Good Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Be Nice – From HBR April 2015

Panepinto’s article in April’s edition of the HBR whittles down the main lessons he took from Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s book The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness. Nice may seem incompatible with business to some, but in fact a huge body of research has shown that how much others like you often determines whether they are going to want to buy from you, work with you or indeed for you. Key lessons from this book are:

Let the other person be smarter – nobody likes a know it all, while it is important to show you do have the capabilities, knowledge and expertise for the job, don’t try too hard to be the smartest person in the room – particularly when dealing with clients – try to find a balance, which is often where a good mentor can come in, particularly for those who are less experienced

Keep it simple – as an expert in your field, your client will want you to break it down and make it easy to follow – not because they are less intelligent than you, but because this is not their area of expertise – which is why they have hired/ are considering hiring you. Try to sit down with your client and have a nice conversation, not one filled with jargon that they will struggle to understand

Ask, don’t tell – this is key to being not just a nice leader, but an effective one. Get others on board by asking for their input and making them feel a part of the process, rather than just a cog in a wheel they will be more engaged in the process as a result

Don’t argue so much – Panepinto quite rightly points out that slipping over the line from being challenging to being argumentative greatly reduces your chances of getting chosen for a project or team – remember – it’s a collaborative effort

Everyone is worth a listen – all ideas are worth hearing and may have some value, listen to the idea before moving on


So, what can we take from these lessons? Good leadership isn’t only about being tough and focusing on the bottom line (although both certainly have their place!). Emotional Intelligence and being human about your interactions can go a long way towards good leadership, so remember when you go into your next client or team meeting – be nice!