Being nice is not the same as being kind. (And sometimes it's the opposite.)

Musing for:

Being nice is not the same as being kind.

Humility, Inclusion, Compassion, Servant Leadership, Emotional Intelligence (EQ), etc. …

Someone once told me, “Steve, you’re one of the nicest people I know.” When I heard that, I thought I must really be doing well at all of those contemporary leadership “soft skills.”

But that’s not what it meant.

Sometimes a leader can become so focused on preserving people’s emotional comfort that they fail to push them towards what will help them succeed.

❌ Generic praise (“Great job”) is nice.
✅ Concrete feedback (“The order you presented your topics kept people engaged”) is kind.

❌ Cheerleading (“You’ve got this!”) is nice.
✅ Acknowledging weakness (“What support do you need from me?”) is kind.

❌ Granting unbounded freedom is nice.
✅ Setting clear expectations is kind.

❌ Overlooking someone’s poor performance is nice.
✅ Confronting them with grace in time to correct it is kind.

The soft skills (now increasingly called “power skills”) give an important focus on your emotional relation to the people you lead. It’s certainly better to be nice than to be harsh.

It’s even better to be kind.

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