Leading With Care

One of the most absolute truths of leadership I know is this: you can care about someone without leading them but you cannot truly lead someone without caring for them. 

That being the case, the first step in learning to lead is learning that it is not a weakness to show that you care. It is in fact a tremendous strength that all truly Authentic Servant Leaders possess. 

The second step is to care. Really, really care. Really caring about the person or people you would lead. Truly caring about them means caring more about what you can do for them than what they can do for you or your organization.

If you’re expecting your people to care more about your organization or it’s customers than you care about them then you’re expecting too much. People won’t care for your customers because you pay them to, they will however care about your customers when they feel cared about themselves.

At it’s core leadership is about people. You must understand that you don’t really lead an organization, you lead the people who put the “organize” in organization. If you forget that, even for a moment, then you are likely to start treating your people like the machines that do your copying and computing. 

When your people are just another piece of your organization’s capital then you’re likely trying to manage your people and not lead them. But your people are not capital, they are human beings. They have the same kinds of struggles, challenges, hopes and dreams going on in their lives as you do. The reason I so dislike the term “human capital” is that it causes leaders to forget that they are leading real live human beings.

Caring for your people must be more then a thought, it must be an action. You know (and so do your people) that you truly care about your people when their success means as much to you as your own. 

When you’re willing to sacrifice some of your own freedoms, some of your own recognition and maybe even some of your own success to help others succeed then you’re not just occupying a leadership position, you’re truly an Authentic Servant Leader. 

Every single person that you have the opportunity to lead is unique and special. They matter and they can make a difference for your organization. It’s up to you as a leader to find their strengths and help them to develop and use them.

When they see you doing that that will also see you caring about them as people. They will know that they not only matter but that they matter to you.

The question is do you have the courage to actually show that you care? If you do then you likely will earn that lofty level of leadership. 

To get there you must always remember, don’t just lead, lead with care!

You Are NOT a Good People Manager

imageDon’t feel bad, no one is a good people manager. It’s not your fault, it’s the peoples fault. People don’t want to be managed and people will not be managed.

Your fault lies in trying to manage people in the first place.

If you think you’re managing your people you are just kidding yourself, you may have beaten the energy out of them and forced them to comply but even that is not really managing.

While you can force compliance you can’t force what you really need from your people. You can’t force creativity. You can’t force commitment. You can’t force great customer service. You can’t force someone to value diversity. You can’t force someone to care. You can’t force someone to think a certain way.

But you can lead people to be creative. You can lead them to commit. You can lead them to care and to care enough that they provide your customers with outstanding service. You can lead them to care about other people, even people way different from them. You can even lead and influence them to think and behave in a certain way.

You can lead them to accomplish more than they ever thought possible but before you can lead anyone you must care. You must care about them as people, as human beings with real lives. Lives that matter every bit as much as yours.

You must care so much that your willing to show it. You must care so much that you’re willing to get out of your own comfort zone long enough and often enough so that your people will see how much you truly care about them.

When you lead people rather than trying to manage them magical things happen.

People who are managed are far more likely to display attitude issues than people who are led. People who are managed do what they are told while the people who are led have already done it.

People who are managed seldom grow beyond their job description but people who are led burst the seams of their job descriptions with regularity.

People who work for a manager produce the status quo. People who work for a leader produce the future of the organization.

If you want to continue with the “as is” them keep trying to manage your people. If you prefer a world of limitless opportunity and potential then give your people the leadership the crave.

Lead today and succeed tomorrow!

Leadership for the Ages – Part Three of Some

In my last post we looked at the leadership you’ll find from the “Dad’s” generation. In this third of what’s likely to be a five post series we’ll look at the group best known as the “Baby Boomers” or as I call them “The Middles.” This is the group born between 1946 and 1964, I was born right in the middle of those years, hence the name “middles.”

This generation, my generation, was the first to actively declare a higher priority for work over personal life.  The “Middles” generally distrust authority and large “systems.” Our values were shaped by the civil rights movement, Viet Nam, and for a time, run away inflation. We are mostly more optimistic and willing to change than “Dad’s” generation.

We’re also known to some however as the “Me Generation” and that moniker is probably well deserved. If the “Dad’s” invented Minute Rice then it was the “Middles” who decided that a minute was way too long a time to wait for rice, or nearly anything else for that matter. We do tend to want everything NOW. That need for instant gratification can sometimes show up as a sense of entitlement. It is never good for someone in a leadership position to have any kind of sense of entitlement, it tends to send followers running for the door. 

My generation, “The Middles” have had their retirement plans changed, not really changed, more like ripped from them. The dot.com slaughter and the Great Recession have caused many of my generation to consider when and even if they will retire. 63% now say they will work at least part-time in retirement to replace lost savings. 

