“I don’t care what you know until I know how much you care.” I’m sure many readers of this article have heard or read that statement about what employees think of leadership. But do you really care either about what the led say or believe, just as long as they do their job?
What would you do in the following situation? You are sitting in your office, deeply engrossed in what you are doing and one of your employees knocks on your door and asked to speak with you. You can tell he/she is visibly distraught as you tell them to come in and sit down (thinking I’m not sure I want to hear about this, or I really don’t have time right now to deal with a problem).
The employee says, “Mr. Mac, my boyfriend just kicked me out of our apartment, took my apartment and car keys, and all I have is the clothes on my back and my purse. I have no place to go and don’t know what to do.”
Would you really care? What would you do?
I asked some clarifying questions that revealed no immediate solution, knowing that she couldn’t go back to her apartment. I called another employee whom I knew would provide some help. I also researched for some legal assistance for her and gave her the information with direction to call the offices. The next day I followed up with her to see how it was going, telling her to keep me appraised of her situation, which she did.
I cared. All I really did was make a few telephone call. However, because I cared enough to follow-up, to make sure her life improved, I felt good about it inside, and the young lady never forgot my actions. She became a strong leader in her unit and exhibits a caring leadership to her people and those she serves.
Servant Leaders take the time to care! Servant Leaders are empathic, compassionate and caring, whose first interest is the welfare and needs of those under their charge. Greenleaf says, “Servant Leadership is a calling” to those who desire to make a difference in the lives of those whom they lead. The motivation for making a difference provides an intrinsic reward that Greenleaf calls a “healing” for the leader as well as the led.
The Healing Process in Serving
Greenleaf tells the story of twelve ministers and theologians of all faiths and twelve psychiatrists of all faiths that were convened for a two-day informal seminar on healing. The Chairman asked, “What is our motivation for what we do in our business?” Following a period of intense discussion that took a whopping ten minutes, they all came to the same conclusion:
“For our own healing.”
These were doctors and ministers, Catholics, Jews and Protestants, professing that healing — to make whole — was the base reason they did what they did.
What this says for the leader, especially for a Servant Leader, is that the intrinsic reward of helping others to heal is the foundational value for what they do as serving professionals. This sense of healing motivates leaders in the helping of others, enabling them to grow personally and professionally to levels they themselves might not achieve on their own.
From personal experience, I can tell you that it is a humbling feeling when others tell you that what you did for them made an immense difference in their lives and that it will never be forgotten. One in particular that I always remember happened when I was being transferred from the USS New Orleans in San Diego. Traditionally, the ship announces ship-wide when someone is being transferred from a ship, never to return. A young sailor came running across the Hanger Deck, yelling my name. I stopped and listened as he told me how much he appreciated my setting him strait one day and that he would never forget it.
So how does a leader create and build the kind of relationships that makes one whole and motivates others to exhibit like behavior at some future time? How does one know if they truly have a “calling” to serve others in their leadership role?
Healing Practices and Principles
The following is a partial listing taken from various sources on the subject of healing and caring about others in Servant Leadership practices. Leaders need to ask themselves about their leadership practices: “Do I…..
• Exhibit a willingness to sacrifice my own self-interest for the good of others.
• Build relationships to understand what is happening in the lives of others and how it affects them and their performance.
• Maintain an openness to allow others to come to me when the chips are down due to trauma in their lives.
• Demonstrate a commitment to helping others develop and grow.
• Allow inclusiveness in the change process and consider how its affect their performance and productivity.
• Demonstrate a humble attitude that says, “It’s not about me, it’s about others.”
• Listen, counsel and mentor with a “caring, heart-felt, and empathetic” attitude that says, “I care and want to help you grow and overcome.”
The process of leading with empathy, caring with compassion, and mentoring with deep-seated concern for the well-being of others provides an emotional sense of comfort and fulfillment — not only to the leader, but also and more importantly, to the led.
I’m reminded of a quote by famed Indianapolis Colts football coach, who in his book on Mentor Leadership asks, “Whose feet in the organization will you wash?”
The questions every leader must ask themselves, and then reflect upon are, “Do I truly care about those under my charge? Am I committed to their growth personally as well as in the organization? Do I lead from the heart when it come to listening to and empathizing with others during periods of stress that affects their performance and productivity?”
I look forward to your comments and questions.