Season 1: Finding and keeping great people

Charlie Gladstone Author and Creative Entrepreneur

Making gentle leadership work for you

As a leader, it’s been one of the great privileges of my life to nurture people and watch them grow.

If you’re a leader, you’ll know what I mean. Just as you’ll know that you need to follow your instincts, your strengths, and your point of view. Because trusting in yourself is key, as is knowing that people will always respond well to kindness, calmness, empathy and understanding – regardless of the situation. 

When you realize and act on that, good people will come and join you. And they’ll want to stay. 

Steps to gentle leadership

My approach to ‘Gentle Leadership,’ a style that has maintained team morale and delivered positive productivity, consistently, for more than 30 years, can be summarised as follows:

  • Everybody is equal

Remember, everyone is someone’s child, girlfriend, husband, best friend, grandchild. We all have feelings; we’re all human. You’re no more important than anyone else. You may be the founder or the boss or whatever, but everyone is equal. Everyone is special. To be a great leader you need to know this to be true.

  • You don’t need to shout

If you behave badly or lose your temper, colleagues will quickly lose any respect they had for you. Plus, you give them licence to act the same. Lead by example. Always.    

  • Show your vulnerability

Being vulnerable should not be seen as a weakness. It’s a superpower. It makes you more human, encourages delegation, and it shows others that sharing is a positive.

  • Deal with problems calmly

You’ll need to deal with conflict, fact. But do so quickly with calmness, conciliation and kindness. That is the key to conflict resolution. You may even find that from conflict springs new opportunity.   

  • Be honest with everyone

If somebody has stepped out of line, it’s OK to tell them. It’s not only useful for all involved, but it’s your duty. Do so gently and kindly, and things will be better for everyone. 

  • Keep an open mind

Changing your mind is often seen as a weakness. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a sign of being open and shows a willingness to listen, learn and adapt. These are crucial, ego-free leadership qualities.  

  • Never show off

It’s not big and it’s not clever. Just don’t do it. Simple. 

  • Make ideas work effectively

Ideas are everything. They change things and make things happen. Establishing a democratic way of cultivating new ideas is vital. Make sure that every voice is heard, and then assess and nurture ideas with structure.

In conclusion . . .

Often, being kind and gentle is the opposite of how leaders think they need to act. Yet in my experience, it’s the path to an engaged and productive workforce. The magic is in understanding that gentle isn’t soft. Gentle is powerful.