If You Just Don’t Care Then You Just Can’t Lead

I get asked often what the most important characteristic of leadership is. I determined that most people who asked that had already determined what it was. They wanted confirmation that the one of the characteristics they possessed was the most important. 

Many of the people asking were hoping humility wasn’t the most important. 

My answers to those questions put integrity at the top with judgement a very close second. I put integrity first because in my experience it was a lack of integrity that often caused otherwise sound judgement to go off the rails. But there are other almost as important characteristics for a leader to possess. 

A leader who is missing even a few of those characteristics, so long as integrity is present, can still lead. They will have some deficiencies but those can be overcome by strengths in other characteristics. 

But there is another characteristic of Authentic Leadership that doesn’t get the “ink” that it should. That characteristic is a caring heart. 

One of the truest bits of knowledge I know about Authentic Leadership is this… you can care for people without leading them but it is impossible to lead them without caring for them. 

If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead them. If you do not care about other people then you should not pretend to lead them. If you do not care about other people then you cannot lead…anyone. 

When one of the people who you are responsible for leading asks you for help how do you reply? With “I’m busy right now but as soon as I’m done I’ll help you.” Or with, How can I best help you now?” 

Are you willing to complete your work after you help someone else? Does your success matter more than the success of the people you lead? Do the people you lead get whatever time you have “left over” after you’ve taken care of your own needs? Have you discovered their strengths, hopes, goals and objectives outside of work? Do you see them as an individual or simply an employee? Are you more interested in what they can do for you than you are in what you can do for them? 

Have you ever even asked yourself those questions? 

This quote has been attributed to many people so I won’t attribute it to anyone, just know that it isn’t mine. The quote says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

What are you doing to demonstrate that you care about the people you lead? What are you doing to show people in general that you care about them? One of the surest measures of Authentic Leadership is how the leader treats people who can do nothing for them. 

If you only care for people who can help you succeed then you’re missing the one characteristic of leadership that you must have in order to Authentically Lead.

Should You Wear a Mask?

Okay, let me point out that I know better than to write about this topic. About half of the people who read it will agree and the other 80% will think the whole mask thing is ridiculous. (Yes, I can add)

Social Media and Blogging “experts” have told me to stick the topics I’m known for. Those would be sales and leadership but heck, I haven’t had a good beat down over a blog post in a while so let’s go for it.

We should get this out of the way right up front. Yes, I wear a mask when I’m in a public area and I can’t stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Actually, I wear a mask pretty much all the time in public because very few people carry a tape measure with them. These are the same people who struggle with what 6 feet looks like. So to be safe I wear a mask….not for me, but for them. To keep them safe from me in case I have the virus and I’m asymptomatic.

That’s the whole point of wearing a mask…to keep other people safe.

I understand most of the reasons for NOT wearing a mask. One person told me the whole COVID thing is a hoax. No one, not one single person has died from the virus because the virus doesn’t exist. I pointed out that “they” indeed seem to be burying people. I was informed that the government is actually paying those people to stay in hiding so their loved ones will think they are dead. I was shocked!

I’m not sure what the end goal of the government would be for doing that. I do know the end goal of wearing a mask is to keep other people safe.

I also understand that the government can’t tell me I have to wear a mask. When they attempt to do so it infringes on my freedom. Few things are more important to me than my freedoms. Especially the freedom to needlessly and carelessly infect other people with a potentially deadly virus. Many brave men and women have died so I can have to freedom to not give a damn about anyone else.

But thanks to those same brave men and women I’m also free to attempt to keep other people safe, which is the whole point of wearing a mask.

The one thing I don’t understand is the idea of being too cool to wear a mask. I’ve never been that cool so it’s very hard for me to comprehend that concept. I’m surmising that when you’re too cool to wear a mask that you assume other people are cool with you infecting them with a potentially deadly virus. I kinda get that…I mean if I was to get infected I’m sure I’d feel better on my deathbed knowing that at least I’m dying for a good cause…. helping a really cool person continue to look cooler than me.

But I also can’t help but think that if the person was all that cool they would want to help keep other people safe, which is the whole point of wearing a mask.

So when I’m out in public and I see people not wearing a mask I can only assume a few things.

One, they are a massive conspiracy buff. Not only have they correctly identified this pandemic thing as a complete hoax they also know where Elvis is currently living.

