The Most Powerful Trait of a Great Leader

leadership word artIn reading hundreds of books and articles that describe the characteristics of great leaders, it is common to find traits related to vision, courage, accountability, communication, inspiration, trustworthy, results oriented, team builder, etc. But seldom do I see what I believe is the most powerful trait of a great leader.  They Care.

Great leaders genuinely care about their company, their customers, their team but most of all they care about their employees. Caring can’t be taught. It is a personal trait that drives a leader’s every action and every word.  It’s more than emotional intelligence. It comes from your heart.

When leaders care about their employees, employees know it. It solidifies a bond of trust that enables communication and builds strong organizations.  Leaders that care about their employees, coach and mentor them, provide them with challenges and opportunities and help them be successful.  In return, employees stand ready to support the leader’s vision and goals.  This relationship extends far beyond the leader-employee realm and impacts customers and ultimately the company.

My first assignment leading a customer facing organization was an eye-opener on this very topic. The prior executive used the phrase “butts in seats” to describe our customer agents. He then wondered why the agents were not caring and respectful toward our customers.

Too many organizations under estimate the power of how genuine care and concern for employees translates into employee engagement and high performing teams. When a leader really cares about their employees, they don’t need a checklist of leadership to-dos. They listen because they are interested, coach employees because they want to see them succeed and recognize employees because they value their contribution.

I’ve worked for a few leaders who had these skills. They believed in me, offered me opportunities, and helped me to learn and grow. They challenged me to do more than I thought I could, counseled me when I went astray, held me accountable for results and, when I delivered, rewarded me with more opportunities.  They inspired me to always do my best, not because they expected it, but because I knew they cared.