Leadership: A Big Fat Who Cares?


In recent years, some employees have felt the hard and harsh blows dealt by their leaders as their employment positions were downsized. At times, when they needed some care, they were instead dealt blows and were emotionally and financially clobbered.

The financial, psychological, and emotional damage done has reached beyond the worker and reflects something broader in our culture– a pervasive lack of care.

The issue of how companies and leaders show care and concern needs to be considered if they are going to build credibility.

Power in Caring

Increasingly, present thinking on leadership recognizes the need for leaders to demonstrate care.

Author Jim Collins in his book Good to Great suggests that if leaders and organizations are going to be successful, they need to care for their people. He says that the level-5 leaders show a humility that causes them to care more about others than about their own personal gain. A caring leader feels love towards his workers.

Kouzes and Posner put it this way,

“When leaders encourage others, through recognition and celebration, they inspire them with courage-with heart. When we encourage others, we give them heart. And when we give heart to others, we give love.” (The Leadership Challenge)

This type of caring on the part of the leader provides credibility. It gives them the opportunity to build something into their followers that has far-reaching potential.

Practical Application

How does “caring” work itself in practical ways in the leader-follower relationship?

Bruce Winston in his book, “Being a Leader for God’s Sake,” says this care works itself out in some very practical ways in the life of the employee. He gives two simple and practical areas through which employers can show care to workers, compensation and rest.

First Area

One area where he has been challenged to care for his employees is by making sure adequate compensation is provided, not just the smallest possible. In the area of rest, he has done all possible to make sure that his employee’s work demands do not become such that they are not able to take needed breaks.

This impacts things like how much overtime they are working. As a result of doing “what is right and care(ing) for your employees…they will care for you.

There is a reciprocity that occurs from caring for our followers.

Second Area

Another arena in which care is shown is through the process of mentoring. According to Chip Bell in his book, “Managers as Mentors,” two of the four components to which great mentors give “unswerving attention” are feeling and family; both of which focus on the caring aspect of the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

As leaders recognize and acknowledge the contributions of others, they show care.

Be Wise, Recognize!

Kouzes and Posner found that both leaders and followers identified the recognition of people’s accomplishments as high on their list of things that make a difference in caring for followers.

They also found that the lack of praise and recognition was the number one reason why executives left their jobs.

This recognition may come in a variety of different ways, from the simple to the more elaborate. Followers need to be enabled to be involved in decision making in order for them to really “get on-board” with the organization.

Caring brings commitment to the leadership and to the organization.

They want to be full participants as a result of being cared for by leadership.

Incredible Credibility

Caring adds credibility.

This is defined as “the ability to inspire belief or trust” to how leaders are perceived. In their book, “Credibility: Why Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand it”, the authors say one of the five “must dos” in order for a leader to gain credibility is to ‘Show concern for your employee’s personal welfareAsk appropriate questions and respond to stated needs.”

Caring actions on the part of the leader gives them credibility. Credibility is essential to the fruitful leader-follower relationship and the successful organization.

Care and Carefullness

The credibility of leaders has suffered some serious damage in all arenas of leadership. The wheels of organizations have been grinding out products and growing the bottom line.

Unfortunately, those who have often caught in the cogs of the corporate machine have been faithful workers.

This mainstay practice of the corporate world is changing and the best and the brightest are looking to be cared for by their leaders. This means that leaders need to review how they invest themselves in those they lead.

Leaders need to put more time and energy into the maintaining of their team. They need to make caring and showing concern for their followers a priority. Leaders who show sincere care and concern towards the thoughts, feelings and futures of their constituents will go a long way in gaining and growing their credibility.

How do you demonstrate care towards your followers? What are the principles and practices of your organization that prove you are personally concerned about you employees?

Lorin Staats
is seeking a position in Leadership & Organizational Development
He helps clients in recruiting, equipping, and mentoring leaders
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