“People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care” – John C Maxwell
When leaders don’t care they don’t lead. They don’t hold the interests of their team, their clients or their business. Essentially, they fail to hold anything more than a title.
Yet all too often when we talk about caring leadership it is associated with soft actions that lack strength, character and conviction. Interestingly enough though it is a lack of care that is so often the key source of frustration in the people that we work with, the business we work for or the quality of customer service we receive. How many times have we felt the slow rise of anger and disempowerment in having to deal with people who just simply don’t seem to care?
When people care about what they do, they care about the impact it has on their own lives and also on those around them. They believe that what they do matters and they operate from a strong sense of purpose. When they care about who they do this with, they are strongly invested in being a part of high performing team and demonstrate a higher degree of ownership. When you combine the two not only is it where the real sense of ‘magic’ exists but people are more productive and fulfilled.
So what are the attributes of caring leadership and how do we recognise it? I believe that there are six key things leaders care enough to do – consistently – that demonstrate their care factor:
- Care Enough To Engage: Engage with purpose, focus and intent. To do this we need to really ‘show up’ and be present. All too often leaders today find themselves caught rushing from meeting to meeting ticking off conversations as nothing more than agenda items. However to really impact individuals and outcomes we need to ensure that we are well prepared, ready to meaningfully engage and are free from distraction when the critical moments call for it.
- Care Enough To Provide Feedback: High performing individuals and teams thrive on feedback. Nobody likes to feel as though they are navigating things blindfolded and we all inherently like to know how our contribution is valued and having an impact. Leaders who master the art of giving (and receiving) constructive and on-purpose feedback demonstrate care and interest in both individuals and outcomes.
- Care Enough To Question and Confront: One of the most challenging aspects of a leaders role can be learning how to have the ‘hard conversations’. Many of us have borne witness to occasions where issues have been ignored or slow to be addressed with disastrous results. When we fail to understand and confront the issues at hand we not only compromise short and long term results but also relationships. Learning how to constructively question and confront behaviours and thinking is not just about resolving issues it is also about ensuring that standards, expectations and values are effectively communicated.
- Care Enough To Create and Protect: A key part of a leaders role is to enable success. This means creating and protecting environments and cultures that are rich in trust, engagement and capability. To do this we need to ensure that we have the right people in the right place at the right time. We need to know how to advocate for our people, clear the roadblocks and consciously protect the standards, reputations and relationships that we have.
- Care Enough To Navigate Change: We all know that change is a part of life and one that we can’t avoid. Learning how to navigate this confidently and embrace the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) that comes with change is not something that comes naturally. Effective leaders are able to not only navigate this pathway themselves but lead others through it so that they feel safe and considered.
- Care Enough To Take The Lead: At all times and in all circumstances: though the good and bad times. Leading isn’t always easy and often we find ourselves leading through circumstances that were not of our making or under our influence. A preparedness to step up, take action, make decisions, risk being wrong and influence outcomes are all traits of caring leadership that are in high demand in today’s business world.
Developing a strong care factor as a leader is imperative if we are to achieve true career success. For it is only when we care about what we do and who we do it with that we will enjoy a strong sense of purpose and reward.
As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.