Leadership: A Big Fat Who Cares?

Caring

In recent years, some employees have felt the hard and harsh blows dealt by their leaders as their employment positions were downsized. At times, when they needed some care, they were instead dealt blows and were emotionally and financially clobbered.

The financial, psychological, and emotional damage done has reached beyond the worker and reflects something broader in our culture– a pervasive lack of care.

The issue of how companies and leaders show care and concern needs to be considered if they are going to build credibility.

Power in Caring

Increasingly, present thinking on leadership recognizes the need for leaders to demonstrate care.

Author Jim Collins in his book Good to Great suggests that if leaders and organizations are going to be successful, they need to care for their people. He says that the level-5 leaders show a humility that causes them to care more about others than about their own personal gain. A caring leader feels love towards his workers.

Kouzes and Posner put it this way,

“When leaders encourage others, through recognition and celebration, they inspire them with courage-with heart. When we encourage others, we give them heart. And when we give heart to others, we give love.” (The Leadership Challenge)

This type of caring on the part of the leader provides credibility. It gives them the opportunity to build something into their followers that has far-reaching potential.

Practical Application

How does “caring” work itself in practical ways in the leader-follower relationship?

Bruce Winston in his book, “Being a Leader for God’s Sake,” says this care works itself out in some very practical ways in the life of the employee. He gives two simple and practical areas through which employers can show care to workers, compensation and rest.

First Area

One area where he has been challenged to care for his employees is by making sure adequate compensation is provided, not just the smallest possible. In the area of rest, he has done all possible to make sure that his employee’s work demands do not become such that they are not able to take needed breaks.

This impacts things like how much overtime they are working. As a result of doing “what is right and care(ing) for your employees…they will care for you.

There is a reciprocity that occurs from caring for our followers.

Second Area

Another arena in which care is shown is through the process of mentoring. According to Chip Bell in his book, “Managers as Mentors,” two of the four components to which great mentors give “unswerving attention” are feeling and family; both of which focus on the caring aspect of the relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

As leaders recognize and acknowledge the contributions of others, they show care.

Be Wise, Recognize!

Kouzes and Posner found that both leaders and followers identified the recognition of people’s accomplishments as high on their list of things that make a difference in caring for followers.

They also found that the lack of praise and recognition was the number one reason why executives left their jobs.

This recognition may come in a variety of different ways, from the simple to the more elaborate. Followers need to be enabled to be involved in decision making in order for them to really “get on-board” with the organization.

Caring brings commitment to the leadership and to the organization.

They want to be full participants as a result of being cared for by leadership.

Incredible Credibility

Caring adds credibility.

This is defined as “the ability to inspire belief or trust” to how leaders are perceived. In their book, “Credibility: Why Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand it”, the authors say one of the five “must dos” in order for a leader to gain credibility is to ‘Show concern for your employee’s personal welfareAsk appropriate questions and respond to stated needs.”

Caring actions on the part of the leader gives them credibility. Credibility is essential to the fruitful leader-follower relationship and the successful organization.

Care and Carefullness

The credibility of leaders has suffered some serious damage in all arenas of leadership. The wheels of organizations have been grinding out products and growing the bottom line.

Unfortunately, those who have often caught in the cogs of the corporate machine have been faithful workers.

This mainstay practice of the corporate world is changing and the best and the brightest are looking to be cared for by their leaders. This means that leaders need to review how they invest themselves in those they lead.

Leaders need to put more time and energy into the maintaining of their team. They need to make caring and showing concern for their followers a priority. Leaders who show sincere care and concern towards the thoughts, feelings and futures of their constituents will go a long way in gaining and growing their credibility.

How do you demonstrate care towards your followers? What are the principles and practices of your organization that prove you are personally concerned about you employees?

——————–
Lorin Staats
is seeking a position in Leadership & Organizational Development
He helps clients in recruiting, equipping, and mentoring leaders
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog

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Another Nail in the Leadership Ethics Coffin?

Ethical Choices

Once again the personal ethics of a national leader is brought into question.

