcend the muscular clichés of the endless sports manuals on leadership and vanity reflections of egomaniacal executives to reveal genuinely strong leaders whose success is anchored in their integrity, credibility, vision, insight, inclusion, and fairness. There are no coercive, pampered bullies in this book. I know most of the leaders profiled in this book firsthand and find this book to be accurate and an indisputable reminder that good guys can finish first.” — Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, author of Firing Back and the Senior Associate Dean and Lester Crown Professor of Management, Yale School of Management

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] thought-provoking tome.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“A must-read for anyone in a management position.” CareerBuilder.com

“One of the Best Leadership Books of 2008 according to LeadershipNow.com.”

“...a powerful vehicle for driving home the reality that the long-term viability of an organization might just rely on leaders who understand what being kind really means.” —Graziadio Business Report

Publishers Weekly

Say "boss" and many people think of Donald Trump throwing his weight around on The Apprentice. But is that the most effective style of leadership? Not necessarily, argue Baker and O'Malley, who posit that successful leaders accomplish more with kindness and empathy than with aggression. According to the authors, true kindness is not to be confused with weakness, indulgence or mere likability; being genuinely kind means clearly communicating expectations and goals, pushing colleagues to improve and excel and encouraging them to try out things they are uncertain they will like. The book details the hallmarks of successful and kind leaders: compassion, integrity, gratitude, authenticity, humility, honor and the importance of maintaining credibility with one's employees and clients. While the authors' emphasis on honesty and mentorship is incontrovertibly well-intentioned, the paucity of practical advice and the dry presentation are more suited to an academic article, rather than an entire book. Readers looking for a helpful guide will be inspired but ultimately disappointed. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Both ostensibly about leadership, these titles differ in tone and focus. Baker (CEO, Educational Broadcasting Corporation) and O'Malley (senior business editor, Yale Univ. Press) emphasize developing a "constellation of behaviors" that could best be described as kindness, while The PITA Principle offers an extended metaphor comparing Pain In The Ass (PITA) employees to actual sandwiches (the soggy, the crusty, etc.) and lists methods for working with such challenging subordinates and colleagues. Baker and O'Malley deny that being kind means a good manager must be a pushover, suggesting instead that offering clear expectations, telling the truth, fostering growth, and mentoring future leaders are not only good for the people involved but also good for business. Their book is the more scholarly of the two, with each chapter systematically offering bullet-point suggestions, insights gained from personal interviews with successful leaders, and helpful references. It starts slowly but is ultimately a credible guide for emphasizing the qualities of gratitude, authenticity, humility, and humor.

The PITA Principle is a much lighter read. Each chapter offers a definition of a different type of PITA, a list of their pop culture counterparts, and a discussion of each type's strengths and weaknesses. Orndorff and Clark, both associated with the Career Services Center, Pennsylvania State University, also suggest that PITA could stand for Professionals Increasing Their Awareness; to that end, they conclude with self-tests for determining personal PITA tendencies, as well as a final chapter outlining how to establish positive working relationships. Public libraries with largebusiness collections might consider either book to round out their management collections; academic and special libraries may find more of lasting value in Leading with Kindness.
—Sarah Statz Cords

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814401569
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 8/13/2008
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 388,810
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

William F. Baker (New York, NY) is Chief Executive Officer of Educational Broad­casting Corp (Thirteen/WNET and WL1W21). He is Executive in Residence at Columbia University Business School, and University Professor at Fordham.

Michael O'Malley (Hamden, CT) is Executive Editor for Business, Economics, and Law at Yale University Press, and adjunct professor at Columbia University Business School.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

WHAT KIND LEADERS DO

Enter Lady Macbeth. Reflecting on a witch’s prophecy that her husband will become King of Scotland, she wonders if, despite his ambitions, he is too soft, “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness,” to do what it will take when the current king, Duncan, drops by.

At least since the time of Shakespeare, many have questioned the awkward alliance between kindness and leadership. Although the imperatives of leadership are not as extreme as murder, they may involve decisions that involve doing what is best for the company at the expense of other concerns: decisions, for example, that can cost others their livelihoods or affect the well-being of entire communities. In these situations, kindness is perceived as a self-defeating obstruction.

In this book, we maintain that kindness and leadership are complementary, and that this combination specifically gives a leader a crucial edge. Our conclusions are based on our personal experiences, an understanding of the academic literature, and interviews with many business leaders who have quietly made a difference to their companies, their industries, and, in some cases, their country. We don’t pretend that our examination covers all facets of leadership. But we believe our inquiry goes to the heart of what it means to be an effective leader and that our exploration of kindness is a refreshing antidote to the sterility of much leadership theory.

