The Cornerstone of Great Leadership (Boiled Down To A Single Word)

michaelconrad-219x300“Hey, let’s be careful out there!”

Remember that line from the classic TV series “Hill Street Blues”?   It was the last thing the precinct sergeant said at the end of every morning staff meeting.

It was memorable, and hugely impactful.

Why? Because the sergeant was sending a clear, concise, and unambiguous message.

He cared.

If there ever was a word in the English language that could qualify as the most versatile and valuable to the more human leader, it’s “care”.

It’s the “MVW” of leadership – the Most Valuable Word.

Care” is hugely applicable to the leader in every shape, form, or connotation of the word.  In other words, a more human leader:

  • Is concerned and interested in the welfare of the team
  • Looks after and attends to the professional needs and growth of the team
  • Provides the right work environment and incentives to allow the team to thrive
  • Gives the proper attention to doing tasks in a way that will avoid damage or risk

To put this in the right context, sit back and think of a situation where any, some, or all of those four caring elements didn’t exist.

Or, to put it another inelegant (but shorter) way, imagine a boss who didn’t give a darn (or insert a stronger four-letter word).

Pulling “care” out of the equation can overwhelm whatever positive abilities a leader would otherwise demonstrate.

You could be a great strategist, but if you don’t care…….

You could be a wonderful financial wizard, but if you don’t care……..

You could be the smartest person in the room, but if you don’t care…..

They won’t care.

And that’s leadership failure.

I know, it just can’t possibly be that simple – why else would there be literally thousands of leadership books out there devoting hundreds of pages to explain it all?

And I’m even writing one of those books. And it will eventually come out… 🙂

But it is that simple.  It’s a “cornerstone” – the enabler that puts you in the position to really use any of the advice that you regularly get through those books, all the posts & articles, and any other great leadership writing out there.

You need to care, and say that you care, just like the sergeant in Hill Street Blues.

I’ll give you an example that really sealed the deal for me on this several years ago.

I was on a site visit to Great Falls Montana, and one of our employees there pulled me aside to tell me about the local general manager, and why that person was “so much” better than the two previous managers that had been there before.

How did he know that leader was better? He put it this way:

“Before the day’s work in the field, our boss, after going through all the other instructions and announcements, always tells us to “be safe“. That tells me she cares about us. That means a lot. I just wanted you to know that”

Yes, “it’s just a word”.   But it’s truly an MVW.

Use it, and lead well.











  1. says

    Terry, great post – and the key found in both your Great Falls example as well as the Hill St. Blues, is that they weren’t just words spoken to close off a conversation – they were heart-felt and carried the feelings of those leaders.
    The quote I come back to often, in many different scenarios:
    “They don’t care how much you know, until……….”

    Thank you for your work and thoughts,
    Best regards,

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