By Guy Harris
In a recent Bud to Boss workshop, a member of the class asked this question:
“Are there some situations where you need to be strong rather than kind? I mean, if you’re kind, won’t people think that you’re a pushover?”
Great question. It basically asks the question in the title of this post: can you be both strong and kind?
I think the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. Kind is not the opposite of strong, and strong is not the opposite of kind. They are two completely different attributes that are not on the same scale or measuring the same thing.
Here are definitions of the two words as applied to this context pulled from various dictionaries:
kind – (adjective) having a good or benevolent nature or disposition, helpful to others, considerate or humane
strong – (adjective) mentally powerful or vigorous; of great moral power, firmness, or courage
The person asking the question in class asked with complete sincerity and a desire to learn, to wrestle with an internal struggle he was having. I get both the question and the struggle. Strong characters in both society and popular culture are not often portrayed or viewed as kind, and kind characters are not often portrayed as strong. When either does happen, it is the exception rather than the rule.
When I look at the words strong and kind, I see positive power in both of them. And I see that they can coexist.
As I write this article, I am reminded of an episode of Shark Tank that I watched a few years ago. As the negotiation between one of the Sharks (Robert Herjavec) and the person presenting their business proceeded, they hit a sticking point. When they got stuck, the person presenting their business pushed for concessions from Herjavec. After the third or fourth round of discussion, Herjavec said: “Please don’t mistake my kindness for weakness.”
In that moment, Herjavec demonstrated simultaneous strength and kindness.
Do I think you can be both strong and kind?
Yes, I think you can.
Do you have a question about your leadership journey? Send us an email or a comment below. Here is more information on the next Bud to Boss workshop.