Do You Care If Your People Care?

In the 1984 movie, The Never Ending Story, child warrior Atreyu seeks answers from the ancient, giant turtle named Morla. However, Morla is completely disconnected and doesn’t care enough to answer the questions. Thousands of years old, the ancient turtle has grown indifferent to everything. Atreyu asks, “Don’t you care?!”

Morla responds, “We don’t even care, whether or not we care…”

Morla the Giant Turtle says - We Dont Even Care, Whether or Not We Care

Does that remind you of some leaders? Indifference in politics, business or church may occur when leaders sit stagnant too long. This is a problem when it occurs with a few leaders, but it’s a crisis when those leaders begin to accept the same behavior from their team members.

When leaders give up caring about the passion of their people and focus only on skills and abilities, apathy for the vision and mission sets in. When this apathy sets in, the organizational culture looks inward more than out. The result? Self-interest and a focus on one’s career above and beyond the needs of the organization. Take this example…

Boss Mary has been in her position a long time. She knows her duties and performs them very well. Her boss and the organization depend on her and often overlook her for promotion.

Mary knows everything she needs from her team. Her team does well, but over time, there is less spark, energy or excitement from Mary.

Mary depends on her own team more. The team excels at tasks so Mary and other leaders begin to overlook her team for promotions. The team, seeing more apathy from their leader and less opportunity for themselves, focuses on how to get recognized, beyond their boss.

Now, the team is focusing on individual recognition more than the vision and mission of the organization. They’re apathetic to the future of the organization and obsessed with their individual success over the needs of the company.

Later in the discussion with Atreyu, Morla learns death may come soon. “Die?!” Morla asks, now excited, “Now that, at least, would be something.” Morla didn’t care and it lead to excitement at potential destruction. If you’re leadership doesn’t care whether or not your people care, you may find your organization in a similar situation.

Question: Why else is it important for leaders to care whether or not their people care? You can leave a comment here.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

3 thoughts on “Do You Care If Your People Care?”

  1. Ben, a leader that does not care does not lead either. If we don’t love those we serve, how can we lead them?

    seems to me asking the right question has everything to do with getting
    the answer(s) we so desperately need. Clearly, the people care! They’ve
    always cared. Trouble is, most leaders have no idea what the people
    care about! That’s because most leaders are too busy unpacking that
    compelling vision they’ve been carrying around most of their professional life.
    You know the one. The boring one that rarely has anything to do with
    lifting the people to new heights.

    I believe there is a more convicting question we need to ask ourselves: ‘Why is it important for
    leaders to care about the people so much they soon forget to care about
    themselves?’ After all, one cannot effectively lead until they first
    learn how to love. Besides, leadership is not a gift FOR the people.
    Instead, it is a gift FROM the people; THEY (the people) decide who is to truly lead.

    Leadership, the people will point out, is not a matter of leading; it’s a matter of being followed.

    is that so important? It is not leaders the people seek; they seek to
    know love. Those leaders who have lost themselves in their care,
    compassion, and concern for the people have what it takes! The people know this … because they care.

  2. Although this information and its example is intended largely for the business world, there is much here that also applies to the changing world of educational leadership. The focus and public perception of what occurs and should occur in our public classrooms has changed so much over recent years that CARING no longer means truly looking out for the best interests of our students but rather on standardized testing. Again, your comments have hit home…and I love The Never Ending Story analogy!

  3. Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

    Hi Ben,

    I recently read a Gallup survey that on 30% of our workforce is currently engaged. Although this is at an all time high, we still have 70% of the workforce either not engaged or actively disengaged.

    It’s probably a pretty safe bet that a manager who no longer cares whether or not their employees care is managing a disengaged team. You ask why is that important? Disengaged employees are costing business a significant loss to their bottom line.

    Thank you for a great read!

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