Can a Leader Care Too Much?

The title to this post comes from a question I was asked after my last post. The quick answer is NO, a leader can’t care too much.

The complete answer is a whole lot longer and far more complicated. I don’t believe that an authentic leader can care too much, they can’t “over care” and it’s wrong to suggest that it’s not possible to excel as a leader when you “care too much.” 

Now, here’s where it gets complicated. While you can’t care too much. caring a lot can cause an inexperienced leader to underperform. They use caring to substitute for coaching and accountability. They can have the mistaken belief that they can’t both care about and confront or coach a team member at the same time. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. I have been fortunate to work for some very caring people. One was perhaps one of the nicest people I have ever met. There was never a doubt that he cared about his people. He said it and he showed it often. Absolutely 100% of his coaching comments were positive, in several years of working for him there was never any corrective action or changes suggested. 

I wish I could tell you I was that good, I was not. His caring personality got in the way of true leading. He allowed me to drift and develop some poor habits. While I was comfortable and enjoyed working for him, I didn’t grow.  

My experience with this leader is not uncommon. Lots of people work for a leader they would describe as “the nicest person” or as a person “who really cares”. That’s great but as important as caring is, caring alone does not make you a leader. 

To be an authentic leader you must use your caring nature to coach, motivate and nurture your people. Sometimes that will mean having a difficult conversation with them. Which leads me to the second example.

Many of you know that for several years I worked with the Dale Carnegie organization. The person I reported to cared about me as a person, I never doubted that. He also held me accountable and coached the heck out of me. He used nearly every principle from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” to do it in a way that motivated me to improve. 

I was motivated to improve because it was the right thing to do but more than that, I was motivated to improve “for” that leader because I knew his coaching came with my best interests in mind. 

Good leaders care enough to show it and great leaders care enough to show it and make the extra effort to coach anyway. It will take a bit more effort to confront and coach in a compassionate way so that your caring nature is not lost in the process. 

Authentic leaders know that the very best way to show you care is to help your people succeed. 

Make no mistake about this: caring is no substitute for accountability and coaching. If you care so much for people that you just can’t hold them accountable and help them reach their full potential then you might be a great person but you’re probably not a great leader.

Care AND coach to make a difference that lasts! 

When Leaders Care

When leaders don’t care then leaders don’t lead. They may well possess a leadership title or position but they don’t truly lead. They simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

Let me repeat that for you, they simply cannot be an authentic leader without a caring heart. 

They can manage, they can organize, they can plan, and they can have success, even great success, but they cannot lead. 

In many businesses today “caring,” especially caring about people, is sadly considered a weakness. It is in fact, anything but a weakness. Caring about people informs every major decision an authentic leader makes. It may make some decisions more challenging and add to the time it takes to come to a decision but it will almost certainly result in a better decision. 

Authentic leaders understand that you manage stuff, budgets, a process, buildings, contracts, and the like. They also understand that people won’t and really can’t be managed. They know that people must have a leader, not a manager, in order to achieve their full potential. 

Authentic leaders also understand that no one cares what they know until they know that they care. People must know that their leader cares more about them as a person than they care about any policy or HR manual or task. 

Authentic leaders know that you don’t have to sacrifice a single drop of profit or success in order to care about people. They willingly accept the added challenge of “serving” their people while meeting all the other requirements of leadership. 

Great progress is made when a leader cares about their people.

Authentic leaders have far fewer “people challenges” because their people are committed and not merely compliant. They are committed to the leader and will go above and beyond for them, often, very often, doing more than is technically required of them. 

Authentic leaders know that no business grows unless the people who make up the business grow first.

People like to grow, they like to be meaningfully challenged. Managers try to control people, leaders challenge and grow them. If you care enough about your people to compassionately challenge them to reach their full potential they will see you as an authentic leader. They will follow you anywhere. They will contribute to your success and the success of your organization.

Your success as a leader is judged by what your people do today but your legacy as a leader will be determined by how your people do when you’re not there to lead them anymore.

Do you care enough about them to invest yourself in them so that they continue to thrive in your absence? If you do then you may just have a chance to truly be of that rare breed… an authentic leader.  

Tomorrow in Pompeii

I visited the ancient city of Pompeii last week. This is the city near Naples, Italy that was swallowed up by a volcanic eruption in the year 79 AD. It was buried in ash for over a 1000 years and rediscovered in 1599 when excavation was begun on a costal highway.  

It was an amazing, surprising, incredible, and shocking place. I was amazed by the sheer size of it. To say it was sprawling would be an understatement. Some of the dwellings were huge, even by today’s standards. There was clearly a class system in place and some were obviously better off than others. I was surprised by how advanced it must have been for the time. There were many shops and storefronts, there must have been a pretty advanced system of commerce. Speaking of commerce there were somewhere around 20-25 brothels in Pompeii to service the visiting sailors who arrived in their port. 

