How “Be Nice” Impacts your Leadership

Many of us grew up hearing and believing that we need to be nice. By definition, nice people are enjoyable and don’t cause problems. Thus, the nicer we are, the more we will be praised and liked by others. However, to “be nice,” often meant that there was no conversation, no validation of feelings and no acknowledgement of needs. Just “be nice.”

Now, take someone who grew up with this “be nice” mindset and put them in a leadership position. How likely are they to provide critical feedback to others? Will they engage in tough conversations? Are they going to challenge people to step into their potential? Probably not because, based on the advice they’ve gotten all their life, these things don’t feel nice. As someone who struggles with this very issue, myself, I can tell you that when “be nice” is the focus of your leadership, it can greatly limit your potential and the influence you can have with others. 

How “Be Nice” can be Limiting

“Nice” is fear-based. It is natural to want to be liked by others and, at times, it can come at the cost of silencing ourselves. In our line of work, we see many leaders who struggle to give people feedback because they are “too nice.” It’s not that they don’t have any feedback to give but rather because they’re afraid of hurting other people’s feelings or being seen unfavorably. 

I recently saw this first-handed. We were working with a client who openly shared that she was not good at giving feedback and that she was frustrated. She was frustrated with herself because she felt like she was letting her employee down, and she was frustrated with her employee for not meeting expectations. It was to the point where the client wanted to term the employee, yet she had not given the employee feedback or the chance to improve. All this because the client was afraid of sharing feedback and causing her employee short-term discomfort.

In this situation, I can’t help but wonder if being nice is worth it? Is it more important for us to withhold and be liked or to give someone the opportunity to change?  

Being nice can impact growth and retention. Progress equals happiness and when people are making progress in any area where they want to develop, this directly impacts their happiness. As we illustrated in the previous section, however, being too nice to be real and honest with others robs them of the opportunity to get better. Afterall, if we only focus on their strengths and don’t provide feedback on areas where they can improve, how will they ever get better? And according to research, when people don’t feel like they’re growing or are supported by their leader, this increases the employee’s likelihood of leaving to find growth elsewhere.

Niceness can lead to loneliness. One of the greatest downfalls of the “be nice” mentality is that it can isolate you. When you’re expected to be nice all the time, are you able to be vulnerable with others? Do people know who you really are? Do they know what you need or how to support you?

Honestly, it’s a lot of pressure to have to live up to being nice all the time; having to constantly watch what you say, being afraid of how people will react if you say the wrong things, downplaying your own thoughts, feelings or opinions because other people come first. It’s exhausting and incredibly lonely when all you’re seen as, is the nice boss and no one gets to see the full you

When a leader’s main focus is to “be nice,” it can limit their potential, impact growth and development of their teams and make for a lonely leader. If any of this resonates with you, it’s time to start envisioning how things could be different, going forward. You can still be a kind leader, while speaking your mind and providing others with that feedback they need to grow. Don’t let “be nice” limit your leadership potential any longer.

If you need some help with this, The Utech Group provides a variety of leadership development options. With over 30 years of experience, our team is here to help you grow and develop as a leader. Learn more about what we offer or how we can help by CONNECTING WITH THE UTECH TEAM TODAY!