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Kindness in Leadership

Kindness in Leadership, a book edited by Gay Haskins, Mike Thomas and Lalit Johri explores and analyses the role of kindness in everyday behaviour, leadership, organisations and society.

The book was launched at the Financial Times last month, where there was enthusiastic support for the topic. ‘Kindness has always been part of our DNA,’ said Katherine Corich, Founder and Chair of the Sysdoc Group, ‘A kinder world is a more productive world where individuals and corporations can thrive.’ 

The editors found that far from being a weakness, kindness leads to greater trust, engagement and commitment. ‘This is especially true in today’s organisational environments where people skills – listening, communicating, teamwork, engagement and building commitment are so vital,’ states Gay Haskins, who is internationally known for her work in the field of management development and a former Dean of Executive Education at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

The editors were moved by what they perceived as a rising level of distrust in society. ‘We are living in a chaotic world characterised by competing interests and rising intolerance and impatience. Instead of coming together to solve problems, various constituents of our society seem to be falling apart,’ explains Lalit Johri, Senior Fellow in International Business at Saïd Business School. ‘As a result, there has been a steady erosion in the public’s trust of organisations and their leaders.’

Employing feedback from over 200 business leaders and employees, the editors and contributors set out to document examples of kind leadership across the world, exploring small and large organisations in the public and private sectors, independent owner managed businesses, the perspective of women leaders, as well as kindness in sports and the boardroom.

The book also reviews a number of organisations that have adopted kind leadership practices. These include organisations driven to provide kindness to people through their product (Nationwide), organisations formed around an ethos of kindness to their employees (John Lewis) and organisations that have made kindness and/or compassion a core value (AgencyH5 and LinkedIn). To support learning, each chapter is supported by a series of questions for debate and discussion.

The editors believe organisations should seek to encourage ‘boomerang kindness’ – cycles of behaviour by which employees who are treated with kindness treat others with the same compassion. ‘Kindness begets kindness,’ writes Professor Colin Mayer CBE in the book’s foreword. ‘The boomerang will not complete if anyone in the journey fails to pass on kindness to others.’

‘Kindness leads to engagement and supports the development of self-fulfilment,’ states Lalit. ‘It gives life a richer meaning and has been shown to make us happier in the process… We hope that we have opened the doorway to further exploration of the role of kindness in everyday behaviour, leadership, organisations and society.’

Kindness in Leadership is available in hardback, paperback and eBook format, and all royalties received by the authors will be donated to charity.



Lalit Johri

Lalit Johri View profile

Dr Lalit Johri is a Senior Fellow in International Business and the Director of the Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

Gay Haskins View profile

Gay Haskins is an Associate Fellow of Saïd Business School, working particularly with international clients and programmes.