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Survival of the Kindest

Roy was one of the nicest people I ever met. He was a professor of speech and communication and I had the opportunity to work with him for a few months at a church. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. I still miss him and have often wish I could have just one more conversation to hear his robust laughter and benefit from his insight. I remember many things of our time together. One came to mind as I was thinking about the topic of this article. Improvising on the WWJD phrase that was popular at the time, Roy announced on Sunday morning that he had a new phrase for us to remember. The phrase was JBN, Just Be Nice! He reminded us of it often and I'm sure it caught on with more than a few people. I have to admit that it sounded a little naïve to me.

Really? Is it naïve to think being nice can make a difference? Not everyone agrees. In his newly released book, Christopher Kukk says, "Survival of the fittest has evolved into survival of the kindest." Kukk's credentials include a PhD in political science as well as being a graduate of the U.S. Army Military Intelligence School's Counterintelligence Agent program - not exactly the bio of someone we might associate with naïve niceness.

His book, The Compassionate Achiever: How Helping Others Fuels Success, is based on the premise that "humanity's success hinges on its level of compassion or sympathy." He cites research that "has shown that our global society increasingly favors compassionate and cooperative over callous and competitive approaches to human interaction." Obviously meanness, selfishness and even ruthlessness sometimes overpower kindness and compassion. However, Kukk argues that "groups made up of self-interested people will fail more than they succeed. In contrast, groups consisting mainly of compassionate people will succeed more than they fail. Selfish people and even bullies may win a couple of rounds or sets in the game of life, but they rarely win the match or game; it's the compassionate people who win."

How could a renewed focus on compassion and cooperation rather than competition affect your leadership? That may sound naïve to some but it sounds quite courageous to me. I think my friend Roy would agree. How about you?

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