My business partner, Dr. James A. Johnson, has been a strong leader for 30+ years. It's one of the reasons that I am honored and blessed to work alongside him in Ethos. I've learned a lot from James over the last thirteen years, but perhaps one of my favorite lessons is one that he introduced a couple of years ago in a leadership workshop.
In that session, James said that in our encounters with others, they are silently asking themselves three questions about us:
Do you really care about me?
How can you help me?
Can I trust you?
I've been testing James' observation in my encounters since then by trying to demonstrate that I do care, that I can help, and that I am trustworthy. How I have done that in each situation has been unique to the moment and the individual(s) I encountered, and I have to admit that the responses I've received when I've been intentional about answering those three critical questions have typically exceeded my expectations.
I share this because I think many leaders fail to address those questions, particularly with people they have been leading for some period of time. And, while I believe leadership relationships grow to the point that most people know the answers to those questions in a global context, each new situation poses a potential risk/threat to those we are leading, and it means we have to be intentional about answering the questions again (and again, and again).
How can you demonstrate you care, you can help, and you can be trusted?