I am not impressed by someone’s ability to intimidate, cajole, persuade, manipulate, overpower or overwhelm others. No, what impresses me most are the people who have the ability to do these things, but who choose instead to let kindness lead them to success.
Once upon a time, a colleague of mine – frustrated by an assistant who couldn’t move as fast as he wanted – pulled her into his office and unleashed five minutes of verbal abuse before he fired her. She ran out in tears, and he came out with a big smile. “That felt SO good,” he said.
He viewed this incident as a success. I saw this as evidence that he was kind to people only as long as they did exactly what he asked. Otherwise, he cared not one whit about them.
It’s easy to yell and threaten, but these behaviors are signs of weakness, not strength. Strong people don’t lose control of their emotions. Skilled fighters say that once you lose your temper, you have lost the fight. Your vision narrows and you become dangerously impulsive. If losing your temper is a weakness for fighters, it is a deadly flaw for professionals.
Kindness fosters more kindness. It opens eyes instead of closing them. It is contagious, and it feels wonderful.
Kindness does NOT equal weakness. Quite the contrary. It takes tremendous strength to be kind to someone who is slowing you down or who thinks differently than you do. But kindness bridges such gaps, and brings out the talent hidden in so many people.
Luis Benitez, who has 32 times summited the Seven Summits – the tallest mountains on each continent – told me that kindness and compassion are essential elements to overcome the horrible physical and mental challenges he encounters while climbing.
For example, if you see someone limping on a day when you have to reach the next camp, you can curse their weakness, or you can stop for 20 minutes and bandage their feet so they can keep up with you for the rest of the climb.
It takes discipline and foresight to break your stride to help another, but helping a person close to you will almost always be in your long-term interest.
By being kind, you can find success. In my experience, it is the wisest – and toughest – strategy of them all. I have seen your future, and it is…
From now on, your kindness will lead you to success.”