The Caring Leader  

2 January 2018:

In an Army infantry unit packed with tough combat veterans, our sergeant major was the toughest. Built like a slab of concrete, he had completed multiple deployments with the elite 75th Ranger Regiment. As officers, my colleagues and I technically outranked him. But if he had told us to jump, we would not have hesitated to ask how high — and how soft we should land.

The most impressive thing about this tough leader was how much he cared.

When he first came to our battalion, he gathered all the officers together for a leadership development session. Then he played a video of the classic children’s story The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree describes an enduring relationship of unconditional and self-sacrificing love between a tree and a little boy. In the silence after the video ended, he uttered a simple command before dismissing us: “Be the Giving Tree for your soldiers.”

It was the most powerful leadership training I had ever received.

Through the medium of a familiar children’s story, he charged us to care to about our soldiers more than ourselves. I watched his philosophy of caring yield incredible results in the unit, both in garrison and in combat in places like Mosul and Sadr City.

Power of caring has also been proven in the corporate world. Take the example of Paul O’Neill, who served 12 years as CEO of Alcoa before serving as treasury secretary for President George W. Bush. One of O’Neill’s first actions upon becoming CEO of Alcoa was to introduce an obsessive focus on worker safety. This act of caring, which raised hackles among members of the board of directors, produced results. Under O’Neill’s tenure, Alcoa increased productivity and lowered worker accidents — and grew income significantly.

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Source: Strategy + Business

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