Why Would Any Leader Want to Become a Caring Leader?
Every leader thinks about his impact on the bottom line, promotions, and saving face when making decisions. There is great pressure to care about return on investment and focus on projects and tasks, but the leaders Heather refers to in this book understand that caring for those they lead ensures success in all other areas. They know this because these leaders see how their people respond to them when they behave in line with the principles in this book and when they fail to do so.
How Does One Become a Caring Leader?
The leader either is self-aware of some deficiency and wants to improve, is aware of the deficiency and doesn’t think he needs to improve, or is oblivious to the deficiency. Once he is self-aware and also wants to change, that is when he is primed to become a caring leader.
No leader fully arrives at a destination labeled “Caring Leader,” but those who report to them immediately feel the positive impact of the shifts in behavior. Therefore, caring leadership is an art form where the leader consistently adds different brushstrokes to her behaviors to elicit more positive emotions in those she leads
Remember, caring leadership means taking daily actions in ways that show concern and kindness to those we lead. The principles in this book that help us get there are timeless.
Cultivate Self-Leadership Skills.
Self-leadership is a critical focus for the caring leader, in that if he is not able to care for himself first, he cannot properly care for those he leads. This involves understanding the purpose and reason for leading; having control over one’s mindset; having a coach or mentor; and simply taking time to care for one’s mind, body, and spirit.
Make Them Feel Important.
Many employees don’t feel seen by those who are supposed to lead them. The caring leader makes sure to set time with her people one-on-one and listens intently to what her employees need from her to do their best work. When this type of leader is around, employees feel as if they are the only one who matters. Employees feel a deep bond with this type of leader, because they feel that they can be their best selves and they are appreciated for the work they put in.
Look for the Greatness in Those We Lead.
Caring leaders get it when it comes to recognizing and then growing the gifts and talents of those they lead. Instead of ignoring the signs of greatness in their people, these leaders search it out. Then they go out of their way to leverage the gifts of those they lead. They meet with their people to ask what they can do for them instead of expecting performance without the proper care.
Often leaders feel that the problems facing the business are theirs to solve alone. When they tell their employees about the issues they are facing, leaders see that they don’t have to conquer the problems alone. In fact, when they involve their employees in overcoming whatever might be facing them, it brings the team closer together. They learn to rely on one another and get more accomplished together. Most important, they endear their employees to them even more, because the leader shows that he or she is human.
Lead the Whole Person.
Many leaders handle employees with the narrow lens of their performance inside the workplace without ever considering them as whole people with lives outside of work. The caring leader understands that to get the most out of his relationships with those he leads, he must consider his employees’ lives in aggregate, including what is happening in their lives outside of work. This might mean helping them deal with mental health issues, brainstorming with them on which way to go with a child, or various other personal issues. Caring leaders don’t separate the person from what might be happening to her. To the contrary, they meet their employees where they are to help them achieve and be more.
Create a Listening Culture.
The caring leader uses the voices of her people to improve the workplace for all. These leaders know that listening by itself is not enough. Employees feel powerful when they know that their feedback will be acted upon, even if just some of the time.
Provide Them Safe Spaces.
employees don’t always feel safe to express their true thoughts, ideas that might be counter to the mainstream, or things that make them feel uncomfortable for fear of some type of attack or retribution. The caring leader makes sure to create spaces free of judgment in which to have conversations where employees can feel psychologically safe and be free from microaggressions.
Empower Them to Make Decisions.
One of the most crippling things managers do to those they lead is micromanage their every move, making it difficult for their employees to think and act independently. The caring leader trades micromanagement for clear expectations and empowerment, by allowing room for employees to do what they think is right even if that means making a mistake. Such mistakes are seen as learning and growth opportunities. These leaders understand that true growth and learning comes through empowerment via clear guidance and that those they lead are adults who can make their own decisions.
Build Their Resilience.
Inside and outside the workplace, obstacles and challenges are all around. The caring leader focuses on building resilience within those he leads to help them respond to inevitable adversity and bounce back to become stronger. This involves helping them reframe their current circumstances, learn from what is happening around them, and see the challenges and obstacles in their paths as opportunities to grow and progress in their careers.
The ROI of Caring Leadership
There is an ongoing debate regarding whether heart-based, caring leadership leads to hard-core business results such as greater revenues, greater customer satisfaction, and increased productivity.
One of the most profound case studies on caring leadership is that of Garry Ridge, chairman and CEO of the WD-40 Company. He is very clear about his focus on people and building a culture that employees can be proud to call home. Here are some of the hard-core results Garry shared:
We’ve been measuring the engagement . . . for over twenty years, and we are very, very proud of the fact that our engagement is 93 percent globally, and 99 percent of our tribe members [employees] say they love to tell people they work at our company. Ninety-six percent of our tribe members say they respect their coach. Now, a coach here is like your boss. As a company, our economic engine has thrived. We’ve grown the market cap of the company from just over $300 million to today $2.4 billion. We’ve quadrupled the revenue we have, and we’ve taken employee engagement from the horrible numbers that a lot of companies have to 93 percent.
So, there you have it! It is hard to debate results like these.
Are You Ready to Become a Caring Leader?
No matter where you start, no matter where you live, no matter your industry, you have the power to change how you show up. You can care more and uplift your team and your organization.
If each leader commits to this type of change, we will awaken the sleeping giants in our global workforces to be more and achieve more and create a healthier society. We can create a beautiful canvas of connected, loving cultures filled with people who truly care for one another and produce beautiful art, together.
As the famous philosopher Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”