I am still at my same company, but recently accepted a new job to run one of our factories. People there know me well (I was formerly the engineering manager there). When I accepted the job, I heard a disheartening statement from multiple hourly workers on the floor: “We’re so glad you’re the new plant director. You’re the only manager who ever cared about us.”
That is just plain sad.
So one of my big goals in my new job is going to be to break down that divide. To show the people in our leadership ranks that not only do you not have to remain distant in order to lead…but that to do so is actually the least effective method of leadership.
Success comes when we lead as servants: show people that you care about them, and they cannot help but follow you (assuming that you are even moderately competent). If you care about someone then it becomes nearly impossible for them to not care about you back. And when they have merged “getting paid by you” and “caring about you” into the same person…well, in my experience you receive a followership that is unparalleled.
But you can’t give what you don’t have. The mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart, and you cannot fake caring—you have to honestly and truly care about them. You have to decide that you will measure your success not by your actions, but by theirs—did they follow willingly or not?
That is scary…but it’s the only kind of leadership that really works: servant leadership, building followers by serving them; washing their feet (as our Master once did) to show that you will lead through serving them rather than bullying them.