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Contrary to conventional wisdom, being nice is the best way to win. Both game theory and Supernanny demonstrate the value of cooperation, forgiveness and setting boundaries in business.

Success in business leadership often hinges on strategic thinking, effective communication and adept decision-making. I’m often surprised therefore when I find myself turning to sources of inspiration from my youth, with valuable insights being gleaned from the unexpected sources of my studies in game theory and, what I turned to for respite from my studies, the acclaimed television series Supernanny.

While seemingly disparate, both offer similarly profound lessons in how to create productive environments, which emphasize kindness and forgiveness, while setting boundaries and ensuring clarity. Let’s delve into how these principles can be applied by business leaders to drive organizational growth and cultivate meaningful workplaces.

Kindness as a Strategic Imperative

In game theory, the concept of reciprocity underscores the importance of kindness. This principle suggests that individuals are more likely to cooperate and collaborate when treated with kindness and respect. According to Harvard Business Review, being kind to your employees helps retain talent, enhances productivity and increases engagement.

Being kind to your employees helps retain talent, enhances productivity and increases engagement.

Acts of kindness, whether through recognition, support or empathy, can significantly impact employee morale and organizational cohesion. The research carried out by Beaumont People showed that having the trust of your managers was the highest contributing factor to the meaning people found in their work.

Forgiveness as a Catalyst for Growth

In both game theory and parenting strategies advocated by Supernanny, forgiveness plays a pivotal role. In game theory, the iterated prisoner’s dilemma demonstrates how forgiving past transgressions can lead to mutually beneficial outcomes in repeated interactions.

Likewise, in business, fostering a culture of forgiveness can mitigate conflicts, promote learning from mistakes and encourage innovation. Leaders who exemplify forgiveness create an environment where employees feel empowered to take risks and learn from failures, ultimately inspiring organizational growth. There’s even research now suggesting forgiveness should be taught as part of increasing public health.

Setting Boundaries for Productive Relationships

Boundaries serve as essential guidelines for interactions, delineating acceptable behavior and expectations. Supernanny’s approach emphasizes the importance of setting clear and consistent boundaries to instill discipline and respect in children. In Axelrod’s game theory tournament, the highest winning strategies regularly shared the characteristic of being retaliatory – there was a consequence for betrayal.

Effective leaders set clear boundaries regarding roles, responsibilities and acceptable conduct, minimizing misunderstandings and creating a conducive work environment.

Similarly, in business, establishing boundaries is crucial for maintaining professional relationships, and ensuring team and organizational cohesion. Effective leaders set clear boundaries regarding roles, responsibilities and acceptable conduct, minimizing misunderstandings and creating a conducive work environment. As outlined by Forbes, boundaries build trust, which is crucial for the kindness and forgiveness discussed above.

Clarity as the Cornerstone of Communication

Clear communication is paramount in both game theory and the strategies employed by Supernanny. Game theorists emphasize the importance of clarity in conveying intentions and strategies to optimize outcomes in strategic interactions.

Likewise, Supernanny emphasizes the significance of clear and concise communication between parents and children to avoid confusion and conflict. In business, leaders must communicate clearly to articulate goals, expectations and feedback, to ensure alignment driving collective efforts toward common strategic objectives. Clarity boosts collaboration.

Practical Applications in Business Leadership

Drawing from these lessons, you can implement several practical strategies to enhance your team and company dynamics and drive success:


1. Create a culture of kindness: Encourage acts of kindness and empathy within the workplace, recognizing and appreciating employees’ contributions. Encourage an inclusive environment where individuals feel valued and supported.

2. Embrace forgiveness: Adopt a growth mindset by acknowledging and learning from failures. Promote a culture of forgiveness, where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for growth rather than grounds for punishment.

3. Set clear boundaries: Define clear boundaries regarding roles, responsibilities and acceptable behavior. Ensure that expectations are communicated effectively to minimize ambiguity and promote accountability.

4. Communicate with clarity: Prioritize clear and transparent communication, ensuring that messages are conveyed effectively and understood by all stakeholders. Encourage open dialogue and feedback to enhance a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.


By adopting these principles into your leadership approach, you can create a work environment characterized by kindness, forgiveness, well-defined boundaries and clarity. Sometimes drawing inspiration from surprising disciplines can unlock new perspectives and strategies for navigating the complexities of organizational dynamics to drive sustainable success.

Nina Mapson Bone

Contributor Collective Member

Author of ‘Meaningful Work: Unlock Your Unique Path to Career Fulfilment’, Nina Mapson Bone is a people strategist. She consults with boards, CEOs, founders and executives on bridging the disconnect between strategy and the needs, motivations and capabilities of their people. She has won multiple accolades for her work in this area. For more information visit https://www.ninamapsonbone.com.au/

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