When a leader expends effort to show genuine care for their team, it creates a very strong signal that 'this group is safe'...something we are all subconsciously assessing for very good evolutionary reasons.
A few years ago, I was talking to my cabin crew team leader as we were checking into the hotel. I make a habit of checking in last (something that would have been completely normal and expected in the Air Force) and she was expressing her appreciation for this ‘thoughtful gesture’.
She then told me a story which really reinforced to me the impact we can have as leaders.
In the early 90s, she landed in Bahrain with her cabin crew team, and was scheduled to fly out the following day with a new set of pilots who had arrived a day earlier than her. The Captain of her upcoming flight, who was on his day off, came to the lobby of the hotel to meet his incoming crew and make sure their check in process went smoothly. As she was telling me this, she had tears welling in her eyes…this very simple act had a such a strong effect on her that she was able to vividly recall it 25 years later.
We have extraordinary power as leaders. But it’s not the kind of power associated with command. It’s the power to positively affect our team’s lives. Very small gestures of care and empathy, especially when they are unexpected and require some effort, go a long way to build strong connections and loyalty within groups.
Go out of your way to show genuine care and empathy.