The Only Way to Build True Loyalty in Leadership

Caring is the only way to build true loyalty.

Great leaders care and build loyalty

Gordon Gekko & Bobby Knight make bad leadership models. Great leaders show that they care.
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What do you think of when you read the “caring leader?”

Warm, fuzzy hugs? A soft leader who places feelings above results?

Or perhaps you think of a leader who is so fiercely caring of his people and their cause, that it demands an equally fierce loyalty?

Was it the last one?

It wasn’t for me for most of my life.

The only “leadership” I knew growing up was portrayed on television and in the movies. Think Gordon Gekko, Bobby Knight, and Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor from Home Improvement all rolled into one. I had a sad and fundamentally wrong view of what leadership was. I certainly did not think it involved “caring.”

Caring? Yuck.

To me, as a leader, caring was like cooties to a third-grade boy. It was to be avoided at all costs. Oh, how wrong I was.

In a previous post, Suicide (Or…Why People Leave Jobs), I wrote that the number one reason people leave jobs is the same as why people commit suicide.

The #1 reason why people commit suicide? “No cares about me anyway.”

The #1 reason why people leave their jobs? “Lack of appreciation,” which is a fancy way of saying “no one cares about me anyway.”

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I recently spoke with my mother and asked about my aunt who is suffering from stage four cancer. My aunt has been undergoing an aggressive, experimental chemotherapy that has almost incapacitated her. My mother longed to be with her sister as much as possible, but after a while, her time off from work ran out.

Then her bosses did something simple, and yet extraordinary. They gave her every Friday off while my aunt is undergoing and recovering from treatment. She can now leave Thursday night and spend almost three full days helping her sister through this difficult time.

My mother was stunned by the news. She was touched by their caring. She is fiercely loyal to her employer.

I haven’t asked, but I am sure that her Monday-Thursday performance on behalf of a caring organization has significantly increased.

Showing that I care is so much more effective than I ever thought. And it is surprisingly simple. I cover these more in-depth here, but all it takes is time, listening, gifts, and sharing.

Her bosses took the time to listen and gave her a special gift. The result was showing that they care and incredible loyalty from a team member.

Question: How have you been cared for by a leader in your past? How have you shown your members that you care? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Show that care in the form of the other person’s love language.

    • That is super important!

      Find out how team members are best praised, rewarded, etc. and how they are best reprimanded and corrected.

    • Great point Todd.

  • This made me think if there is anything more important? Caring could mean being their when they have a personal crisis, or letting them go when the job is not a good match.

    My problem is that I confuse my fear of conflict with caring.

    • Anything more important? Perhaps not.

      Caring can manifest itself in many ways, like you say: holding people accountable, giving them time off when they really need it, letting them go, sending them to training, etc.

  • My family has gone through a couple of significant health issues since I started working for the company nearly 17 years ago. In each case, my boss had my back and showed care beyond expectations. I try to pay it forward with my direct reports now that I’m in management.

  • My previous leader insisted I take an extended time off when we adopted our son…which was huge at the time. I really recommend reading Three Signs of a Miserable Job, which addresses caring and adds doing work that matters to someone, and measuring results.

    • One of my favorite books Tom.

      Ironically about four years ago I shared it with my mom. She said it changed her leadership immensely. Thankfully, her bosses seem to have read it too :)

  • One of my best stories of a caring leader is Juan. He was in his early 70s when we worked together. He and his wife sort of adopted me into their family and treated me like their own. They built a close friendship with my parents because I was single living at home at the time. When my dad had a heart attack, Juan and his wife Gloria rushed to the hospital to see us. I had all the time off I needed to be with my family.

    After I moved to the US, they kept in touch with my parents and called them every once in a while. When my dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer, they came to visit him and I wasn’t even working for them anymore.

    There’s no bonus, perk or benefit that could replace the love they had for all of us who worked with them.

    • Wow Lily. That is amazing.

      Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

      Thank you for sharing that. It means a lot that you would share that here.

    • What an amazing connection Lily. That is really special. I am very impressed with Juan and Gloria. What a treasure.

  • That’s a great story and example about your mother’s employer. Caring is something I’ve learned to do more with age, but I can still use more practice. Thanks for the reminder, Matt.

  • I have found caring for people breaths hope and encouragement to them. Everyone needs to feel cared for and valued. It’s one of the ways a leader can positively impact and influence those they lead. Great post Matt.

  • Lulu

    It was encouraging to read the comments of caring in action. It seems like “caring” has become a dirty word in business. “Stick to the facts, mam” is more of the standard. It often is a cold hard world out there, and when someone shows caring in a practical way, like time off when needed, it melts your heart and strengthens your bond.
    My experience was not so positive. Had an accident, serious enough to miss a lot of work. After the initial “shock”, the comments from work were never “how are you doing?” but “when are you coming back?”. I was surprised how much it wounded me. Although I realize I played an integral part of the group and somewhat gratifying that I was missed, it was cold that they cared more about what I did rather than who I was.
    Kudos to those who tend to the person rather than the project.

    • This is going to be one of the top comments of December for sure Lulu!

      Thank you for sharing!