On Kindness and Leadership

Most of us want to work for a boss that is kind and fair.  Paradoxically, however, when looking for a leader we also equate kindness with weakness, and selfish aggressive behavior with strength, according to a recent study conducted by researchers at the Kellogg School of Management, Stanford Graduate School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.
The study said that being selfish makes “you seem more dominant and being dominant makes you seem more attractive as a leader.”  And, “people who are generous or altruistic can appear weak or gullible.”
This is an explanation, at least in part, of why we get corruption.  People who are more likely to be moral, kind and pro-social are least likely to be elected to leadership roles, and the likelihood of corruption and malfeasance increases because we have the wrong people in positions of leadership.
Indeed, these findings on how we perceive dominance and weakness (when it comes to leadership) are likely what is behind the frustration and anger of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters.  The news of outrageous salaries and bonuses for CEOs and the government using taxpayer money to bailout big banks is all too familiar, while many average citizens cannot find work or have to work more for less pay.
Joe Dear, chief investment officer of California Public Employees’ Retirement System, said recently that people are waking up to the fact that the game appears to be rigged. A helpful first step for fairing up the game may be to begin viewing kindness, fairness and altruism as strengths in business leaders, and selfish behavior as reason to look for a new CEO.


PondelWilkinson, investor@pondel.com