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Caring leader versus couldn’t care leader

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

A recent article in theHRDIRECTOR claimed we were entering ‘The Era of the Caring Leader’. This is in part due to changes  in the relationship between employees and work caused by the pandemic and partly the authors experience of the benefits to organisations of caring leadership.

For me a good manager has always been one who takes an interest in those they lead, that is gets to know them as an individual, knows the home circumstances, has non work conversations about how they spend time outside work. And doesn’t overwork an individual to the detriment of their well-being or home life.

However there is a fine balance between getting close to your team members and becoming over involved in their life outside of the work place, to such an extent that you lose your perspective and compromise your ability to be an effective manager. It is this fear of blurring the distinction between boss and friend that leads some experienced managers to advise new managers not to get over involved. These managers caution the inexperienced manager to remember that at some point they  may have to take a team member to task about their work or attendance, require them to undertake tasks they don’t want to do, turn them down for a promotion or even make them redundant.

Some managers take the,  “keep your distance keep the relationship on a strictly professional level “ even further claiming not to be interested in an employees personal life only their performance at work. These managers are not interested in being a ,”good” manager/leader but in being effective, it’s all about getting the job done, the project completed, hitting the targets, delivering the budget savings. This may involve putting people under pressure, expecting them, when the situation requires it, to put work before home life. They know those who deliver are rewarded.

However if your best /most effective team member suddenly started missing important deadlines, making uncharacteristic errors, no longer making a positive contribution to meetings and generally underperforming wouldn’t you want to know why and wouldn’t you want to do help them. Or are you the type of manager who says , “ I don’t care what’s going on in your personal life I expect you to do what we’re paying you to do and currently you’re not doing that”.

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