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The Official Baldrige Blog

Where Kindness Is a Core Value (Leadership with Heart)

Harry Hertz holds humorous birthday card from staff members

Serious work, with a side of laughter: As depicted in a birthday card, the Baldrige staff doesn't take itself too seriously. And Harry doesn't mind humor at his expense either.


This post is about a concept that others have called leadership with heart. Ultimately, it’s about workforce engagement too, because I believe leading with heart supports and inspires such engagement. In particular, it’s about the kind of leadership modeled by the long-time and soon-to-retire director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, Harry Hertz.

I don’t mean this to be merely a tribute (though everyone who knows Harry well knows he deserves the kudos). Rather, I want to start a discussion here about what may be key to effective leadership in relation to workforce engagement, particularly in organizations where large structures may weaken human ties and obscure a shared vision and sense of purpose among employees.

To describe the leadership that has undergirded the Baldrige Program for many years, I will start with a personal example: I’ve been dealing with a deep sense of loss lately since my older sister was killed in a car accident. In the aftermath of the tragedy, I haven’t always found it easy to confine my experience of grief to my limited hours at home; yet I have managed to maintain a strong focus on my work while in the office. For this I credit an exceptionally supportive environment. And for that, I credit Harry for actively fostering a culture of kindness through his personal actions for years. In speaking of a supportive workplace environment, I’m referring in part (but not wholly) to workforce-focused policies and benefits.

Those are important, of course, as affirmed by the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence’s inclusion of them among the questions that constitute “Workforce Climate” requirements within category 5. For instance, I’ve found it reassuring to know that my organization has an employee assistance program should I find myself distracted by acute grief. And I am fortunate to have family-friendly sick leave—and senior leaders and peer colleagues who would encourage me to use it—should I need to take time off to tend to my own or family needs.

Above all, what has made my workplace environment supportive to my full engagement in my job in a time of deeper turbulence is the kindness of the people with whom I work. Each and every one of my coworkers has acknowledged and expressed condolences for my loss; they’ve written kind words in a group card, and individuals have offered hugs and tangible help in one-to-one exchanges since the tragedy.

Is this extraordinary? Not here! If I were the only one—or one of just a group of people in the office—who’s received a compassionate response from supervisors and peers at my workplace in times of personal need, I wouldn’t have written this post. As one more among countless examples of office compassion I’ve observed, my coworker a cubicle away benefitted from an outpouring of support from the staff last month after her grandmother’s death. It may be worth noting that when she returned to work soon after her loved one’s funeral, she opted to work late to meet deadlines around several key events that our program hosts this time of year. (And had she not been able to do so, no one would have held it against her, of course.)

This is what seems to happen where there is a culture of kindness. Under Harry’s leadership, compassionate communications, accommodations, and other forms of kindness have been offered to meet the needs of all who work for the program, including external volunteers.

So I think it’s worth considering where such kindness starts (with leadership; in this case, with him)—and what good it does. I’m speaking of good on multiple levels. As suggested above, I see practical and economic benefits of boosting and ensuring workforce engagement and productivity. At a deeper level, I see such kindness as meeting the immeasurable but essential needs that human beings have to feel deeply connected to and fully acknowledged by each other.

Lately—as grief can cause one to shed a skin, so to speak, increasing sensitivity to the transcendent, or fullness of reality—I recognize that the good that kindness does at all levels is of great importance to a high-performing organization. It transforms a workplace climate into one where all human beings can experience the personal respect that helps us thrive individually and collectively. Thus I see that it is as appropriate (and good) for kindness to permeate a culture in a business workplace as it is for it to undergird the social climate of places of prayer, of learning, and of play.

And now I want to consider the question of how leaders can act to foster a culture of kindness, which (per the requirements in the first area to address of Baldrige Criteria category 1) starts with setting organizational values. Here I think it’s relevant to stress that the culture of kindness in my office is not a fluke—not the serendipitous result of chance hiring of nice people. Instead, this culture is seeded by and reinforced through the personal actions of our senior leader.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who will say Harry has been unkind in his personal interactions with them. Supported and inspired by the ethical and humane behavior that Harry regularly demonstrates, his employees are highly engaged in the work of the program despite any difficulties in or outside the office. We care about the work at a greater level than what might be ordinary, I believe, because we care about each other. In no small part, that is because Harry shows—has always shown—that he genuinely cares about the individuals who work for and with him.

