How Can I Help

How Can I Help?” is an important opportunity for true leaders.  I hope that you will think about and consider this question.  Real leaders understand what “How can I help” means and they do it!

This month’s thoughts are from Tom Heuer, former professor at Miami University and longtime leadership thinker. Tom and I have written a couple of books together and have been co-conspirators in leadership development for decades. Read on.


While shopping in the grocery store, I stumbled onto a smaller, older woman straining to reach for a box of detergent on the top shelf.  I hope that it was my natural self that asked “how can I help?”  Her initial reaction was one of surprise and disbelief.  Her instincts were thinking “someone was willing to help me through my struggles. But, I can do this myself.”  As she turned, reached and failed again, she turned to me and grudgingly accepted my help.

Now…I remember my initial three-day seminar that I was scheduled to co-facilitate with a more experienced leadership expert.   I was all fired-up looking forward to the session.  During the afternoon preceding the session, the co-facilitator backed-out due to health issues.  Thus commenced my agonizing 12-hour search in beseeching/begging someone to say “How can I help?”

It’s a simple, heartwarming, four-word question leaders use to open doors. But it can also be misleading if not sincere.

In today’s self-centered culture, many people have not experienced being helped.  They are not even aware that “help” is possible.   Think about this…the person you’re seeking to support might not even believe that you are offering your service.  They may not even know how to ask for help.  Being stuck is OK with them because there is some solace in being stuck.

Consider this….people might resist thinking about what help even looks like.  Attempting to visualize it is frightening for them because help could emerge and now, you need to accept the advice and implement it.

Or the individual sought advice and found out that kind-hearted people may not always pursue the task to completion.  Reaching out may also seem to have an ulterior motive driving selfishness versus true kindness and generosity.

Also, help may not even be possible due to the perfect and permanent problem built by the person over the years.  This may really frustrate others, but a true resolution is out of the question.

As leaders, to find out if help is possible, we need to step back, ask, and try. You are not expected to have all the answers.  Seeking advice and guidance is the mark of leadership.

Finally, a leader’s character is marked by asking “How Can I Help?” and genuinely following-through with the support/guidance needed.  This is the leader’s mindset – Help is on the Way

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