Intent Blog

What is Care and Growth Leadership?

Care and Growth is a Leadership model that gets right to the heart of effective leadership. What we already know is that good leaders get their people deeply committed. The loyalty and commitment of people comes at a price however, but this is not something that the leader can buy by paying a salary.

What Care and Growth leadership is about is leaders actually being in the relationship to set the their people up to succeed. This is actually about the leader’s intent. For a leader to earn the right to tell their people what to do they have to be in the relationship for the good of their people and, not just to get something out of them. When people see that you want the best for them, they give you their willingness. In fact you earn their willingness by being in the relationship to help them and not just milk them for everything they are worth.

Getting this right is not as straightforward as some may think. It is not just about being nice and doing lots of fluffy stuff. In fact being too nice and doing lots of fluffy stuff can be very damaging, particularly in the event that people think a leader is being nice just to get stuff out of them.

The question I want to explore now is: what precisely does this kind of leadership look like? What does the leader who gets this right actually do for his/her people?

Care and Growth Leadership:

We can get a good sense of the answer to this question if we have a good look at the sort of leader people we will be willing to go the extra mile for.  When you ask a person; Who would you work for willingly? Or, Who is the person you would work for because you want to? You actually get quite a predictable list of adjectives. These adjectives can always be grouped into two themes.

There will always be a softer theme and a harder theme. The softer theme will include things like: supports me, listens to me, cares about me, is very understanding, shows interest in my well being, pays me well, etc.

The harder theme includes things like: is always fair, is honest, pushes me, is knowledgeable, helps me grow, teaches me a lot, holds people accountable, etc.

When you condense each of these themes down you can come to two essential things that define the leader that people go the extra mile for. The word for the softer theme is Care and the word for the harder theme is Growth. With all the stuff in the softer theme the person is actually saying to the leader, don’t just be in this relationship to get something out of; have a genuine concern for me. Care about me.

In the harder theme the person is saying to the leader: Don’t just be nice to me, help me become better, help me grow. This is why we want honesty. Honesty very often hurts but we don’t want honesty because we love the pain. We want honesty because it lets us know where we stand so we can improve and Grow. These themes of Care and Growth are so consistent across any contexts that I am consistently amazed.

What we see then is that being a leader that is successful at unlocking the willingness of people is actually about doing two things for them, it is about caring for them and giving them opportunities to grow. This is why Etsko Schuitema called his leadership model the Care and Growth leadership model.

Any leadership model that is worth its salt has to have Care and Growth at its core. Care and Growth define the leadership qualities needed for successful leadership. If a leadership-subordinate relationship, which is actually a relationship of power, is not based on Care and Growth then it is not legitimate. Call these two things of Care and Growth what you will, their presence is essential for healthy leadership. If they are not there leaders will not be good for subordinates and subordinates will not trust leadership and will not had over their willingness.

People who believe that their leader is truly committed to caring for and growing them will be willing to take a bullet for him. They give that person the right to tell them what to do. Such a person will unlock willingness in them. But it is very important that the leader is sincere. Care and Growth means that the leader serves the subordinate. This service service has one very specific goal, helping people become better and grow. First and foremost however is genuine CARE which means a willingness to suspend my agenda for yours.

Assad holds a Masters in Philosophy from the University of the Witwatersrand and is currently a PhD candidate. He is the editor of the Schuitema blog and is a regular facilitator of the company's Care and Growth and Mentoring for Mastery programs. He also has 5 years experience lecturing and tutoring Philosophy at Wits.