A Love Affair with Leadership
Great leaders genuinely care for and love the people they lead more than they love leading itself. Leadership without love degenerates into self-serving manipulation.
RICK WARREN, Ladies’ Home Journal, Oct. 2008
A year or so ago, I participated in a very long LinkedIn conversation about whether or not you bring love to the role of leader. Of course, the answers were all over the place, and in some instances people were pretty adamant about their particular belief system. Today, I’d like to explore this question from a different perspective – and see what you think!
Leadership is all about relationships. It is about how we create the relationship and keep it growing and flourishing within the setting in which it occurs (work, Home or community). Not only is it about our relationship with others, it is always about our relationship with ourselves.
Over the last six months, I have been spending a great deal of time with Don Miguel Ruiz studying and living the Five Agreements and the Mastery of Love. The Toltec wisdom he imparts is very simple – and one of the most difficult things I have done (and continue to do) in my entire life. Today (in some parts of the world) is Valentine’s Day, and I thought it would be fun to take the Don’s thoughts on love, and apply it to leadership:
- Love has no obligations – And because of that, love has no resistance. Whatever we do is because we want to do it. It becomes a pleasure; it’s like a game, and we have fun with it. There is a certain energy that surrounds leadership activities when we love what we do, and we are participating in the creative joy of innovation, of making things happen. We are able to play in the energy of every moment and have fun with the possibilities that exist for us and for our teams.
- Love has no expectations – When we don’t expect something to happen, if nothing happens, it’s not important. Leaders encourage their team mates to experiment, to take risks, and to fail. The support that is given here is incredible. It leads to exponential learning and to huge success. It builds trust.
- Love is based on respect – When we respect others, we don’t try to control them or do for them what they should do for themselves. This is huge in my mind. I believe we are seeing changes in many of our corporations, but we are still besieged with a lack of respect for the people in the lower echelons of the hierarchy. This leads to rules, rules and more rules rather than encouraging the staff to be creative and find the best possible way to do the things they are responsible for.
- Love is ruthless – We have compassion for others, but we don’t feel sorry for them. We know they are strong enough, intelligent enough and good enough to make their own choices. If they fall, we will give them a hand up and a great deal of encouragement. Great leaders show compassion for their co-workers when they fail, but they never feel sorry for them. If the co-worker is feeling shame, anger, or embarrassment, they are working on their own baggage, and the leader is not responsible for that. We let them know it is okay for them to feel those emotions, and when they are ready to explore what can be learned from the experience, we are there to share what we know, and provide the support and encouragement they may need to grow from the experience.
- Love is completely responsible – We assume complete responsibility for our actions, even if we don’t want to. A good leader will never walk away from the consequences of their actions. They will apologize if they have wronged someone, they will make restitution as necessary.
- Love is always kind – And kindness makes you generous and opens all the doors. Kindness comes in many forms. It can be seen in the art of listening to what a co-worker has to say – not just hearing the words, but also the passion that surrounds them; asking questions and seeking to understand. It can be seen in making arrangements for a young mother to work from home so that she might care for an ailing child. It allows the leader to give because they choose to give, not through obligation or legal requirements. It allows for the possibilities.
- Love is unconditional – There is no if; there are no conditions. There are no reasons, and no justification. Others are free to be the way they are. We don’t have the right to change anyone else. If others are going to change, it is because they want to change. Leaders know that when they place conditions on how they view others, they are trying to control them. For me, this is all about recognizing that every person has their own baggage they are working through – even the leader. We MUST allow each person to work through it on their own.
- Love embraces justice – If others make a mistake, they pay only once for that mistake. Many of us know the feeling of working in a company for a length of time, growing personally and steadily getting more knowledgeable and skilled at what we do – only to be told we will not be considered for a promotion because we can’t be relied upon to get things done on time, even though the last time we missed a deadline was 9 years ago. Good leaders pay attention to what their co-workers do well, and whether or not they learn from their mistakes. They never “hold a grudge.”
There are always two halves to a relationship. Of those two halves, a leader is responsible for only their half. They are not responsible for the other half. They recognize that they don’t know anything about that other person because they don’t participate in their thoughts; they don’t know what they feel or what they believe, or all the assumptions the other person makes. If the leader takes control of the whole relationship, the other half becomes dis-engaged. It doesn’t work.
I like the concept of leadership taking on the connotations of a love affair. When it does, we can share, we can enjoy, we can create the most wonderful vision of where we want to go and how we are going to get there.
What do you think?
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Thank you for reading and for being part of this community – it means so much to me.
Georgia Feiste, President of Collaborative Transitions Coaching, Inc., located in Lincoln, NE, and Phoenix, AZ, is a personal growth and leadership coach, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is also a Usui Reiki Master and EFT practitioner. Her passion is success grounded in purpose and passion, standards of integrity and priorities in life. You can also find Georgia on her website, Collaborative Transitions, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Georgia may also be reached at (402) 304-1902 if you wish to schedule a 30 minute complementary consultation.