That can make a person a bit bitter and a bitter leader is a bad leader. A very bad leader. 

My generation embraced the value of having to sacrifice to get ahead. All that sacrifice makes us very loyal to one another. We’ve seemingly always understood the value of a solid effort and have had no issue with working to earn everything we receive. 

All of this has shaped our values into what they are. I believe “The Middles” are a great generation in their own way. But too many leaders from my generation also believe that “our way” is the only way and that can make it very difficult to lead. 

Authentic Servant Leaders to not apply their values and their value system to those they lead. To be an effective leader in 2014 you must lead people according to their value system, not yours. 

Leading others according to their values is not a sign of weakness on the part of the leader, it is a sign of caring and intelligence. 

Let’s say that you have a team member, someone you lead, from the “Changers” or “Kids” generation, and their work hours are 8:00am to 5:00pm. Each day you watch them turn off their lights and pack-up to head home at 5:00pm. Their work for the day is done, no big projects due or deadlines approaching but you question their loyalty and work ethic anyway. 

Your question doesn’t stem from their lack of performance, it stems from you applying your values to them. Remember, for us “middles” “work” is a place to go, for “Changers” and “Kids” it is something they do. 

The “problem” here really lays with the leader, not the follower. 

Authentic Servant Leaders seek first to understand and know their people. They know they can’t truly lead a person until they know the person they are leading. 

On another note, to my fellow “Middles,” maybe we can learn something from the “Changers” and “Kids,” go home and see what you’re missing. These youngsters just might be on to something. We’ll find out in the next post of this series!

Leadership for the Ages – Part One

The two most popular “theories” or “methods” or whatever you want to call them, of leadership are: treat everyone you lead the same or treat everyone you lead differently because everyone you lead is unique.

I subscribe to neither of them. Here’s mine: Treat everyone you lead the same, just do it differently. I believe that’s the most effective way to lead because people are mostly the same. They always have been and history shows us that there is no reason to think that will ever change. 

We all have the same basic needs and wants. The mere fact that we’re all human dictates that simple truth. While we all have much in common however we all also have things about us that make us different from every other person on earth. I am unique and so are you and you and you. So is everyone else. 

Some folks in leadership positions seem to miss that fact, or at least part of it. They understand that as a leader “they” are different. They know that it’s those differences that set them apart from other people and make them a leader. Then, at the same time, they lead their people as if their people were just like them. 

They assume their people are motivated by many of the same things they are. They lead as if their people have the same life experiences as the they do. They lead their people the way they, the leader, want to be led. 

That’s pure leadership folly!

In this series of posts I’ve titled Leadership for the Ages we’ll look at the differences in people related to their generations. I’ll write with broad strokes here with the full understanding that even within generations the differences abound. 

In this post however let’s look at what all generations have in common. 

They expect honesty from their leaders. They want… it’s actually more than want, they need to be able to trust their leaders. People of every generation have always needed a leader they could trust and they have always known that leadership has little to do with a title or position.

They know that leadership, actual, authentic, servant leadership has to do with caring for and about people. Regardless of a person’s age, background, motivation, or goals, they don’t care what a leader knows until they know that the leader cares. About them!

People will commit to a leader who cares about them, they will follow, they will go the extra mile. They follow leaders they trust to look out for their people’s interest. Without integrity there is no trust and without trust there is no leadership. That’s true for all generations and all cultures. 

Everyone has that in common.

In the next post we’ll begin looking at the differences in the generations and how those differences affect both leaders and followers. 

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.  

Where Leadership Begins

Leadership does not begin when you’re promoted to a leadership position. It doesn’t begin when you’re given a fancy title, even if you’ve earned it. 

Leadership begins when you make the decision that you will LeadToday! It begins when you make the decision to earn the right to lead. When you understand that authentic leadership is earned and that it must be earned anew everyday.  Then and only then do you have a chance to truly lead. 

Leadership begins when you begin to care. Your title or position may cause your people to comply with what you say but if you want to earn their commitment you will need to lead. You’re not a leader if no one is following and no one follows someone who doesn’t care about them. If you can’t care about people then you simply cannot lead people.

Lots of people in leadership positions say they care; authentic leaders don’t need to say they care because they show it everyday. They are intentional in showing it. 

So how about you…. what did you do today to show someone that you cared? Too busy today… so then how about yesterday? Too busy then too…so just how long has it been since you weren’t too busy?

Time sure flys when we get busy doesn’t it? Here’s the thing, when you and your people are at your busiest is exactly when they need to know that they matter to you as a person. It’s when it’s most important that you show you care. 

It doesn’t make you a bad person that you get too busy to show that you care. It does however make you less then a great leader. If you don’t have time to show you care then you don’t have time to lead.

So let me ask you this… what will you do tomorrow to show your people that you care?