Leaders are legendary for moral lapses and Anthony Weiner is latest in a long line of those who have slid down that slippery slope of moral mis-management.

Rolling Down Hill

Disgraced LeaderWhat needs to be remembered by all leaders is the impact that moral indiscretions can have on an organization’s day-to-day practice; they can affect every attitude and action.

Ethics influences the value shown to each person, whether employee or customer, by how they are treated, as well as, the products which will be produced and promoted.

The ethics of an organization should be pervasive.

Earning Trust

Charles O. Holliday, Jr. chairperson and CEO of Dupont Co. put it this way:

“Just saying you’re ethical isn’t very useful, you have to earn trust by what you do every day.”

What he is saying is that it is in the day-to-day practice of a leader, their organization, and its members, that it becomes clear whether they are truly ethical.

Not only is it important to intend to practice ethics, but organizations must set up “ethical safeguards” to see it happens.

In support of this need one set of researchers (Embse, Desai and Desai) wrote,

“…this study supports and extends previous observations that simply having ethical codes and policies does not guarantee ethical practices throughout the organization.

To become a genuinely ethical organization – an important success factor in today’s environment – a comprehensive approach and investment in ethical safeguards is needed and should be regarded as a dimension of decision making alongside quality standards, performance, profitability and other strategic considerations.”

Long Term Interests

Stuart Gilman emphasizes the urgency and importance of this practice, the president of the Ethics Resource Center in Washington DC says:

“Ethical business practices used to be linked to the corporation’s long-term best interests, contrasted against devious practices that often brought short-term gain. Ironically, in the current environment, ethics is now about the short-term.

The current market will not be fooled. Recommitting an organization to ethics cannot simply be a PR campaign.

An active commitment to ethical behavior – from the top down – will be the best safeguard against corruption – and ultimately the only thing that will fully restore investor confidence.”

We live in world that is often suspect of the ethics of leaders and organizations. It is the responsibility of the organization and its members to earn the trust of the world around them through ethical behavior.

Proper Values

Curtis C. Verschoor, the Ledger & Quill Research Professor at DePaul’s School of Accountancy in Chicago, who has done extensive research on ethics in organizations says this:

“An emphasis on proper values deals with setting examples, interpreting ethical principles and structuring appropriate reward systems. Ethical culture spreads from clear and unequivocal goal setting at the top and openness throughout the organization.”

He affirms that whether through areas of organizational personnel, purposes, or practices, the issue of ethics is pervasive in entering into the launching and leading of organizations into the 21st century. A topic that is essential for organizations and their leaders to understand and address within their personal lives and leadership positions.

“Studies have found…that there is a small positive relationship between ethical and socially responsible behavior and financial results.”

Bottom-Line Reasoning

That is to say, research demonstrates there is some financial incentive for organizations to act ethically. Beyond financial reasons, it builds social capital with both employees and customers.

Of employees, Daft says this:

“Researchers have found that people prefer to work for companies that demonstrate a high level of ethics and social responsibility, so these companies can retract and retain high-quality employees.”

As for customers, one study by Walker Research indicated “price and quality being equal, two-thirds of people say they would switch brands to do business with a company that makes a high commitment to ethics.”

A Challenge and Warning

Finally, he says, by way of challenge and warning:

“Top leaders are responsible for creating and sustaining a culture that emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior for all employees every day.”

It is a call to leaders to lead in an area where the pressures of producing and the coaxing of contingency might make it easy to start the slide down the slippery slope of compromise of ethical standards.

This slide can lead to a fall that O’Toole warns of from his own experience when he writes:

“…business people are more comfortable with the philosophy of leadership rooted in expediency than with one rooted in morality.”

Which will be the legacy of your leadership and that of your organization? What is your organization doing to structure and sustain a high ethical standard? Who at your organization is presently on the right track and who might be on the wrong track?

——————–
Dr. Lorin Staats
has provided leadership in the Jian Hua Foundation, Yunnan, China.

His serves in leadership and vision identification & development in the US and abroad
Email | LinkedIn 

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