Hugger-In-Chief What Are Our Roles in Leadership?
The President of the United States has the role of Commander-in-Chief. He is the highest authority of the military forces. That’s why soldiers give him a military salute. As leaders, you and I may be the commander-in-chief of our team or our home. We have the responsibility to make decisions and direct activity, but we also have several other roles that are even more important to our leadership. I’d like to share a few, and highlight one in particular.
Photograph from FDNY via AP
Some people don’t like hugs. It may even be inappropriate at times. But a genuine hug, at least in the American culture, coming from a sincere heart communicates, “I care about you.” Any time it is appropriate, I give people a hug. Why is this important to leadership? I think above all other needs, we yearn for our leaders to care about us and remind us that they care.
When we know our leaders truly care, everything else falls into place. We gain peace of mind. We know they will protect us, give us their best, empower and encourage us. It all begins in the heart of a leader who truly cares and loves people. A hug is a simple gesture of that love. So if the leader does not sincerely care, a hug will feel meaningless or even pretentious.
A hug also communicates, I am on the same level as you. I am not better than you. We are brothers and sisters; we are connected. It expresses that status doesn’t matter. I value and respect you as an equal. As a fellow human being.
Finally, a hug also communicates, I am not afraid of you. In fact my walls are down, I have nothing to hide and be afraid of and I hope that your walls are down as well and also feel safe with me.
Most of us probably recall when president George W. Bush stood on the rubble of the stricken twin towers while hugging a firefighter, and gave an impromptu speech that brought the hearts of our nation together to mourn and rise again. It was not his plans, his vision, his team, or his action that made the deepest impact. It was his vulnerability that communicated, I am with you, I care about you, I am standing beside you. That’s the image that brought us together and still inspires people to this day.
You may choose not to hug people. You may even argue with me about what is appropriate. I can appreciate these concerns. But I hope we can all agree that we must care, truly care, and we must show people we care, regardless of our methods.
Other Leadership Roles to Communicate Support
There are other in-chief roles we must intentionally practice. Appreciator-in-Chief, Comforter-in-Chief, Encourager-in-Chief, Supporter-in-Chief. The “in-chief” part of these roles communicates that as leaders, not only does the final authority rests on us but also we must carry the greatest responsibility to model and practice these roles, and when we do, we will make a great impact on those in our charge.
I have learned that people will go with you almost anywhere if you truly care for them, hug them, appreciate them, comfort them, encourage them, and support them. I hope that today, and everyday, we show those we lead that we truly care about them.
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