Leadership moments that matter

Dr Anthony Howard

June 6, 2021

What was an outstanding leadership moment for you during the last year?

I have posed this question to many people over the last few months, asking ‘What did you do as a leader, or what did you experience as a follower, that stands out as a profound leadership moment?’ One answer, articulated in various ways, stands out: ‘that time when someone cared about me.’

You are familiar with the accepted cordial greeting, ‘How was your weekend?’, which forms a segue to a longer conversation about work. However, leaders are now not disinterestedly enquiring about someone’s weekend. They are instead asking ‘how are you?’, and listening for an answer.

Seriously, how are you feeling? is now a common refrain. The leadership moments that stand out for people is an experience of care, knowing that their boss is genuinely concerned about their wellbeing.

This is a key lesson from the corona crisis and one you can take into the future. While moments of tragedy or trauma—whether a personal crisis or a natural disaster—often elicit deep care and concern, these are usually situational and somewhat transit. In other words, once the crisis is past, we move on and revert to habitual behaviour.

However, since we have now had a year of lockdowns and knockdowns, illness and death, quarantines and curfews, is there a possibility that a new level of care can become normalised? Although many people are suffering zoom fatigue, and demonstrating inattention on the endless video calls, it is not too late to recall—and emphasise—those earlier calls where the first few minutes were spent checking in, genuinely searching out how people were feeling and coping.

Work from home, even under the emerging hybrid models, places two fundamentally different aspects of life in tension with one another. And that tension exists within you since the new reality is that you are ‘living at work’. Every time you log in to a zoom call, you also access a growing reservoir of stress and anxiety among your colleagues. That explains why leaders who take the time to care, listen, and empathise, who are creating deep human moments, are emerging as caring leaders. It only takes a few minutes to check in and listen to how others are feeling and coping. Those few minutes can multiply into a lifetime of relationships.

Hence, a leadership moment that matters, is where two (or more) people meet one another not simply as colleagues, or even as leader and follower(s), but rather as persons who see one another’s humanity.

This goes to the heart of what leadership is: mutual service of one another for a common good.

When you establish a relationship with your colleagues based on care and trust, they will know that you have their back. You establish a bond of loyalty and lay the foundations for something that will survive for the long term.

COVID provides an opportunity to kickstart a new way of working, based on the person and care, rather than profit and control. Amidst the difficulty of this time, COVID has helped us grasp the importance of deep care and concern for our colleagues. It has highlighted the need for work and the workplace to be characterised by humanity.

What stands out for you as a leadership moment during the last 12 months? When have you cared for others—and when have others cared for you?

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About the Author

Dr. Anthony Howard

Dr Anthony Howard is a CEO, entrepreneur, thought leader, philosopher, and author who focuses his energies on helping high level leaders excel in their leadership. People started calling him ‘the CEO Whisperer’ over a decade ago, as they recognised his uncommon insights about people in complex challenging leadership roles, combined with an understanding of the true nature of leadership, and how it impacts communities and corporations.

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