Please Don’t Mistake My Kindness For Weakness

3min read

"What's the most important quality in a leader?"

In a recent Him For Her dinner I attended, this was one of the ice breaker questions our host asked us to use when introducing ourselves to the other guests at the table.

The answers were widely varied: curiosity, valuing people who are different from them, authenticity, long term thinkers, being gifted with making things simple...

But what really is the most important quality in a leader?

How about kindness. When did we all forget about kindness? When did we stop valuing kindness?

I would argue that kindness is one of the most undervalued leadership qualities in our world today.

When did we decide kindness was not an essential trait of a great leader? When did we stop being kind as leaders? I'll tell you when...

When we rewarded leaders for their great results and consistently overlooked their unkind behavior. When we decided kindness was a synonym for pushover, weakness, inefficiency, and softness. When we decided we were too busy to be kind. We have a business to run after all, so what has kindness got to do with any of it?

Kind people don't get shit done. Mean people, who rule with fear and have a Game of Thrones style management (as Adam Neumann of WeWork was described recently in an article in Fast Company) are the ones who really drive results. And results are what shareholders value.

So we devalue kindness.

The question is, can women even afford to be a kind leader? I walk the line, the careful dance of being too nice or too witchy. Of being too trusting or too controlling. Of being too compassionate and being the ice queen/dragon lady/the Devil wearing Prada. (Disclaimer: I don't actually own any Prada clothing, but it does have a nice ring to it.)

The question I would instead ask is, how can we afford not to be kind?

In case you didn't get the memo, people don't stay at a job for the endless supply of KIND Bars, free caffeine, and access to weekly discounted massages. The vast majority of people stay to work for kind people.

I can lead with kindness. I can be tough and fair. I can have high standards and expectations for my team and those around me.

And I don't have to kick people when they are down. I don't have to make feel people worse than they already do about the mistakes they have made. I don't have to use foul language, threaten, or manipulate. I don't have to rule with fear. I don't have to be unkind to drive results. I just don't. And it's not how I want to lead. I will not be an unkind leader.

We all have our moments. I am not always the kindest version of myself all the time. That's just not possible—I am human after all. But I do try to think about how I can lead with more kindness, compassion, and generosity. How can I show up as a kinder leader?

Kindness comes in all different forms. It's the free smile, the free hello, and the free wave. It's treating people with generosity, empathy, and care. It's about asking people how they are doing and taking a few minutes to actually listen to the response before walking off. It's about bringing humanity back to our workspaces and workplaces.

So please don't mistake my kindness for weakness.

Being kind is my greatest strength—our collective greatest strength—in leadership. This is how we should all want to lead to create a real impact for ourselves and our organizations.

And in the words of Maya Angelou, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget about how you made them feel."

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From $0 to $3Billion In Sales: Serial Inventor Joy Mangano Shares Her Entrepreneurial Secrets

How many times have you looked at something and thought: I wish this did more? And how many times have you thought long and hard about what else you could make it do, if you had the resources, time, and a factory-load of people working for you?

We've all certainly been there. Whether we were 5 and inventing a flying Barbie, or futuristic football, or 35 and looking at the kitchen imagining a self-taught robot that would help with the nightly dinners. We've all come up with what we thought were million dollar ideas - but almost none of us follow through because we're already too busy, and somebody else has probably invented it already.

For one woman, this very sequence of events took place when she was just a teenager. Unimpressed with her dog's collar, she created a new one with florescent sides (making them more visible to cars at night) that would fit more comfortably on a dog or cat's neck. But because of her relative youth, the collar was never produced, and a year later was released and patented by another company.

The girl, Joy Mangano, vowed this would never happen again.

Fast forward to 1990. Single mother-of-three, Mangano has a bigger, bolder idea. This time, the Miracle Mop is born, launching her career as an entrepreneur and setting her up for a life in the spotlight with her product launch on QVC. Between then and now, Mangano has accrued 100 patents (for products like the Huggable Hanger and My Little Steamer) and her company, Ingenious Designs is worth over $50million.

This story was told in Hollywood by David O.Russell in 2015 with his Golden Globe winning movie, Joy. Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Mangano served to highlight the difficulty of entrepreneurship and instruct on the minefield of patent disputes.

Mangano's latest product is one she says she's been working on for her entire life: a journal, a manual and a self-help for entrepreneurs wrapped up in her book, Inventing Joy: Dare to Build a Brave and Creative Life.

SWAAY spoke with Mangano about the necessity for this kind of book in this age of entrepreneurship, and how it will resonate with aspiring female inventors and change-makers.

Drawing on her success and the pains it took to get there, Mangano has penned a book that will no doubt be a bible for those looking to take their flying Barbies or futuristic footballs to market. "I️ believe it will be a resource for people they can keep coming back to," she remarks. "This book truly is a lesson for anybody - in their careers, no matter what age."

Her family have been crucial to the whole process of building her brand and expanding Ingenious Designs, for the last 17 years, and have informed many of the chapters in the book. "I️ am fortunate enough to work with my children, family and friends and they were completely integral (to the books production)," says Mangano. Her daughter Christie serves as SVP Brand Development, Merchandising & Marketing Strategy having worked with her mom for thirteen years. “She's my left brain," laughs Mangano. Both her son Bobby and other daughter Jackie have worked elsewhere before also coming under their mother's umbrella. Bobby currently serves as Executive Vice President of the company and Jackie is involved with the fashion side of the business, which is certainly no mean feat, as she is also involved in styling for the upcoming reboot of The Murder on the Orient Express.

"When you can do things in life - work and follow your passion with people you love - it makes it all that much more meaningful and pure happiness."

The launch of her book signals new territory for the serial inventor, who has her first opportunity to tour the country and speak to those whose homes she has appeared in for the past 15 years on QVC and HSN.

"This is really one of my dreams," she comments. "I️'ve always wanted to go around the country and meet all of my customers and this is one way to do that. It couldn't be better."

"95% of my customers are women so I️ can't help but be an advocate always."

While on tour, Mangano is destined to meet a host of people that will tell her of their inventions or start-up ideas, but none more so than the millennials, who are completely reinventing the notion of entrepreneurship. Mangano hopes that through the book aspiring female entrepreneurs will be able to take solace in the fact they don't have to do it all. "I️ truly believe - this is a generation I️ watch, a lot of them work for me and with me - today, more than ever, they think they have to do it all."

"Dressed beautifully and in a meeting, they'll say 'I've been up since 5. Dressed the kids. Fed the kids.' And then (after work) they'll come home, have quality time, bath time. And I️ say - you can miss a game." If there's one thing she would invent for millennial women, it's this very advice, she says.

Rather than a product, or an item, it's this advice that, contrary to the millennial mindset, you don't have to be five places at one time or working 20-hour days to get where you want to be. Instead, Mangano has sections of the book that will inform on how better to manage your time and your ideas - to employ her methods - so you can become successful with (a little) less stress.

When asked how social media and the digital age has influenced her real-world inventions (like mops, hangers, steamers and pillows), Mangano chuckles. Technology, rather than impairing the invention of real world application actually opens up a 'wider range' tells the inventor. “It opens up a direct - to - consumer feedback and enhances your platform."

"With Instagram and Facebook my customers communicate with me. That's critical for looking at what you do and for the future of what you do."

Out of the dozens of things she's invented, Mangano won't say what her favorite is. "What am I️ most proud of? That's hard to say - that's like asking what child do you love the most and I️ don't think I️ could be prouder of any of them."