Every leader approaches work with a certain mindset about his or her role that has little to do with the leader’s title. And whether they will admit it or not, most fall into one of two categories: A master or a caretaker. But I believe there’s a third category that we should strive for as leaders: I call it the caregiver.
Let’s take a look at all three.
They feel entitled. Remember the first time you bought something with your own money? Maybe you earned a few dollars from household chores and you bought a bicycle or a book or a computer game. Whatever you bought, it was yours! And you no doubt felt a sense of pride in ownership. You could do with it as you pleased, because you owned it.
When you own something, you generally take care of it. So a sense of ownership is a good thing. But some leaders carry this attitude to the extreme. They believe with ownership comes entitlement – the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want. After all, they own the company (or the team they lead). They are the leader, so they call the shots. They don’t say it verbally, but their actions are constantly chirping, “It’s mine. It’s mine. It’s mine.”
They care “for” their organization. They take responsibility, punch the clock, and take care of business. This is the basic level stewardship model. In the olden days, an owner would leave his holdings in the care of a steward, and that steward was responsible for taking care of it in the owner’s absence. The work was done out of duty and obligation, but there was very little sense of ownership.
They care “about” their organization. They have a vested interest not only in the financial success of the business, but in the lives that are touched by it. They have a sense of ownership, but not a sense of entitlement. They naturally and instinctively serve others.
When a leader cares about an organization rather than for an organization, it can lead to a visible sense of urgency about the culture that can become contagious. People notice when leaders talk about it and prioritize it. And I have seen it result in a cultural vigilance on the part of people throughout an organization.
Leaders who are caregivers can reconcile their personal values with the organization’s values, release their egos and their need for control, and create a culture that builds trust and addresses human needs not just business needs.