• Nick Metler

Nice Leaders vs. Kind Leaders: 2 Simple Differences for Healthy Teams

Updated: Sep 8


"JUST BE NICE"

Many leaders want to be nice. There is something faux-admirable in such a pursuit. However, niceness doesn't carry the weight that we think it does. Its real-world application falls short of the mark when leading effectively or influencing others toward positive accountability or a common destination. On the other hand, kindness provides us with firm application and a benchmark to run toward in our families, organizations, and communities.


Nice and Kind have come to mean the same thing over the last few hundred years. Initially, "nice" had a much more sinister undertone to its meaning. Someone who was nice was thought to be "stupid" or "foolish" just a couple of hundred years ago. Niceness was to be avoided at all costs. So how could these words become almost interchangeable? How can kindness offer more profound meaning and more robust relationships?


KINDNESS ISN'T AFRAID.

In practical terms, one of the main differences between niceness and kindness is fear. Fear often comes out in times of conflict and discomfort. Fear breeds niceness because niceness does not seek to hurt anyone's feelings or step on anyone's toes. As a result, conflict becomes avoidable. However, the problems that need to be dealt with manipulate leaders and their teams from beneath the surface.


In contrast, kindness is not afraid to have hard conversations. Kindness handles things with a positive attitude and no malicious intent but knows that without a constructive discussion that seeks to hold the team to their commitments, trust will be lost, and the team will lose their sense of direction, their purpose. This distinction separates kindness from niceness by calling us to action and seeking accountability that does not lead to shame but a greater sense of self-belief and commitment.


PUT THE "KIN" IN KINDNESS!

Another difference is right there in the spelling. We talked about the historical definition of niceness or sarcasm associated with niceties. However, kindness comes from kin or family, implying a particular relationship with others.


Mixing family and work is a touchy subject. I have experience working in a family business, so I recognize the joys and complexities that come along with such an endeavor. In addition, my current job tends to view our team as a family. A lot of modern work would tell you that this is a lousy way of doing life or teambuilding, but I believe this is due to our fractured view of family and the brokenness of our homes.


Viewing teams as a family will require us to hold each other to a higher standard, to handle conversations with kindness, directness, and respect. Most families do not do this; they don't practice accountability. Therefore our expectations for teams in this light shifts toward negative definitions. Family should be a loving place that seeks to lead one another toward excellence and coach one another up. Kindness compels us toward a better reality, one that niceness will get in the way of if we let it.

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