By School Pro Staff

When you think of intelligence, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s someone with a high IQ or a deep understanding of complex concepts. But what if I told you that kindness is the highest form of intelligence? Yes, you read that right. Kindness is not only an important trait for personal relationships, but it’s also critical for effective leadership in the education sector.

According to a study by Lomas and Bond (2019), kindness is a key component of emotional intelligence, which is essential for successful leadership. Emotional intelligence involves the ability to recognize and manage one’s own emotions as well as the emotions of others. This is especially important in the education sector, where leaders must navigate complex relationships with students, teachers, and staff and a highly engaged and political community sector.

As a Superintendent, Executive Director, or Principal, you are responsible for creating an environment where students can thrive and succeed. This requires not only knowledge of education policies and practices, but also emotional intelligence and empathy for the needs of all your stakeholders.  Kindness plays a critical role in building positive relationships and creating a culture of trust and collaboration.

In a study by Koh and Boo (2020), kindness was found to be a key factor in creating a positive school culture. The study found that leaders who demonstrated kindness and compassion were able to create a sense of belonging and support among teachers and staff, which in turn led to better student outcomes. 

Simon Sinek, a renowned author and motivational speaker, also emphasizes the importance of kindness in leadership. He argues that leaders who prioritize the well-being of their team members are able to foster a sense of trust and collaboration, which ultimately leads to greater success (Sinek, 2017). This aligns with the findings of Koh and Boo’s (2020) study, which showed that compassionate leadership can improve school culture and ultimately benefit student achievement.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But being kind doesn’t mean being a pushover or sacrificing standards.” And you’re absolutely right. Kindness is not about being weak or letting people walk all over you. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength and courage to lead with kindness. It means setting high expectations and holding people accountable while also being empathetic and understanding.

According to a study by Reiter-Palmon et al. (2020), compassionate leadership involves setting high standards and expectations while also demonstrating empathy and understanding. The study found that leaders who were able to balance these qualities were able to create a positive work environment and foster greater creativity and innovation among their team members.

Think about it: when was the last time you felt truly inspired by a leader who was harsh, critical, and unkind? Probably never. On the other hand, leaders who are compassionate, respectful, and genuinely care about their team members tend to inspire loyalty, commitment, and hard work.

So, what are some ways you can practice kindness as an educational leader? Here are a few ideas included as a checklist.  Why? Checklists are the wingmen of productivity – they’ve got your back and won’t let you forget a thing.

In conclusion, kindness is not only the highest form of intelligence, but it’s also critical for effective leadership in the education sector. By practicing kindness, you can build positive relationships, create a culture of trust and collaboration, and inspire loyalty and hard work. So, go ahead and be kind – it’s good for you and for those around you!


Koh, J. H. L., & Boo, H. K. (2020). Compassionate leadership and school culture: The case of school principals in Singapore. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 48(2), 305-322.

Lomas, T., & Bond, R. (2019). The role of emotional intelligence in the relationship between mindfulness and kindness. Personality and Individual Differences, 151, 109516.

Reiter-Palmon, R., Steinheider, B., & Topolinski, S. (2020). Compassionate leadership: A review of its conceptualization, antecedents, and consequences. Journal of Business and Psychology, 35(3), 341-358.

Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders eat last: Why some teams pull together and others don’t. Portfolio/Penguin.