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Ask a Trainer: How Can I Develop a Culture of Caring Leadership?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

In this week’s Ask a Trainer guest post, Heather Younger offers insight on what caring leadership looks like and how to foster it within an organization.

Dear Heather,

I work in training and organization development at a large company that doesn’t always have the healthiest culture. I’m trying to create a more empathetic culture where leaders care more and do more to support their employees. Can leadership development training help create more caring leaders? Are there steps that organization development professionals can take to instill this attitude within the culture? Or does this kind of change really have to come from the leaders themselves?

The idea of leading the whole person is about understanding who someone is outside of the task they’re completing or the processes they’re creating for you. Go deeper. Maybe you need to understand more about what’s happening at home and take time to dive into the uncomfortable—because that conversation can be an uncomfortable one. But it’s important to take that time to figure out where someone is and what you can do as a caring leader to remove barriers for them, either mental or otherwise.

There are three requisites for becoming a caring leader. The first one is an awareness that you’re not quite there yet. The second one is a desire to make a change as a leader. And the third is that you have to have the stamina to get there. If you don’t have that recognition that you’re not there yet, and you don’t then have a desire to make that fix, then the stamina piece doesn’t matter because you have to have those first two requisites. But if you have the awareness, the desire, and the stamina, then you can see that change through.

I don’t think it’s the responsibility of organization development or human resources professionals to fix organizational culture. I think they are co-creators of organizational culture, and they may even be a main catalyst of it. But it’s not their responsibility. I think the responsibility rests on everyone. It starts with the top leadership. We see what leaders do, and we emulate that.


But I do believe that people can change, so I believe there is a role for talent development professionals to teach folks how to truly understand, listen well through active listening, empathize with people, have emotional intelligence—all those things that we think about when it comes to caring leadership. Will certain people have a harder time with that or be more natural at it? Absolutely. Some people are just born more empathetic or compassionate. But change can happen if there’s an awareness and a desire to change that’s present in the culture.

Learn more from Heather about caring leadership on the Accidental Trainer podcast. Her episode aired on May 17, 2021.


If you have a question for Ask a Trainer, send it to [email protected]. You can find answers to previous questions by visiting the Ask a Trainer hub.

We welcome your comments and engagement on these posts. All posts are reviewed to ensure appropriateness based on ATD’s requirements for postings in our online communities.

Please note: Content shared in this column is provided by the author and may not reflect the perspectives of ATD.

About the Author

Heather Younger is a best-selling author, international speaker, consultant, adjunct organizational leadership professor, and facilitator who has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer.” Her experiences as an entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator, and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies—large and small—tick.

As a champion for positive change in workplaces, communities, and our world at large, Heather founded Employee Fanatix, a leading employee engagement and leadership development consulting and training firm, to inspire others by teaching the kind of caring leadership that drives real business results.

Heather hosts the weekly podcast Leadership With Heart, which uncovers what drives leaders from all over the world and all walks of life to be more emotionally intelligent leaders. Her book The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty hit the FORBES Must-Reads list and is a go-to source for HR professionals and organizational leaders seeking insight into their organization’s dynamics. Her upcoming book, The Art of Caring Leadership, was published April 2021.

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