We all have one leader in our career that we remember more than anyone else. We credit this person with helping us breakthrough or giving us an opportunity that we didn’t think we deserved.
I had one of those leaders in my career too. They are someone I will never forget until the day I die and for a while, it didn’t really make sense. It got me thinking deeply about this idea:
What does that one leader do differently?
I thought about that question long and hard for twelve months after I departed working with this leader. Then it hit me one day while sitting on the train in silence trying not to mimic everyone around me who was doing the same, except with their eyes glued to the screen of their not-so-smart phone
The leader you remember is the one that cared.
They show care in the following ways:
- They want to understand what your ideal career looks like
- They support sabbaticals, time off, compressed hours or part-time work because they care about the things you do outside of work such as side-hustles and looking after a family
- They take an interest in your hobbies and look for ways to align them to your everyday work
- They send you to seminars and events because they care about your growth
- They throw you headfirst into covering for a more senior colleague or give you secondments into innovation labs to change your thinking
- They understand when someone dies or you end a romantic relationship and need some time off
- They don’t need to know when you take an hour off work to see the doctor because of your health matters to them
Every act these leaders do shows care. And the next point will tell you why.
They see a little bit of themselves in you
These leaders are not born saints.
The reason a leader cares is because they see a little bit of themselves in your career and know what it was like. They tap into their empathetic nature as a human being to put themselves in your shoes.
They ask the question:
“If I were Tim, how would I want to be treated? How would I want to be inspired? How would I want to be rewarded for doing good work?”
Then they take the answers to these questions, take them on holidays with them, and come back with practical ways of showing that they care about you by taking an interest in you and your career.
When I was a leader for the first time, I remember what it was like to be twenty-something and have no idea what my future would look like. I remembered how helpful it was to have people who have decades of experience let me tag along to meetings and listen to their phone calls.
There was a farmer who became the sales manager at a company I was at and saw me make sales calls and continually get hung upon. They remembered their first sales calls and without being asked, decided to show me a few tricks of the trade.
Caring as a leader is about seeing a bit of yourself in every person you encounter. That’s how you trigger your empathetic nature.
You are still the leader long after the paycheque runs out
Even when you move on from a company and no longer lead the same team, you are always their leader.
The leaders I worked for in the past are the first people I call when something in my career doesn’t make sense. They are no longer paid to lead me, yet they have a lifetime commitment to me. That’s the deal you make when you are a leader.
The same applies to me. People I have led in the past still come to me for advice or help or references and I’m obligated (like my former leaders) to be there for them.
Leadership doesn’t end when the paycheque does.
Paying the care you receive forward
When a leader has shown you what it’s like to be cared for, you only have one thing left to do: pay that idea forward by caring for someone you lead one day.
Whether you are given the job title of leadership or not, there are always opportunities in your career to lead others. Caring for people is one of the best traits you can develop for yourself.
As the world becomes automated more and more by technology, connecting with people through the art of caring will become a skill that will not only earn you a lot of money but define the obstacles you can overcome and the opportunities you can find which are hidden from plain sight.
Caring is what will make people remember you long after you leave this Earth
When it is all said and done and you are dead, the only thing you will leave behind is the memory of who you are. That memory can become a legacy that lasts generations by doing nothing more than caring.
Caring takes a memory of a leader and etches it permanently into someone’s brain. You can’t forget a leader that cares and nor should you.
If you are a leader, I beg you to care about the people you lead.