How to be Tough When You Prefer Being Kind

Stress increases when leaders can’t bring kind and tough together.

Kind without tough makes you a pushover.

Tough without kind makes you a jerk.

Accountability is candy to some leaders. It’s easy for them to say, “No.” They have no problem holding people’s feet to the fire. But you aren’t one of them.


Some leaders choose kindness and neglect toughness. They bring coffee for the staff. They exchange pleasantries and tell jokes. They’re always affirming. But they avoid tough situations. They can’t say, “No.”

Some leaders choose toughness and neglect kindness. They avoid social pleasantries. They stand aloof because it’s easy, safe, and less confusing.

Lead with kindness:

Let kindness be your first step toward people. Don’t begin with toughness. Be pleasant, upbeat, curious, and affirming. But what if some take advantage of kindness?

They ask for special exemptions. Worse yet, they grant themselves special privileges. 

What if the tough side of leadership is hard for you?

How to say no when you prefer saying yes:

You don’t have to choose between kind or tough. Don’t be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When it’s time to be tough, do it with kindness.

Declare your intentions and say no with kindness.

  1. I want to say yes, but this time I have to say no.
  2. I work to be fair with everyone. I’d love to make an exception, but I can’t.
  3. I wish I could say say yes, but I have to say no.
  4. It’s hard for me to say no, but this time I have to.

Elevate your leadership by bringing kindness and toughness together.

How might leaders bring kindness and toughness together?