Why the Best Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Use the Provocative “C-Word”


“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

No other quote has influenced me greater in shaping my approach to leadership than this uttered by Teddy Roosevelt.

If I’ had to define leadership in a single word, it’s influence. Influence is about making a difference – a meaningful impact – in people’s live. We are not talking about things but people – individuals who are utterly emotional and social at its core.

Leadership is not all about knowing all the answers. Sure, Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” Most people believe those who have knowledge and intelligence are natural leaders. But that isn’t necessarily true. You can visit any major university and brilliant faculty whose ability to think is so high and it’s off the charts, but whose ability to lead is so low that it doesn’t even register on the charts.

Leadership isn’t contingent based on position. Stanley Huffty said it best, “It’s not the position that makes the leader; it’s the leader that makes the position.” Titles are titles. They confer a certain amount of credibility of course, but what makes or breaks a leader isn’t position. Just think about all the people around you who’ve influenced you, led you without lofty titles.

Then, what is leadership? The best leaders aren’t afraid to use the provocative “C-word”: I CARE about you.

The truth of the matter is “caring” is often seen as weak and maternal. Most people don’t usually equate “caring” as someone as a great leader. But, the truth is great leaders know it’s not about getting the credit. It’s not about serving my own needs. The focus is not one of inward, but outward.

I love the following short video that demonstrates this in a beautiful and simple way.


While all of the above and similar efforts are good and worthy, there are times only the most simple things will do as this video illustrates. And there are times when only the above will do as well.

The key is to sincerely care. If you come from a perspective of caring as a leader everything will be done from the right place. And what follows will be true magical.

When is the last time you told someone you cared about them?  When is the last time you gave a gift because you cared, not because of something great or important someone did, just because you cared?

Question: How can you better care as a leader?