Two, they have a very confused view of the definition of “freedom.” That confused view is causing them to do things that sadly, very sadly, some of them will deeply regret one day. Once Grandma is gone all the freedom in the world ain’t bringing her back…but hey, sacrifices must be made.

Three, they really are way cooler than me. My being near them or them seeing my face uncovered could adversely affect their coolness.

In that case it’s really really good that I’m wearing a mask, after all, the whole point of wearing a mask is to keep other people safe…even very cool people.

Adjust Your Own Mask First

I spend a fair amount of time on airplanes. So much time in fact that I think I could do the pre-flight safety announcements from memory. In you’ve ever flown you may recall the part of the safety announcements where they say, “in the unlikely event of loss in cabin pressure oxygen masks will drop from a panel above you.” They also say to adjust your own mask before helping others with theirs.

Have you ever wondered why they say that? For instance, think it would be almost instinctive to put your child’s mask on before your own. Yet, the experts advise otherwise.

That’s because they know you won’t be able to help anyone if you’re not conscious to do so. You can’t go long without air so you must help yourself first. It somehow seems wrong to do that. It seems kinda selfish. But if you truly want to help others you must make sure you’re in a condition to help. Unconscious is not a very helpful condition to be in.

The same holds true in everyday life. You must take care of yourself first if you’re going to be in any condition to take care of others. That may seem just as selfish as putting your oxygen mask on first but the same principle applies.

The more caring and giving person you are the greater the danger that you’ll forget about caring for yourself. The problem is you wear yourself down to the point where you can’t help anyone, not even yourself.

So fight the instinct to put everybody else’s oxygen mask on first. Put yours on first. That means resting before you’re overwhelmed. That means carving time out in your busy schedule to do something just for you. That means understanding that you, and the world, deserves the best of you, not what’s left of you.

Just to be clear, I’m not recommending that you do less for others. I am recommending that you do more for yourself. Taking care of yourself is the surest way to be certain that your in a position to take care of others. Don’t forget that simple fact!

The Benefits of Being Kind

Al Capone once said that you can get much farther in life with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone. 

 

I suppose he believed that but if you’re an Authentic Leader you don’t need the gun. Your influence along with a kind word will be more than enough to get you wherever you want to go. It will also be key in convincing your people to make the journey with you. 

 

I once knew a guy in a leadership position who was certain that being kind was a weakness. He frequently said he didn’t need to waste time on kindness because his people had no choice but to do what they were told. He was of course wrong. So wrong in fact that he’s not in a leadership position any longer. He doesn’t torment people who work for him anymore but I’m pretty confident he still torments himself on a regular basis. 

 

Being kind to others is good business. But kindness is about way more then business. I would submit that it’s impossible to live a happy and fully productive life without being kind to others. 

 

Being kind allows you to cope and overcome stressful situations. Being kind let’s you pay less attention to yourself and your problems. Doing something for the benefit of someone else takes your focus off of you and puts it on someone else. 

 

A truly kind person does not have ulterior motives for being kind. They are loving and giving out of the goodness of their heart. Kind people have a high level of self-esteem and because they love themselves first it let’s them care about others too. 

 

Kind people expect to be treated with respect and that expectation is often met. Kind people don’t have anything to prove to other people so they get to be themselves. Being kind allows you to be comfortable in your own skin. 

 

Just so we’re clear don’t mistake being nice with being kind. They are not the same. Being nice means treating people well and being polite. Being kind requires that you care for people and have the courage to show it. 


You can be nice to people while also be unkind. Don’t make that mistake. Care for others, show kindness whenever and wherever you can. It’s one of the kindest things you can do….for yourself! 


Care for Your Customer

I always enjoy watching marketing people, well good marketing people, talk about their products. They have a passion for them and if they are truly good at what they do it’s safe to say they actually love their products. It’s like their baby!

 

I’m especially interested in how they talk about their products to salespeople. They want the people selling their product to love it as much as they do. That’s where I’m pretty different from most marketers. 

 

I don’t want salespeople to love their products; I want them to love their customers. Don’t get me wrong, I want salespeople to believe in their products enough to represent them with integrity. I want them to understand the value those products bring to their customers. I need them to understand how their products solve a customer’s issue. I literally want salespeople to feel it’s an honor to sell their products to people who will benefit from them. 

