Photo of author in National Park Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the Netherlands.

Kindness is not weakness. When will you learn?

Being kind does not mean saying yes to everything. Instead, kindness is setting and keeping boundaries with an intention and approach of empathy towards the other using non-violent communications.

When will you learn?

I was deputy director at 29, executive director at 30 and throughout my professional career I have been told I am soft.

When I would choose negotiation over force, I was accused of not being strict or aggressive enough.

I have the tendency to smile a lot so I have been mocked by men for my girly presence.

I have been instrumental to the growth and success of some men and have yet to be thanked.

At times I was mistaken for the intern when I had just made it to director.

Ignoring the ignorance I quietly, strong-willed and determined saved the organization from bankruptcy and doubled the annual income in under three years. I developed new revenue streams and reached the lowest sick rate in the history of the organization. Externally I created a strong brand and image, brought in new partners and strengthened the network.

How? By empathizing deeply with the cause and its people. By staying true to my believe in a feminine leadership approach and by never doubting my own sensitivity or intuition. And, by always ending an email with “thank you” when, of course, I was told I didn’t have to as the director.

Will you learn now?

Now I am on the other side. Last year I quit my job and set-up my own consulting company. I am in a vulnerable position. The other day I received a rejection letter which strangely made me feel really good about myself. It was genuinely appreciative of my application and stated what the review panel had liked about my proposal and why it was not selected. It was a clear “no” but empathic, kind and uplifting. It gave me the courage I needed to keep on trying.

So see, that’s how it is done. It is so easy. You take the time to thank someone and praise their qualities. Et voila! One person on this planet feels more empowered thanks to you.

Whether you are a parent, manager, or in your every day relationships everything flows better when it comes from authentic kindness and empathy.

Feminine leaders, both men and women, know that with empathy and kindness one can move a mountain.

Feminine leaders are men and women that practice deep listening. They are conscious and know that everything is connected. They know that their decision impacts human life and the environment. They make sure that their decisions are made with sustainable long-term thinking in mind and are not based on short-term gains. They choose negotiation over conflict. They are relationship-oriented rather than focused on the ego.

In empathy and kindness true power lies as it creates a situation in which connection, change and development can happen.

Throughout her first term as New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has shown on many occasions how she uses feminine leadership to its fullest potential. When the pandemic hit New Zealand she quickly installed the strictest lockdown and elimination strategy, but with the most empathic approach towards human life and wellbeing. Combined with a great talent for careful and transparent communication she got the whole country behind her. Her approach resulted in eliminating the COVID-19 virus completely by the first week of May 2020.

“Ardern has regularly appeared on social media, smiling and sharing parts of her personal life under lockdown but without underplaying the seriousness of the situation, which has helped to build public trust.” The Lancet reports.

When kindness is genuine and authentic it is not political. It is human. It is not limited to a gender or position, class or race. Kindness is universal.

This world isn’t built for empaths. But look where that got us.

Being kind is a decision. Being empathic is a decision. A decision you make each day in every interaction. In the way you discipline your children. In the way you critique your friend’s life choices. In the way you set and implement policy in your office. In the way you market yourself or your brand. In the way you say no to a rejected applicant.

Have you learned?

What will you choose today?

For further reading, here are some resources on feminine leadership: What is feminine leadership?; Feminine leadership, what it really means; Embracing feminine traits in leadership.

Press freedom advocate, media consultant and indiefilm producer. Medium publications in The Startup and Digital Diplomacy.

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