The layout and engineering of the city was incredible. Their ability to collect and direct water was very advanced and we even saw what was described as the first retail bakery shops. I don’t know how they can be certain they were the “first” but no other civilization is coming forward to dispute the claim so I guess they have it.

Most of all I was shocked by how suddenly it all ended for them. They figure the people of Pompeii were gassed by the volcano and then buried by the ash. That’s why the bodies, buildings, and roads are so well preserved. It’s that preservation that shows so much detail about how the people lived their everyday lives. 

It looks like they had pretty darn good lives. They lived very much as we do today, it appears they had jobs, hobbies, family, and friends. They enjoyed a good meal and time to relax. They worked hard and it showed in what they were able to build. They prospered right up until the time they didn’t. 

People being people I’ll bet many of them had plans for tomorrow on the very day that the volcano erupted. People they were going to talk too and important things they wanted to accomplish. An unfinished task they were finally going to get completed. Perhaps some were finally going to deliver a long overdue “thank you” to someone who had shown them kindness. So much to accomplish tomorrow.

But tomorrow never happened. 

Here we are thousands of years later, I’ll bet many of us have plans for tomorrow. Some little things we want to do. Some big big plans to begin that we know will change our lives. Some of us perhaps have some relationship fences to mend or we owe someone a long delayed apology. Tomorrow will be the day we make it right. 

But what if tomorrow doesn’t happen? 

The people of Pompeii were literally frozen in place. They died and their plans died with them. Many of us are metaphorically frozen in place, frozen in today, always waiting until tomorrow to tackle that tough task or unpleasant, challenging conversation. 

But what if tomorrow didn’t happen?

What are you putting off until tomorrow that you could just as easily do today? Take a moment right now to ask yourself why you’re not starting today. Be honest with yourself and be especially honest about whether you have a legitimate reason or just a procrastination inducing excuse. 

Whatever you can do today, do today. We may not all lose tomorrow the way the people of Pompeii did but for each of us there is a day when tomorrow will not happen. Perhaps we’re better off living as if that day might possibly be the day we’re living now. 

The Rome Museum

I had the incredible opportunity to visit the wonderful country of Italy last week. We visited different regions but stayed mostly in Rome. I was thinking of titling this post The Museums of Rome but that doesn’t really convey my intended message. There are indeed many museums in Rome. In fact it seemed to me that many of the buildings were museums. Certainly many buildings held artifacts from history. 

       

But as I walked around with my wife I couldn’t help but notice people looking up, looking over and taking picture upon picture. It was then that it occurred to me that Rome itself was a museum. The whole city, every inch of it!

I was a bit amused when one of our guides would describe a building as “modern” because it was build in the 1800’s. History is all around you in Rome. You can see it but more than that, you can feel it. You can easily imagine the city 100’s or 1000’s of years ago and wonder if the people who built some of the magnificent structures thought that people 100’s of years in the future would still be marveling at them.    

I think I could spend years there and still be amazed at what I saw every single day. Then I started to wonder if that was true. Would I really marvel at the history of the city if I lived there day after day? Do “native” Romans marvel The Coliseum as they drive past it on their way to work each day? Are they in awe of what surrounds them on a daily basis? 

They should because they live in an incredible city. 

My guess is that many of them take their splendid city for granted. That’s not a knock on the friendly people of Rome, that’s a knock on all of us because no matter where we live, too many of us take what we have for granted.

When was the last time you stopped to consider all that you have? When was the last time you stopped to consider the “gift” of the people in your life. When was the last time you told the most important person in your life just how important they are to you? 

What would you miss the most if you woke up tomorrow and had nothing and no one in your life? Are you taking those things and those people for granted? 

Write down what’s important to you. Keep pictures with you of the people who matter most. Don’t let those people and things move to the bottom of your mind. Keep them on top, invest some time each day remembering how and why they matter. Show the people who matter that you don’t take them for granted and appreciate what you have while you have it, for as long as you have it.

Our world is an amazing place. Each of our individual worlds is equally amazing if we’ll just stop long enough to look around and consider our lives without it. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit Rome and Italy but as I return home I’m no less grateful for what I have here. I learned a lot on my trip to Europe, I hope one of the things I’ve learned is to appreciate what I have just a little more. 

Learning for Life

The most successful people learn something new almost every single day. They never stop, their level of success, their age, their already substantial wealth of knowledge does not stop them from learning more. 

