The words nice and kind are often used interchangeably. In failing to recognize their different meanings, we do ourselves, and those we lead, a disservice.
Nice is defined simply as pleasant or agreeable, it is entirely external in nature, and external aggregability is very much culturally defined.
Kindness, however, literally means having a good or benevolent nature. Kindness is internal; it reflects who we are at our core and very much who we are when no one is looking. Kindness in action is honesty, even when being honest is difficult. Kindness is taking responsibility for our actions and holding accountable those we serve.
Kindness in the face of conflict can often be a damn sight more difficult than being nice or polite. It can also be challenging. Nice does not make waves, while kind is often forced to.
I think a mistake too many in business make is embracing nice behavior over kind actions. We do it because nice is easy, while embracing kindness may mean engaging in constructive confrontation, a path not everyone is comfortable taking.
I offer that being comfortable is not a reasonable leadership goal. While seeking comfort keeps us from confronting complex issues in the short term, it does not make what caused those issues to disappear. We cannot remedy complex challenges with external niceties. We can, however, address healthy change with authentic accountability, honesty, and kindness