Small business: For bosses, kindness is not a weakness

Sometimes research comes along to substantiate a feeling you have had for a while. I have always felt that nice bosses are better than tough bosses, but it was not until recently that there was any research to back up my belief.

New research shows that nice bosses are preferred, where tough bosses present a lot of challenges with staff. For example, a study by Randstad Consulting showed most employees would trade a $5,000 pay increase for a better boss. That is, employees gladly would sacrifice significant personal gain to have a nice boss.

Being a great boss means having true strength, not being domineering and controlling, which are traits so many bosses associate with strength. I believe strong leaders can make difficult decisions while looking out for the good of the group. Staff is always going to follow a strong and protective employer.

A few years ago, I was trying to help a manager with staff issues. He was very strong, but also volatile and had a habit of belittling his staff. All of his employees said if they could find another job, they would take it in a heartbeat.

This boss was lacking in kindness, and as a result, his staff was not loyal to him. He is proof of how important it is for bosses to be kind.

It is important to note that kindness is not weakness. Kindness is being strong but empathetic at the same time. For example, telling an employee the truth without toning it down is kindness. Being honest with staff is so much kinder than not telling the truth in hopes that you do not upset them. Staff can always see through a boss who is not telling the truth or is promoting an agenda.

Kind bosses are also confident. Confidence is that intrinsic quality of an individual who has passion about their desires and their ability to achieve them.

Furthermore, kind bosses are great role models in their actions as well as their words. The best leaders demonstrate the behaviors they want to see from their staff on a daily basis. After all, staff wants someone to look up to, to follow. As a boss, you must provide the shining example for them to emulate.

A final attribute of kind bosses is that they take responsibility for the group and do not pass it down. They accept responsibility for the team and support each of its members to the best of their ability.

Being kind is so important for every boss because it affects the wellbeing of each employee. People want to stay and support a boss who is kind but cannot get away from a bad boss soon enough.

Now go out and make sure you are being as kind a boss as you can be.

Jerry Osteryoung, a business consultant and Jim Moran professor of entrepreneurship (emeritus) and professor of finance (emeritus) at Florida State University, can be reached at