How can we become care-driven leaders?
Situational, transformational, strategic, adaptive. These are just some of the buzz words used to describe a kind of leader.
Yet if you ask Filipino employees what they look for in a boss, many will tell you that what they really want is a boss who cares for them. Based on their study of Filipino administrators in academic institutions, Dr. Yosep Undung and Dr. Allan B. de Guzman coined the term care-driven leadership to describe leaders who demonstrate care, or malasakit, in their day-to-day encounter with employees.
Empathy as key
At the core of care-driven leadership is empathy, or being able to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings.
It also means putting ourselves ‘in the shoes’ of the other person.
Care-driven leaders make themselves available to listen to the concerns of their employees.
At the same time, by expressing their positive attitude in dealing with the employees’ daily struggles, they develop openness and rapport with their subordinates. The authors suggest that responding to employees will be more effective if coaching skills are used. This means letting the employee share concerns and issues without imposing solutions or dictating courses of actions.
Instead of emphasizing authority and expertise by telling the employee what to do, a care-driven leader allows the person to identify alternative solutions and provides guidance in crafting a doable action plan.
An interface can be defined as a meeting point or a point of connection. Interfacing means sharing of experiences between the leader and employee to facilitate their entry into each other’s contexts. When a leader shares his or her past experiences of going through similar difficulties that an employee is currently encountering, he or she allows the latter to see that she or he is not alone. This allows them to shift from thinking that their situation is unique and extremely difficult to view their situation with a more universal and can-do perspective.
Expressing empathy may mean providing temporary structures or scaffolds towards empowering employees. Scaffolding within care-driven leadership includes boosting, bonding, banking and balancing.
Boosting means recognizing that employees need time and space to develop capabilities. The leader thus takes time to closely observe employees at work and immediately provides feedback to help improve performance and address concerns. Effective feedback-giving facilitates development and enhances confidence of their subordinates.
Bonding is providing opportunities for social interaction and networking within and outside of the organization. Specifically, this may mean initiating activities that can enhance cohesiveness within the group. It may also include encouraging employees to attend activities of professional organizations. These allow the employees to develop both internal and external support mechanisms.
Banking means guiding and helping employees deal with financial difficulties. Some of the leaders shared that due to the financial constraints encountered by their employees, it was helpful for them to maintain a revolving fund that can accommodate occasional borrowings of employees.
This was done within reasonable bounds and helped avoid performance problems due to financial concerns. The leaders also helped those in need by giving them opportunities for overtime work or means to augment their income.
Balancing, on the other hand, means giving due consideration in scheduling work that may conflict with family responsibilities.
Flexibility is exercised by accommodating the needs and concerns of employees without sacrificing work efficiency. Care-driven leader takes time to get to know the employees’ family to better understand the employee’s context.
Many employees leave the organization because of their bosses. As more organizations find it difficult to retain valuable employees, authors suggest that having emotionally competent leaders that exercise care-driven leadership can be a critical retention factor.
They suggest that the behavior of care-driven leadership may be what it takes to effectively manage Filipino employees.
(Joy Teng-Calleja is the director for research of Ateneo CORD. The article was based on the research conducted by Yosep Undung, Ph.D., and Allan B. de Guzman, Ph.D., entitled “Understanding the Elements of Empathy as a Component of Care-Driven Leadership,” published in the Journal of Leadership Studies, 3(1). For comments or queries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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