So I want to suggest an action or two. Harry has been the primary author of the Baldrige Criteria for years. In this role, he’s been a brilliant synthesizer of the input of many practitioners of performance excellence and other program stakeholders, as well as a perspicacious miner of a multitude of ideas and insights from business publications and academe. It’s early to suggest a revision for the next set of Criteria booklets (the latest editions were just published this year), but here’s one I’ll put forth anyway: add leadership with heart and/or a culture of kindness as the 12th of the Criteria core values and concepts. Or make specific reference to these concepts in the descriptions of the Criteria core values visionary leadership and valuing workforce members and partners, so that organizations striving for performance excellence can learn from Harry’s own effective leadership practices.

Beyond that suggestion, whenever I read the leadership category, particularly item 1.1, I will think of Harry’s leadership of the Baldrige Program as an example of excellence. He has systematically set, deployed, and demonstrated in his personal actions his commitment to the organization’s (and his own) value of kindness. Thank you, Harry! Your legacy to the Baldrige Program is not limited to brilliant ideas; your kind leadership has brought out the best in many people behind the program for years.



About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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Christine Great article Leading with the heart;) Joe
Well said and all true. He will be truly missed. Bill
In addition to serving as a wonderful tribute to Harry Hertz, whom we all have come to love, Christine's post serves as a powerful reminder of the value of "leadership with heart." I had a personal experience with this form of kindness: When a contractual obligation prevented my attending the most recent training session, the Baldrige leadership understood and responded by continuing to include me in the regular posts and even offering a copy of the fictional case study, which I had planned to use to refresh my examiner skills. Unfortunately, in transitioning to a new Windows 8 system, the case study offer was lost, so I would like to request another, if possible, as I am considering an after-contract retirement that includes only serving as a BaldrigeExaminer.
Nancy, Thank you for your comments. Regarding the 2013 case study, you can download the PDF file of the training version of this case study--Collin Technologies--from the following "Examiner Resource Center" Web page on our site: By early July, the finalized version also will be available in the "Publications" area of the Web site; you may wish to check out the other Baldrige case studies freely available there, too.
My sincerest thanks and appreciation are extended to Harry Hertz for his leadership and personal example. He will be missed, but he has built capacity and influenced others who can help to sustain and carry forth the organization. I wish for him a very happy and rewarding retirement.
Well said about Harry and about the topic. Throughout life we are sometimes blessed with substitute father figures like Harry Hertz that we will not forget. Regarding the topic, a lot of material is available on the subject of "servant leadership". In the late 90's James Hunter wrote a great "business fiction" titled The Servant on this topic. Since then a lot of good material has been published on "How to?" and "What is it?". Thanks for reminding us.
Excellent topic and well said! This type of leadership is similar in nature to the concept of Servant Leadership espoused by Robert Greenleaf. As Harry Hertz demonstrates, leadership is not about power -- it is about sharing and empowering others to do their best while you facilitate their success. Good job, Harry Hertz.
Excellent article Christine. Harry will be missed. So very sorry about your sister. Thinking of you!
Christine, The Atlanta Board of Education is in the process of finding the district’s next superintendent. Do you think Harry might want the job?
Ed, I'm pretty sure any prospective employer would need to lobby Harry's wife Fran--and negotiate with his granddaughters! Seriously, wouldn't it be great for our nation's school systems if all senior leaders were embracing the systems perspective and core values of the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence? Hope the Atlanta school district and others around the country find inspiration and practical help in resources on our Web site, including examples from the Baldrige Award recipients ( to date in K-12 education. Organizations can get started on a Baldrige journey toward performance excellence at the state and local levels through our partner programs in the Alliance for Performance Excellence ( or

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