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A caring leader makes all the difference

“Joe! Jack! Glenn!!”

Mom’s words echoed up the stairs, bounced off the window that framed the landing at the top, and funneled into my room where my two brothers and I slept. It was our wake-up call. Time to get up and perform the farm chores that waited for us each and every morning. That call, though disturbing my peaceful sleep, initiated another day. I crawled out of the warm bed, stretched my arms to the ceiling and reached for my long johns crumpled at the foot of the bed. My well-worn jeans and a couple of sweat shirts followed. Down the stairs my tired feet one after another led me across the floor. Still half asleep I found my way to the kitchen. The light was bright and Mom was busy preparing breakfast.

I could hear the percolating of the oatmeal in the large metal pot. Mom was buttering the bread soon to be slipped into the oven in preparation for toast.

I knew that the routine demanded that the bacon was next. The thick waxy slices bordered by a tough, thin layer of rind would soon be singing with pops and snaps.

We brothers, however, had to earn our keep. I threw on another sweatshirt, this one hooded, and then added a thick coat that I had won years before as a newspaper boy. It was a velvety black coat with white vinyl arms. Joe wore the other one. The back door was difficult to open because a foot of snow resisted my push. I dragged my feet on the trek to the barn making a path that I hoped my brothers would follow and not disturb the perfection of the quiet, white snow.

With my chores completed, I headed back to the house, leaving my brothers in various stages of completion of their own tasks. Once inside the back porch, I began delayering clothing. The house was warm now and the smells made my mouth water and my eyes widen.

I sat down and watched Mom forking out the last piece of bacon. She proceeded by whipping the eggs and pouring them into the pan vacated by the bacon, making a sizzling sound.

When Mom made that wonderful breakfast, she was an artist. Her hands flowed from the stove to the counter and back again in unbroken movement. Whether it was oatmeal, pancakes, or a pan of biscuits she never measured anything. It was a pinch here and a dash there. And it always came out perfect. She definitely had a process because I observed her doing it the same way everyday. But it was all so easy and so natural.

The best leaders I have known worked in a similar fashion. You didn’t even know they were leading unless you sat back and thought about it.

Then you could see she had just encouraged me and increased my confidence. She had just given me an idea for a new way of approaching that persistent, resistant problem. For these rare individuals leadership is seamless.

They make the impossible seem routine. It is part of everything they do. But I believe that it all starts with caring about the person being led. The caring makes leadership invisible.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the President of RayCom Learning, which focuses on leadership, team development, and organizational communication processes. To learn more about RayCom Learning, visit the website raycomlearning.com. The above article was excerpted from the book, “You Can’t Push a Pig into a Truck: Everyday Leadership Lessons.” Glenn can be reached at 1-740-629-4536 or at rayray@raycomlearning.com.

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