In all of history there has never been an easier time to learn something new than right now. The internet alone is a vast and ever growing source of knowledge. Google estimates there are currently 637 million websites and 250 million blogs. The depth of human knowledge has never been so easy to find and transfer from one person to another. Now, it’s important to keep in mind that not everything you see and hear on the internet is true. I know that might be hard for some people to believe but the fact that not everything on the internet is true is one fact that is most certainly true. 

There are certainly other sources that are available too. 

Read newspapers, books, magazines, and periodicals. Everyday! Here’s a pretty well documented fact: the most successful people read more than less successful people. Technology allows us to carry a ton of books with us right on a laptop, tablet, or even a smart phone. Everyone “waits,” either at a doctor’s office, for a sales call, for the plumber, and the most successful people don’t waste that wait time. One of the more effective ways they use it is to read. 

The “boob tube” more commonly called the television is another great source of knowledge. If you make it so. There are programs available that inform and educate, truth be told they aren’t the most watched programs but perhaps they should be. When was the last time you sat down and watched something that did more than just entertain you? 

Talk to your mentor. Here’s a problem for most people… they don’t have a mentor. Most people don’t but the most successful people do. If you don’t have a person whose brain you can pick and who you can bounce ideas off of, you should find one today. 

Meet someone new and different. If you’re only associating with people like you, who think like you, then you’re limiting your potential to learn something new. Interact with people different than you, people who you do not always agree with. You can, and should, learn from people with different backgrounds, from different cultures, and with different perspectives. 

However you choose to go about it understand the “success imperative” of consistent, constant learning. If you haven’t learned anything from this post the keep looking, you only have 249,000,999 blogs to go. 

The Tyranny of Self-Doubt

When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.” ~Honore de Balzac

There are not many obstacles bigger and more challenging for people on the road to success than the tyranny of self-doubt. It’s robs people of their ability to think clearly. It cheats them of their creativity and can paralyze them straight into the failure that they so greatly fear. 

Yes fear!

Fear is a tremendous source of self-doubt and it is a key part of a vicious cycle. More fear cause more self-doubt and more self-doubt causes more fear. Let’s look at some ideas to help eliminate both for our lives. 

First set goals and have a plan to achieve them. Knowing what needs to be done and how you intend to accomplish it goes a long way towards eliminating self-doubt. The more specific your plan the less “scary” it is so be specific. List start and end dates for each action required in your plan. Be realistic, do not set goals that cannot be achieved and know your sources of support. Things will not go exactly according to plan so build in alternatives for each step of your plan. 

Remember past successes, even small ones. One of the best predictors of what you’ll accomplish in the future in what you’ve accomplished in the past. Even people on something of a “failure streak” have successes in their past. That’s where your focus should be; on your successes. Learn from your failures, store that knowledge for later use but forget the failure. 

Get rid of the “victim” mentality. There is just no nice way to say this… most people full of self-doubt see themselves as victims. Victims of circumstance, of other people, of the economy, and sadly, sometimes even victims of themselves. The most successful people know this fact: Circumstances, people, and other “stuff” can make you a victim for a time but only you can make yourself a victim for a lifetime. When you accept full responsibility for your success, regardless of anything or anyone else, your odds of success go way, way up. 

Eliminate toxic people from your life. Toxic people poison your mind. They convince you that their failures are yours. They tell you, often repeatedly, that you “can’t,” can’t do it, can’t learn it, can’t think it, you just can’t. Their negative attitude is terribly contagious so stay the heck away from them. Instead find successful, positive people to associate with They will push you and inspire you. There’s no nice way to say this either but here’s a fact: your friends might be the nicest people in the world but if they have never experienced sustained success in their life it’s unlikely you will either. 

Do something. Doing almost anything is better than doing nothing. The longer you sit idle the more time you give self-doubt and fear to grow inside of you. Even if you attempt something and fail you’re still closer to your next success than if you had done nothing. Get going, move, mingle, network, TRY! 

The elimination of self-doubt comes from effort so make the effort and make yourself a success. 

The Key to Success

This could be the shortest post in the history of posts. One word could do it. 

That word is action. 

All the education, thinking, planning, motivating, goal setting, and organizing mean almost nothing if no one acts on any of it. Successful people take action. It’s as simple as that.

They sometimes need help and they aren’t afraid to ask for it. Sometimes they need a push to get going but once they get going they don’t stop until their goal is reached. The action may sometimes be fast and may sometimes be slow but it doesn’t stop. 

Successful people plan but they are not so busy planning that they never get started doing. They can tell you with a pretty good level of specificity what they will do today, tomorrow, and the next day to succeed…. and they don’t just say it, they do it.

So how about you? Are you saying or doing. Are you thinking or doing? Are you planning or planning AND doing? 

Successful people know that success is not due until and unless they do!

Get going!