In This Executive Leadership Development Program - Leadership Qualities series Caring for Others you will understand why it is important to have a “caring for others” spirit and have been exposed to some of the ways to demonstrate it, the question becomes how a leader becomes more sensitive to the needs of others.
As mentioned earlier, a “caring for others” spirit can not be faked. For it to have a positive impact on others the “spirit” must be sincere; it must come from the heart.
Most people have the capacity to enhance the “C” in their lives even if they have not been fortunate enough to learn this trait early in life by emulating the behavior of respected adults, such as parents, relatives, teachers, and coaches. with Executive Leadership Development Program you will learn to be an effective leader and gain leadership qualities.
If caring for others is not your strong suit, it is not too late to change for the better. As in acquiring any other positive behavior in life, you have to first make a commitment to change. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best: “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
For many leaders making such a commitment is difficult - especially if they are in the habit of frequently judging others. For such leaders to acquire a “caring for others” spirit they first must work at accepting people for who they are and not getting “hung up” with negative thoughts about their inadequacies. A former colleague of mine once told me that “All people are like round dowels with a flat side and that our role in life is to accept such people despite their flat sides (inadequacies).”
The practice of judging people in an effort to prove our own self-worth gets in the way of accepting others for who they are. If we can somehow overcome this tendency, we are able to move on to the next step in the process of acquiring a “caring for others” spirit.
This step involves practicing specific acts of caring to the point that you do them without even thinking about it. This is accomplished by pushing yourself to act in a compassionate manner time after time. Start by being on the lookout each and every day for ways to help others in small ways. John Wooden, one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, has a philosophy that every day he is supposed to help someone who can never reciprocate.
If you open your eyes and heart to the concept of having a “caring for others” spirit, you will be amazed at the opportunities that await you for helping those who cannot help themselves. The opportunities are everywhere if you just look! It may be as simple as assisting an elderly person struggling to cross a busy street before the light changes, holding the elevator for someone approaching in a wheel chair, offering to exchange seats with another passenger on an air flight so a family can sit together, or providing encouraging words to a new employee who appears overly stressed.
Most people can relate to the experience of having been stuck in a long line at a store checkout counter because the cashier was obviously new to the job. When this happens to you again, view it as an opportunity to demonstrate a “caring for others” spirit by remaining calm and, if necessary, reminding the others in line about how they must have felt when they were a new employee. And when it is your time to check out, offer some kind words of encouragement to the trainee.
At work, demonstrate a “caring for others” spirit to employees suffering from serious illness or grief over the loss of a loved one. Even if you have many people in your organization, set up a system that ensures you are notified about such happenings in a timely fashion. Then respond personally in an appropriate manner that demonstrates that you really do care. For example, if a spouse of an immediate staff member passes away, attend the funeral and express your heartfelt sympathy to the family. Or, if one of your associates is hospitalized, pay that person a visit or call him or her. For employees further down in the organization who are hospitalized or suffering grief, send a card with a personal note. Whatever you do, avoid using e-mail or texting, even if the employee is located thousands of miles away. The point is that you act in some appropriate manner to help soothe the pain of the people you are responsible for. Your gesture of doing something tangible speaks louder than words. It says, “I care and appreciate you!"
Although the most important thing is the willingness of the leader to give of himself or herself to others, it also matters a great deal how the “gifts” are delivered. For example, the “gift” of a leader’s time and talent in coaching a subordinate is substantially depreciated if it is given in an insensitive or disrespectful manner. Over the years I have seen this happen on a number of occasions. One day I overhead a manager severely berating an employee in the hallway for something she had done. Although the boss was giving her time in an effort to teach the person something, the approach was ineffective because it was so demeaning. I doubt the employee learned anything from the session except to dislike the boss even more.
“Caring for others” leaders act in certain ways that demonstrate that they truly value people. Some of these ways include the following:
• Listening attentively.
• Being respectful.
• Keeping promises.
• Insuring fairness and equity.
• Recognizing good work.
• Emphasizing personal growth and development.
• Subordinating self-interest to that of the organization and the employees.
Another way to become a more caring person is to open your senses to the people around you. When you observe a person who is obviously bearing a heavy burden, send that person a positive mental thought - what I call a positive “vibe.”
Recently, on a visit to see family in central Illinois, I was picking up the Wall Street Journal at a drug store when I saw a man in a wheelchair making his way through the pelting sleet from the parking lot to the store entrance. I recall sending him the thought that “he would continue to have the courage to endure his obviously difficult life.” I am convinced that there is considerable power in such positive “vibes.” The more you do it, the more sensitive you will become to the needs of others.
In short, you can enhance your “caring for others” spirit by making it a practice to think more of others and then acting to help those in need. If you consistently do this, it will not be long until unselfish, caring behavior becomes one of your strong suits.
In summary, the best measure of the life of a person is the positive impact that he or she had on the lives of others. The positive impact comes from thinking of others as much as you do of yourself and from freely sharing your gifts of love, time, knowledge and talents, and money with those in need.