 

But for long-term very successful salespeople it’s not the product they are most passionate about; it is their customers. More specifically, they are passionate about helping their customers. They care enough for their customers to help them identify their greatest areas of need. Then they work to figure out if they have a product or service that can address that need. 

 

Notice that I didn’t say that they care “about” their customer. Every business and salesperson cares about their customers. What I said was that long-term successful salespeople, and businesses for that matter, care “for” their customers. There is a big difference between caring about and caring for. 

 

Today Customer “Care”  has become something of a buzzword. Many Customer Service Departments are now called Customer “Care” departments. For many of those service departments the name was the only thing that changed. 

 

“Care” is much better as a verb. Some people use it as a noun but successful people, successful salespeople, successful leaders, and successful organizations use it as a verb. 

 

A verb, for those of you struggling to recall your days in English class, refers to an action. It will always be better to show people and customers that you care than it will be to tell them. I’m betting some of you are telling yourself right now that you care. I’ll bet some of you are reasonably sure other people know you care. I’ll also bet that many of you are hoping people, and your customers know you care. 


Don’t bet, don’t hope and don’t assume. Turn “Care” into a verb today and show someone, a loved one, a special co-worker or even a customer how much you truly care. It’s good business sense and it’s great people skills. So do it today!


The Mistaken Leader

Lots, in fact most, people newly promoted to a position of leadership make the huge mistake of believing that their new position actually makes them a leader. 

 

They are mistaken. 

 

Being promoted to a leadership position and given a fancy title does not make you a leader. No matter what position you hold or title you have you must earn the right to truly lead. Leading others requires at least some level of commitment from them and you cannot force commitment, you can only earn it.

 

Perhaps the fastest and certainly the best way to earn the right to lead is to consistently demonstrate that you care for the people you would lead. The best leaders proactively and intentionally show they care, they show that they understand that they lead human beings with goals, challenges and life circumstances just like every other human being. 

 

They don’t “take” the time to know their people, they don’t “make” the time, and they don’t “find” time to interact with their people. They “invest” time with their people so that they truly know them and that “invest in people” mindset makes all the difference in the world. 

 

When a person in a leadership position sees their people as an investment it changes how they relate to them in every situation. If you as a leader feel forced to “spend” time on your people that too will affect how you relate to them and they will feel as if they are an expense and not an investment. That’s not a feeling that leads to commitment. 


Don’t be a mistaken leader. Regardless of your role, title or position work hard to earn the trust and respect of your people on a daily basis. There really is no other way to authentically lead.

The One True Prerequisite of Leading

You must have a follower!

 

No matter what your title happens to be, no matter how lofty your position may be within your organization if no one is following you then you are not leading. Period!

 

It’s probably the number one leadership mistake I see and I see it often, very very often. People believe that it’s their title or position that makes them a leader. This misnomer is especially common with people new to a position of leadership. 

 

But here is the absolute fact: titles and positions on an organizational chart do not make you a leader. The people following you make you a leader. 

 

You can be promoted to a position with a fancy title that makes it sound like you are a leader but you must earn the right to truly lead. No one, absolutely no one can promote you to the position of Leader, that can only come from the people you would lead and you must constantly demonstrate that you’re worthy of it.

 

The fastest way to demonstrate that is by showing your people that you care about them. Bringing donuts to the meeting is nice but a drone could do that. 

 

Showing you care requires that you connect with your people in a meaningful way. If you’re in a leadership position then I have some questions for you… How much do you REALLY know about the people you claim to lead? Do you know their goals, their needs, their hopes and desires for their future?

 

Do you know what their life struggles are outside of work? Did you ever consider those struggles may affect their work performance? Did you ever consider that maybe, just maybe you could help them, coach them or perhaps just offer them someone to talk to?

 

Leadership is about people and to earn the right to lead you’re going to have to be willing to SHOW you care. You must be willing to invest a piece of yourself in someone else’s life. You see, when you make a difference in your business you’re a manager and that’s great but when you make a difference in the life of someone else you’re a leader and that’s better, much much better.


If you’re in a leadership position it’s a good idea to turn around once in a while to see if anyone is really following. If they are not then it’s possible, actually likely that the people who could be following you have decided that you simply don’t care enough to truly lead.