One of my favorite John Maxwell quotes (though he certainly wasn’t the first to say it) is “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I love the quote and have repeated it often to those I mentor over the years. This statement is true in many walks of life, as a friend, pastor, mentor, politician, etc. In this article, I want to look at what this means between a leader and their team members. Teams generally aren’t going to be impressed with a leader’s prior experience, results, reputation and advanced degrees until they are convinced that the leader cares about them as an individual. What are some ways that a leader shows their followers that they care about them? Here are 4 ways:
Knowing them as individuals. Many leaders look at their team members as people who can get the work done and achieve results that will make the leader look good in their superior’s eyes. They don’t even bother getting to know their team members as individuals. That was true of one of my friend’s leaders. That leader, though very talented, didn’t show any interest in my friend other than what he could achieve for him and the organization. He didn’t know anything about my friend personally, including whether he was married or not, etc. And they worked together for more than a year.
A good leader on the other hand, will get to know their team members, find out their hopes, dreams and goals. They will find out about their families and personal interests, and make a true connection. They will get to know them as individuals, and not just a member of their team or organization. That’s why my first meeting with a new team member was all about them personally, and not about the job. I wanted to find out what was important to them. When you get to know your followers as individuals it shows that you value them personally, and not just what they bring to the team.
Encouraging them. A leader who cares will encourage a team member when things aren’t going well, whether they are struggling to learn a new task, facing challenges off the job, facing conflict on the job or any number of other things. This begins by getting to know the team member as an individual as we saw above. If you have not taken the initiative to get to know them as an individual, chances are you will not recognize when someone needs encouraging.
Growing and developing them. A leader who cares will balance driving results with the growth and development of their team members. Some leaders are focused only on results, and thus their team members suffer, and are forced to work with mentors on their growth and development. However, a leader who cares about their followers, will make it a point to regularly work with them on their development, providing challenging work and opportunities for them.
Being a servant leader. Servant leadership, modeled by Jesus, is the leadership model I try to follow. A servant leader will cast a compelling vision for their team, set clear expectations for their team members, be available for questions and guidance and hold them accountable for results. On top of that, servant leaders care about their team members. They get to know them as individuals, and as a result, have built relationships of trust. They know what is going on in their followers’ lives.
Let’s look at how this could play out in reality. We’ll say that Bob has been given a challenging assignment, one that will help in his development. Bob has always been a top performer. He has been given clear expectations by his leader, who has been available for guidance and support throughout the assignment. Despite this, Bob consistently misses deadlines and doesn’t meet expectations on the assignment, which is very much unlike Bob’s past performance. The leader has built a trusting relationship with Bob, and as a result becomes aware that Bob has been sleeping at the hospital each night because a family member is very ill. Does that excuse Bob’s poor performance on the assignment? No, but a servant leader who has gotten to know Bob as an individual, knows that Bob is doing the best he can under the circumstances. A servant leader can show compassion to Bob, and reassign the challenging work until this difficult season passes.
These are just 4 ways that a leader can show their people just how much they care. What would you add to this list?