Millions of people around the world eagerly anticipate wrestling with the daily WORDLE puzzle. When grappling with this puzzle, leaders might ponder the parallels to the challenges, frustrations, and joys of leading others with care.
1. Caring leaders discern when team members are missing a special “something”. Most WORDLE fanatics relish an array of green and gray tiles because the green tiles signal that some letters are rightly positioned. However something is also missing – but what is it? If the target word is AVERT, and you enter “MERIT,” the “M & I” will pop up as gray. It’s then obvious that you need to re-arrange some yellow tiles and select other letters to AVERT failure.
A team member’s “missing piece” may or may not be so immediately obvious to the leader. Technically competent employees may well need to work on their people skills but identifying the exact ones might be challenging. These are exactly the kind of challenges the caring leader willing assumes.
2. Caring leaders recognize when team members have the right skills but they are in wrong position. The yellow WORDLE tiles signal this kind of quandary. If the correct WORDLE answer is LEADS and you enter the word SHELF, the letters S, L, and E would appear in yellow (H and F would be show up gray).
Unfortunately, when team members are in the wrong positions, leaders don’t magically see them turn shades of yellow. So, caring leaders engage in developmental coaching to determine if their employees are a good fit for the particular position. Once leaders make that assessment, they then seek the person in other positions that could be a better fit.
3. Caring leaders try unexpected combinations. The word TWEAK represents a less common pairing of T and W than TH or WH, but this unusual combination might just help you celebrate a WORDLE victory someday.
Likewise, it is natural for leaders to team up those who are at the same organizational level or from the same generation. This may work but it may deprive the team of optimal diversity of perspectives. Caring leaders know this and aren’t afraid to experiment with unusual combinations. For example, a caring leader might ask a junior HR person to participate on a finance committee, which may result in decisions based on a wider spectrum of interests and insights. At the very least, the unusual addition might share exactly the TWEAK needed to maximize an investment decision.
4. Caring leaders patiently seek to get the right combinations in place. Occasionally the only way to discover the “missing piece” in the team member’s skill portfolio may be to test something to see if it works. If it doesn’t, move on.
WORDLE enthusiasts rapidly acquire this sensibility, but some leaders resist trying different tools and techniques, opting instead for the “tried and proven methods.” Caring leaders exercise patience but also know when to try something new. This may be the only way to help fully develop others and enhance their career prospects.
5. Caring leaders possess the right foundational elements. WORDLE pros instinctively possess a deep understanding of the language. They know, for instance, the difference between a vowel and consonant as well as the acceptable letter combinations.
The caring leader’s foundational elements consist of core beliefs that support their daily leadership practices. Those beliefs include embracing uncertainty, making progress through refining and exploring, and committing to lifelong learning. Without these core, supportive beliefs we outline in Leading with Care in a Tough World, leaders often only practice a shallow form of caring.
For example, almost every leader today would espouse the importance of engagement. Yet, many leaders practice faux engagement because they rarely allow others to provide meaningful input. Why? Perhaps they simply don’t believe in embracing uncertainty and the importance of admitting they don’t have all the answers. In short, faux caring leaders don’t have the proper foundational beliefs.
Routinely grappling with WORDLE may not transform you into a caring leader but there are some rich lessons waiting to be discovered. When you tackle the next WORDLE, perhaps it will remind you of the daily joys, vexations, and contemplations needed to prevail at the strategic game of leadership.