February 9, 2020
By Dave Bushy
Kindness, dignity and respect. These values are timeless. They are integral to the culture of society and to any interpersonal relationship. Indeed, they are core to any successful human endeavor.
And they are the very foundations of leadership.
In the office or on the golf course, or even on the highway, we talk about those who we judge to not exhibit those behaviors or possess such values. It seems that too often we experience individuals at work and in other places where those values are not displayed. We always wonder why and ask ourselves, why can’t that person just be kind? And we almost compulsively obsess over such people.
It really fries us to think about it, right? The indignities and unkindnesses of others – and perceived injustices – often come to mind as we contemplate our many interpersonal interactions. It gives grist to the mill of workplace gossip and performance discussions. And it in some way may validate our own feelings of self-worth.
It certainly can feel validating to express those thoughts and to define someone else as not possessing the values we feel must be held dear. For in somehow defining others as “different” or “unkind,” we define our own “better” clique or group and find some comfort or identity in it. I know I have done it and I suspect many leaders have as well.
Paradoxically, at times it seems that we come to define those core values by exception. We note that while others are not exhibiting kindness, dignity and respect, somehow, we must be, without seeing the faulty logic we are using. We fail to see the paradox, for in judging others, we fall into a trap of our own devices, and actually stop embracing the very values for which we think we stand.
I would propose that there is a different reality we can embrace when it comes to kindness, dignity and respect. Instead of judging others and defining who others are, why not model the very behavior for which we stand? Our goal as responsible individuals and leaders is to always demonstrate these attributes, showing a behavior that we desire to be reflected back to us by others.
In coaching, we ask ourselves and our clients to consider multiple realities between individuals and to work to connect with others in order to establish a shared reality. By doing that we share a common perspective, if only for a moment, and establish a trust and understanding that fosters continued efforts to make such contact. A critical step in that process is working to meet people where they are, which involves appreciating what is going on in their life and how they are meeting the world. In order to accomplish that, what attributes serve us the best as we work to make that connection? You guessed it: Kindness, Dignity and Respect.
From my optimistic stance viewpoint, I believe that everyone deserves a chance to grow and that everyone is capable of it. And we can all help each other in that growth. By connecting with others, we find out more about their perspective and their reality and as we do, model the very values that we so strive to pass on.
As leaders, it is up to us to continually demonstrate behavior that is beyond exemplary. We cannot preach kindness, dignity and respect if we don’t live and breathe it every day. Think about that the next time you decide to talk behind someone’s back, or to make fun of a person after they have left the room. Your subordinates are watching you and learning from you every minute of the day. Your behavior sets the standard.
Dave Bushy of Boston Executive Coaches – bostonexecutivecoaches.com – is a former U.S. Army officer and senior airline executive who works with leaders throughout American industry.