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.  

10 thoughts on “When Leaders Care

  1. Hey! Are we taking a break between ‘When In Rome’ posts or was that it!? (grins)

    Another great post Steve.

    As I look back on different leaders I’ve had in my life, both genders, it eventually becomes clear when they really care for their people or not. And here’s the thing, I’ve encountered both tyrants and the seemingly sweet, nice, and caring sort that hid their covert deceptions and manipulations in a brilliant sheeps clothing disguise….at least for awhile. BOTH styles undermine a healthy functional work environment. Both types make it difficult for people to work without feeling like they need to walk on eggshells. Both make it difficult for people to be honest even when it is in the leaders/business BEST interests to hear it. Yet if leadership can’t handle the truth, they will stifle even the most NECESSARY bit of info that they NEED to know to improve things like production, customer service/relations, various aspects of products/services.

    I’ve yet to meet a leader who was perfect, myself included. Are we EVER ‘done’ learning? haha


    However, there are really few but VERY common things that send me ‘packing’. Lies is a big one. Abuse is another. We know who cares and who doesn’t. Eventually.

    Another and far less intentionally hurtful aspect of leadership that can cause undue stress and problems is the insecure leader. Now this isn’t to pick on all of our insecurities as people and leaders because we ALL have some. At least ONE thing we feel insecure about. And that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about an ongoing extreme level of insecurity that creates a cloud of doubt between leader and his/her people. This too, can make it difficult for people to be open and honest. Insecurities can also create that ‘need to walk on eggshells’ around the leader feeling and it ties up a ton of energy that can best be devoted to other things.

    To be better leaders, we really do need to make every effort to get a good handle on our ‘weak’ spots. Open and receptive to feedback and make it EASY for people to provide that feedback.

    However, in order for that to happen, the leader has to CARE enough to create an environment that ALLOWS that to happen.

    Obviously, I feel strongly about this and could ramble on, however, my youngest and I have a dinner date and I’m now receiving…The LOOK! (grins)

    1. Wow! Your comment is an excellent post on it’s own. Spot on!

      You’re absolutely right the people will eventually figure out whether a leader REALLY cares or not. No one can fake it forever, sooner or later the real person comes out.

      It’s only when a leader cares enough to show it day in and day out that their people can reach their full potential.

  2. Steve,
    Your post reminds me of the quote from Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” The best leaders will be the ones who bring their people into consideration when making decisions.

    1. Great comment Bill. Authentic leaders know that the people ARE the business and that their own success is completely dependent upon the success of their people.

      If they care about themselves they have to care about their people.

  3. Great post and it reminds me that I need to be constantly aware that everyone needs a true caring spirit in our relationships and as leaders we are responsible for not only being caring, but developing a culture of caring. A few years ago when I was new to management, I hired two new assistant managers at the same time. A few weeks later one of them came to me and said “You need to talk to my co-worker, she is pregnant and she is afraid to tell you.”

    That really struck at my heart. How could anyone be afraid to talk to me? I’m such a great caring person! It turned out that she was pregnant when I hired her and she was afraid I would hold that against her. Legally, I could not have discriminated against her in the hiring process based on her pregnancy. Of course, it would be less disruptive to hire a woman who is not pregnant. All these things went through my mind and then I came to the realization that she might have had a problem in being afraid to talk to me, but I had the bigger problem in not developing the culture of caring in the workplace where she would be comfortable sharing such an important and life changing event – her first baby!

    That was probably my earliest awakening to the fact that management and leadership are two different things.

    1. A great story and illustration Willis. If our people don’t trust us enough to talk to us one of the most likely reasons is that they don’t think we care.

      We can say we care but they will find that hard to believe until we show it as well.

Leave a Reply