2 Signs You’re a Leader Who Kills With Kindness

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You see yourself as one of the most caring leaders on the planet. You really listen to your employees and their complaints. You work hard to create good relationships with your direct reports, seeking to be a special type of boss to them.

You do what you can to make things better for a distressed employee, whether that is:

  • disregarding policy to give someone extra leave;
  • loaning money to an employee who can’t make ends meet;
  • frequently adjusting someone’s work schedule to accommodate their busy personal life even if it doesn’t make sense for the business; or
  • allowing an employee to miss a deadline because you didn’t want to be the bad guy.

The current research points to “likeability” (meaning treating others with respect) as a valuable leadership trait. Yet, you routinely go beyond seeking respect when you:

Focus Excessively on the Relationship.

You see self as caring and take pride in that. You consider leaders who are “task-focused” to be uncaring louts. However, you take kindness and caring to extremes. To let employees know you are “on their side”, you might find yourself gossiping or leaking bits of confidential information to them. You might even bad-mouth other leaders in the company to curry favor with direct reports. You flatter employees or do nice things for them with a hidden agenda of getting loyalty, recognition or a compliment back. You have a hard time saying “no”.

Consequently, you placate an employee by ignoring applicable policies or work expectations when an individual exception isn’t warranted. You often choose to do a favor for one direct report over the long-term cohesiveness or “good” of the group. However, when others don’t reciprocate your kindness in ways you expect, you feel resentful.

Have Poor Boundaries.

Your intent focus on creating a special relationship with others leads to poor boundaries. This shows up as giving unsolicited advice or sharing too much about your personal life in hopes that others will trust you with their secrets, which you believe validates you as a caring boss.

An indication of poor physical boundaries includes putting your arm around someone’s shoulder to show understanding or hugging others when a handshake is customary.  Beyond the physical boundaries, you stay too involved your direct reports’ work assignments and jump into to rescue them by doing the work or solving problems for them when they run into snags.

It feels so good to be the person others go to for help and advice. Ah, the exhilaration of being needed!  Except that when you do for your employees what they can do for themselves, you’ve made it about your competence instead of about their personal and professional growth. Give them permission to fail and to learn from experience. Support their evolution as individuals who are resilient, resourceful and strong.

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