Kind Leaders are Effective Leaders

How can employers lead with kindness to support employees and achieve business goals?

16 Sep 2022 Articles Flexible Work Arrangements Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices Work-life harmony Trending Best practices

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dr Daniel Tan, Chief Executive Officer of healthcare company Parkway Laboratories, did something unexpected. He shared about having burnout in an e-mail to his employees. 

“In the old days, the boss was expected to be a warrior leader – fearless, brave and would charge through anything. That was the old perception,” Dr Tan told Today1.  “Times have changed, and that’s where we have to start to change as well.”

The traits associated with effective leadership have shifted over the years. Now, progressive employers recognise that qualities such as being able to show vulnerability, empathy and kindness are important to connect with employees and support them so they can do their best work.  

One expert describes a kind leader as “being a person of character and demonstrating an unwavering commitment to the learning, growth, and success of others2 .”

Leading with kindness could ensure less exhaustion and more productivity for your workforce. According to a Gallup poll3,  employees are 62 per cent less likely to be burnt out when their managers genuinely care and address their work-related problems. After all, stress-related illnesses cost Singapore’s economy US$2.3 billion a year.4  

Another study5  by Nanyang Technological University and the University of Amsterdam showed that when organisations have caring bosses, employees are less likely to participate in fraudulent activities that are detrimental to the company. A notable trait, as employee collusion costs companies worldwide an estimated 5% of their annual revenue. 

So, what does being a kind leader at the workplace entail? 

Devote time and effort to know your people

The better you know your workforce, the more targeted your employee engagement and retention strategies can be. What intentional steps can you currently take to understand your employees; how do you gauge their needs, interests, strengths and personal aspirations? 

Leaders can gather qualitative data through informal chats and small group discussions to understand employee attitudes and concerns. More formal channels of information may also be used such as anonymous employee engagement surveys and assessments such as the TAFEP’s Fair and Progressive Employment Index which enables employers to audit their workplace culture and offers recommendations to address identified gaps in practices.  

In order to fully understand your workforce, a culture of transparent communication is needed. This culture needs to be built from the top, with the leadership role-modelling authentic and open conversations. When leaders are open about their thoughts and challenges, as Dr Tan had done, employees too, feel encouraged and supported to share honest feedback and opinions – this ultimately provides accurate insights that leaders can act on. 

Devote resources to improve workplace culture & practices

Kind leadership in the workplace also translates to allocating resources to create a workplace where employees are treated fairly and with mutual respect. For some employers this may even extend to reviewing current HR practices and policies to eliminate bias. 

These initiatives may range from implementing an objective performance management framework to assess employee performance, to creating an effective grievance handling process to ensure employees have proper recourse. 

Progressive employers may go a step further by addressing the work-life needs of employees, through flexible work arrangements and other work-life practices designed to help employees achieve better work-life harmony.  

However, it is worth noting that, a kind leader does not accede to all requests. “A kind leader is not a permissive person or pushover,” writes Dr William Wan, General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, in an article for the Singapore Institute of Management.6   Rather, when such a leader says “no”, it comes not from impatience but a desire to guide, challenge and mentor. 

Thus, when kind leaders invest in efforts that support employee well-being, they also ensure that these are relevant and sustainable over the long-term – by understanding employee needs, assessing suitability of resources, and finally, implementing them well. 

In summary, effective leadership is no longer based on command and control, but built on communication, honesty and empathy. How are you cultivating kindness in your leadership model today? 

The Fair and Progressive Employment Index (FPEI) is a free, online self - assessment tool that allows employers to evaluate organisational workplace culture and benchmark their practices against industry peers. The FPEI offers insights and recommendations on how employers can leverage their workforce for better business and employee results.



1. Courage in the new normal: CEOs, leaders taking bolder steps to talk about their mental health struggles at workplace (2020, December 5), Retrieved from:

2. Lead With Kindness: You Will Get Better Results (2018), Retrieved from:

3. How to Prevent Employee Burnout, Retrieved from:

4. Stress-related illnesses cost Singapore’s economy S$3.2 billion annually: Study (2019, November 28), Retrieved from:

5. Maas, Victor S., and Huaxiang Yin. “Finding Partners in Crime? How Transparency about Managers' Behavior Affects Employee Collusion.” Accounting, Organizations and Society. Pergam on, August 9, 2021.

6. Lead With Kindness: You Will Get Better Results (2018), Retrieved from: