Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Kindness Factor

The Kindness Factor
By Doug Dickerson

In his writing, Perhaps I Am, Edward W. Bok shares a story of kindness involving Herbert Hoover and Polish premier Paderewski. Here is an excerpt from the inspiring story Bok shares.

“There were once two young men working their way through Leland Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to one of them to engage Paderewski for a piano recital and devote the profits to their board and tuition. The great pianist's manager asked for a guarantee of two thousand dollars. The students, undaunted, proceeded to stage the concert. They worked hard, only to find that the concert had raised only sixteen hundred dollars. After the concert, the students sought the great artist and told him of their efforts and results. They gave him the entire sixteen hundred dollars, and accompanied it with a promissory note for four hundred dollars, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him. "No," replied Paderewski, "that won't do." Then tearing the note to shreds, he returned the money and said to them: "Now, take out of this sixteen hundred dollars all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work, and let me have the rest."

The years rolled by--years of fortune and destiny. Paderewski had become premier of Poland. The devastating war came, and Paderewski was striving with might and main to feed the starving thousands of his beloved Poland. There was only one man in the world who could help Paderewski and his people. Thousands of tons of food began to come into Poland for distribution by the Polish premier.

After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank Herbert Hoover for the relief sent him. "That's all right, Mr. Paderewski," was Mr. Hoover's reply. "Besides, you don't remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college and I was in a hole."

While many qualities come to mind with regard to leadership characteristics, kindness seems to be one that is overlooked. When many climb the ladder of success through ruthless means, kindness is a forgotten commodity that leaders need to rediscover. Consider with me the consequences of kindness as a leadership trait.

Kindness given is an investment. The dividends of kindness may not be collected today, but it will. Aesop, in The Lion and The Mouse says, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

People today are hurting like never before. The challenges that many face today should remind us that we are all in this together. A little kindness goes a long way. Don’t be like the man in the Born Loser comic strip who asked his boss if he had one good word for him. The boss looks at his and says, “Goodbye.” Kindness invested in others is a testament to your leadership; be generous.

Kindness remembered is a reward. Years went by from the time Hoover was a recipient of the kindness of Paderewski, and Hoover remembered in a special way. Years had gone by and their fates had changed dramatically. Hoover was now in a position to return the kindness that was once showed to him. Now this time, Hoover not only repaid Paderewski, the reciprocation was monumental, even life saving.

It’s hard to imagine how kindness demonstrated to a stranger today can dramatically alter someone’s life tomorrow. But that’s the beauty of it. Practicing random acts of kindness is about, well, being kind. It’s not about being seen, pretense, or looking good. It’s about being good and doing the right thing.

Are you ready for a leadership challenge? Here it is – every day practice random acts of kindness. The possibilities are countless and I am sure you will think of at least one thing a day you can do to investment in others. I’ll get you started, but the rest is up to you. How about giving hand-written “thank you” notes to the people on your team, letting them know how grateful you are for them.

William Wadsworth said, “That best portion of a man’s good life, His little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.”

Let your acts of kindness begin now.

© 2009 Doug Dickerson

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