We admittedly had our reservations about using the word kind to describe a special sort of leader because it conveys a softness from which many in business recoil, even though it seems odd to distance oneself from such a positive trait. We chose to retain it for three reasons. First, kindness is universally understood as a virtue.1 It is recognized as an essential ingredient of humaneness regardless of religious or ethnic heritage and has a well-deserved role in human affairs.

Second, it approximates in meaning a set of attributes that we found in successful leaders. No one word can capture everything there is to know about any person, but kindness appropriately summarizes a constellation of behaviors we have observed among a group of effective leaders.

Third, the leaders with whom we spoke had no difficulty with the term. Indeed, they rather liked it. As long as we properly explain its meaning, each is very pleased to be called kind.

INDUSTRIAL AGE BOSSES

Kindness is not the first word we associate with business. The image of business still largely includes old scenes from industrial America in the early twentieth century: the age of hard work and tough bosses. As the machines heated, spun, milled, and bore, managerial overlords paced factory floors counting the output and pressing employees to produce more and more. This was not the place for weak-kneed supervisors and executives. Forbearance was not a principle of Taylorism and the new scientific management, which adduced tightly choreographed movements between man and machine.2 The goal was to keep production lines efficiently moving by any means necessary. The only thing worse than workers who wouldn’t work was a soft manager who couldn’t make them.

Today, the pressure for unremitting productivity from the forces of fierce competition in the global marketplace continues. New, unforeseen market entrants can suddenly emerge from anywhere in the world with a new technology, better business model, or improved product, to exploit a company’s weaknesses and rob it of customers.3 Meanwhile, traditional competitors are always laying in wait for a missed order, a slip in quality, or a lapse in service. The margin of error is very thin, and befuddled, wishy-washy executives who can’t manage to the numbers are expendable. We would agree, but the premises of operational precision, rigorous financial oversight, and market wariness that belie organizational success often lead in an unpromising direction: back to the lords of the shop floor and a falsely constructed ideal of an overly severe leader.

We mistake the need for precision with the need for managerial control, the need for oversight with the need for corporate autocracy, and the need for vigilance with the need for icy objectivity and personal detachment. We conclude that what every business presumably needs is a leader who is calculative, single-minded in the financial purposes of the enterprise, and, perhaps, competitive to a fault: to the point of being overbearingly aggressive and belligerent. In this new age of competitiveness, we assume that managers who are incapable or unwilling to grimly snip away at expenses, to relentlessly push employees, and to be unyieldingly tough are too compromised to succeed in a harsh and unforgiving business world. As our erstwhile leaders did in the industrial age, today’s leaders ostensibly, too, must be uncompromisingly and dispassionately focused on the prize of productivity gains and wealth creation for shareholders. Everything else is an investment or expense.

The abiding impression of the modern manager remains haunted by images of past generations of overcontrolling thugs: the new company man or woman who has just the right amount of indifference and interpersonal distance to make the unthinkable possible. He must get people to do their jobs the very best they can—without caring too deeply about their burdens. Whatever semblance of decency that emerges is part of a canned, formulaic concoction designed to get results. Those who are unsuccessful at feigning concern are sent off to communication classes where they are shown how to listen harder and to demonstrate empathic awareness through carefully crafted questions and statements.

Since many employees have had to endure the dismissive and erratic treatment of “shouters” during their tenures, our point is proven by that experience. We have a very long way to go before universal decency prevails within management. Why else would more than twelve states now be contemplating laws that allow workers to sue their bosses for “threatening, intimidating or humiliating” behavior, “repeated infliction of verbal abuse,” or “gratuitous sabotage . . . of a person’s work performance”? Discriminating against specific groups has been outlawed for some time, but states have now turned their attention to those who have been referred to as “the equal opportunity asshole.”4 These are the managers who indiscriminately abuse everyone. Most disconcerting, however, is that despite living in an era of unprecedented economic progress and scientific enlightenment, management practice remains primitive, with the incidence of bullying in the workplace increasing, not decreasing as one might have surmised.5

Neither of the authors prefers external regulation and law for influencing behavior. We prefer a positive approach, with voluntary acceptance as a first course of action: that is, a method that convinces managers that there are far more dignified and effective ways to get results than by inculcating scream-and-holler cultures. Winning Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy, for example, doesn’t curse, sarcastically chew out players, or rant on the sidelines. He believes he can get his team to compete by calmly providing direction and treating players with respect. Interestingly, this demeanor prevented him from getting a head coaching job for many years.6 We need more Tony Dungys, who, in the process of trying to perfect their own lives, set examples for others.

