Care to lead

October 22, 2017

A little boy walked to school every day praying there would not be a reading test.

His teacher would ask children to read a paragraph to the whole class, three or four children each day. Each day the little boy woke up thinking about being asked and being terrified. What if the words didn’t make sense, what if the words were too hard to say, what if other children laughed, what if he cried.

Nearly every day was the same. When the little boy was not chosen the relief was so great he could hardly concentrate on anything for the rest of the day. When the little boy was chosen he hated every moment of standing up in front of the class, but at least he knew he would not be picked for a couple more days at least.

The little boy hated reading because of these days; there was no joy in a new book just a deep, pit of the tummy dreadful, lingering fear. In his school report the teacher didn’t say anything about his reading. The little boy was given no clue as to why this teacher was so indifferent to his anxiety. The report just said “quiet boy” and the letter “C”. The words felt devoid of any care.

The little boy is now a middle-aged man who still rarely reads for pleasure.  A book for work is one thing, that’s his job; but a book to relax to is something else altogether. He would rather not.

The care we need when we lead is not the care to be competent, to be qualified or even to be recognised as being quite good by our peers. Such things are so banal, so opaque and so generic. The care we need when we lead is the care to understand the impact we have on each and every person we guide, influence and manage.

Leadership is all about the impact we have on others, and as leaders we had better know the impact we have if we want to be taken seriously by the people we lead.

Take care. Paul

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