The first time I heard the phrase “span of care” was in a leadership-coaching environment seven years ago. The coaching leader asked the question “what is your span of care?” My response was, “I don’t know”.
Span of care is a term used to describe the number of people being cared for by someone. The key word in this definition is “care”, with some people substituting “control” instead of care.
Experts who study effective span of care say for most people 10 is the maximum amount of people one person can care for at any time. Some people are most effective with five to six.
Understanding our span of care is really pretty easy. We all have a limited amount of time to invest in others. The more people in our span of care, the less time and energy we have to invest in them.
Jesus had 12 disciples in his span of care. Some will argue that as leaders we can’t do better than Jesus, so 10 or fewer is a reasonable number.
So what does span of care mean for leaders? To be effective in leading teams whether that team is a church staff, a for profit business, a volunteer organization or any other group that requires leading people, leaders must pay attention to their span of care. Having to care for too many people lessens the leader’s ability to truly care, support and connect.
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