The real disgrace behind the new state laws under consideration is that too many executives who are in a position to do something about mismanagement within their ranks either don’t know what is going on or refuse to do anything about it. Organizational leaders who fail to step in when people need them most are culpable.7 It may be time, as both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal recently announced, for a new type of leader who has cast aside the largesse of ego and exercises power in more humane ways.8 This is tantamount to removing the crook from the hands of royalty, where it once symbolized authority and dominion, and passing it to the shepherd, where it became a symbol of protection and a humbler, more subtle form of power.9 The less invasive leadership style symbolized by the shepherd’s staff reminds us of a quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

WHAT KINDNESS IS NOT

No, kindness is not a word that spontaneously comes to mind when we think of business, and its acceptance as a workplace virtue is made more quaint by highly salient experiences we have all had with loathsome, capricious bosses who somehow manage to escape detection and, inexplicably, ascend the corporate ladder. The quality we have singled out for study, then, is not an obvious one. Before proceeding further, however, let us briefly say what kindness is not, in order to clear up some common misconceptions. As a Latin proverb suggests, giving an account of what something isn’t helps to clarify what it is.10

There Is More to Personality Than Kindness

Leaders exhibit many qualities besides kindness. It is, for example, possible to be hard-nosed and kind, to be cantankerous and kind, to be analytical and kind, or to be gregarious and kind. Kindness comes packaged with many other traits. Thus, leaders’own unique qualities give them a distinctive style. We assert that kindness is part of a good leader’s constitution and that others are able to brush aside some of the other qualities that leaders possess in order to see their compassionate centers. Therefore, many different types of people are kind.

We believe that the endless, and tiresome, search for the perfect leadership personality is terribly misguided and ultimately fails to explain what leaders really do and what makes them effective. It is best to think of kindness as a key ingredient in a robust stew. The character of the stew is defined by all of the ingredients in combination, but omit just this one and the fine flavor is lost.

Kind Leaders Aren’t Sissies

Part of the problem is that often when we think of people who are kind, they are sometimes overly so—and too much of a good thing is harmful. These individuals are indulgent and naïve; their benevolence is often the target of calculating, homoeconomicus looking for a free ride or easy gain. By kind, we do not mean sucker or pushover. Nor do we imply a warmly permissive leader whose underlings run wild.

Kindness, like many other traits, has an optimal level that makes it a virtue as opposed to a vice. Too little or too much transforms it into something ugly or suspect. Too much courage can make one foolhardy, too much pride can make one haughty, too much politeness can make one officious, too much love can make one covetous, and too much kindness can make one a dupe.

Kindness Is Not the Same as Likability

Kindness doesn’t preclude a full range of expression, including, at times, displeasure, nor should it be interpreted as excessive amicability. Compare it to the relationship between a parent and child; kindness implies an interpersonal closeness and fondness, but it comes with other baggage. It requires mutual responsibilities that a day at the beach with a buddy does not. This is because parenting goes well beyond common courtesy, the sharing of intimacies, and companionship.

At any given time, a parent can plummet in the likability ratings faster than a discredited televangelist. Parents are supervisors who manage their children with some of the same modus operandi as businesses: There are daily responsibilities and performance expectations that are to be executed and met by people with different capabilities, motives, and temperaments. Every day, like it or not, parents are called upon to get the job done. Whereas evaluations of likability may ebb and flow, it is hard to imagine succeeding in this or any interpersonal endeavor without the presumption of kindness to motivate our best intentions and to temper our worst impulses.

As in business, it often is possible for parents to get results without much skill. It is always possible to make people do things through threats of punishment and brute force. But those parents who repeatedly rely upon such measures would hardly be described as “good.” Even if such tactics never quite reached the level of abuse, the one-dimensional style is the stuff of satire. Getting results in its various forms is not the sole criterion for parental (or managerial) success. Even so, results fed on a strict diet of fear are fleeting. Children, like employees, are discriminating and know when they are beyond the vigilance and control of others, free to do their own thing (or, in extreme cases, get even)—sometimes in spite of themselves. The goal of leadership is never really to just get results, but to increase the value of the company over time using agreeable means.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

FOREWORD, ix

PREFACE, xi

INTRODUCTION, 1

CHAPTER 1

WHAT KIND LEADERS DO, 11

CHAPTER 2

WHO KIND LEADERS ARE, 37

CHAPTER 3

EXPECTATIONS MATTER, 77

CHAPTER 4

THE TRUTH MATTERS, 119

CHAPTER 5

GROWTH MATTERS, 155

CHAPTER 6

PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERS, 193

APPENDIX, 217

INDEX, 229

ABOUT THE AUTHORS, 237

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A must for every manager

    Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to be mean to be a good boss. In this book the authors show that in fact many of the very best bosses and the country's biggest and best companies (Google, John Deere, Pitney Bowes, etc) are kind. In fact, not only is it nice to be nice, but it's also very profitable. By interviewing dozens of these kind bosses this book shows why and gives clear, easy to follow advice. In fact, this book is useful for all kinds of human interactions, in addition to just corporate culture. The world would be a much nice place if everyone followed these rules.

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