Kindness as Leadership

fred rogers

Yesterday I published “Be Nice“, talking about Jeffrey Sachs and his advice for changing the world. As a leader he has certainly changed the world through his thoughts, actions and choices.

November 13th, two days ago, was “World Kindness Day”, and at one stage that day I sat and read the Sunday Times review of “Won’t you be my neighbour”, a documentary just released about Fred Rogers, one of the kindest humans I’ve ever come across.

Today let me share my thoughts around Mr Rogers and kindness, closing with one of the most powerful appearances at a congressional subcommittee you will ever see.

He exemplified kindness as leadership.

For more than thirty years, “Mr Rogers’s neighbourhood” was an institution in the USA, a children’s show with the gentle and calm tones of the kindly Mr Rogers in his red cardigan. My children all grew up with American TV and so were lucky enough to watch this show when they were young.

What did he teach? From the Sunday Times article: “Rogers had an uncanny facility for the internal exhortation and reassurance children needed to hear. “Love is at the root of everything,” he said. “Love or the lack of it”. With his slow cadences, contented silences and zen-like calm, he seemed to operate almost at a different speed from the whizz-bang world around him. Tuning into his show, children were given space to hear themselves think.”

Fred Rogers. A beautiful human and also a beautiful leader, like this, so, so powerful example shows. His show went out on public broadcasting (PBS) in the USA, and this depended on government funding as well as individual and corporate donors. In 1969 the President at the time, Richard Nixon, planned to cut this funding. In six minutes of testimony, not only did Mr Rogers save that funding, but it was also radically increased.

I freely share that every time I watch this, I am in tears at the end.

Kindness as Leadership.