Not long after I posted last month’s blog on the importance of kindness, a public science project on that very subject was launched. The Kindness Test,, a collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and the University of Sussex, is an online survey aimed at increasing overall understanding of the role that kindness plays in our lives.

After years of being virtually ignored as an area for study, in favour of more objectively measurable topics, kindness is now being taken seriously. More generally, the power of positive emotions within the human repertoire has at last been recognised.

This is timely. As we emerge from a two-year hiatus, the question of what kind of society we want looms large. COVID has seen the best and the worst of us. Wider challenges too lie ahead.

How we prioritise now will set the bar for the coming years. ‘What we focus on grows’, said Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics, on the Radio 4 programme hosted by Claudia Hammond on 31.08.21 that kicked off The Kindness Test. If we focus on what we fear, she continued, we will become more fearful. If we focus on kindness, for example, we will become more kind. ‘It’s a muscle, the more we use it, the more it becomes part of a way of life’.

It is hardly controversial that we respond well when people are kind to us. But what about embedding kindness as a behavioural imperative? In business, is kindness a peripheral, soft skill, or a core, competitive strength? As a supporter of corporate culture steeped in kindness, here are the points that work for me:
• Being kind makes us feel good. This scientifically proven ‘warm glow’ lights up the same parts of the brain that bank pleasurable experiences, also making the case that, from an evolutionary standpoint, kindness to others plays a part in our own wellbeing
• Feeling good at work generates loyalty. With so many valued employees currently considering their career plans, it is essential to create a sense of belonging
• Kindness, when authentic, with the right motives, is contagious and energising. And when influential people behave kindly, permission is given for everyone to follow suit. We can also and should often be kind to ourselves
• It is not weak to be kind. Rather it is commercially smart and courageous. A decisive success factor for the difficult times ahead will be our ability to navigate diversity. Kindness helps us see past differences to the common humanity beyond. And when we get the best from each other, anything is possible

Finally, to all leadership teams out there. Culture starts at the top and, to quote Pinky Lilani, Chair of the Women of the Future Programme and another participant in the above broadcast, kind leaders ‘go from being successful to being significant’. Think Jacinda Ardern, think Jürgen Klopp. Now that is good company to keep.