I was recently speaking with a writer who was working on an article that highlighted advice and wisdom for new leaders. We talked about all the things you’d probably predict: trust, relationships, and communication. At the end of the interview she asked me if there was one central piece of wisdom that I thought every leader needed to know, and I answered: “Make sure love is at the center of everything you do.” In that moment, the thought came from a very natural and casual place, but after reflecting on that quite a bit, I’ve determined that love is a critical component to effective leadership.
Now there are a few points that I should clarify so that my sentiment isn’t misinterpreted. When love is at the center of your leadership, it doesn’t mean that you don’t address hard things or difficult situations. It means because you care deeply about helping those you serve become the best they can possibly be, you do the exact opposite. You challenge them, encourage them, and push them to grow, even when it is difficult. That’s real love; love with purpose.
I believe that it would be hard to find joy in leading if one does not love people, love the idea of serving for a purpose far greater than one’s self, and love the idea of having a positive impact on the lives of others. I’ve never been in love with the idea of being in charge, the boss, or the person who bears the weight of making the final call on major decisions. In fact, those are my least favorite things about leadership, and quite frankly I find that the idea that one is in charge is a grave fallacy that brings many of the wrong type of people to leadership.
What I love about leadership is the opportunity to help others, to support them in their growth and achieving their highest potential, to point out something great that they may not see in themselves, and bring people together around a common goal to make a difference in this world. I believe that’s what all good leaders love about leadership. They love the people and the purpose in equal measure.
I fell in love with leadership as a youngster. I loved the idea of bringing people together. Sometimes that meant getting everyone to agree to play kickball on the playground in elementary school, or encouraging classmates to bring in their can tabs on aluminum soda cans so we could see what a million really looks like, or serving on student council. What I found that I enjoyed is people, talking to them, supporting them, encouraging them, and most of all helping them. Helping others bring such joy to my heart because it is one of the simplest ways to give and receive love.
In a recent conversation with a colleague who was moving to a new school and somewhat saddened by it, I shared with her that the emotional pull she felt was absolutely normal. It’s the result of her investment in other people as a leader, and their investment in her. In fact, it’s the way it’s supposed to be, especially if love, a love for people and purpose, is at the center of all we do and why we do it as leaders.
I want to encourage leaders who are reading this blog post to think carefully about the role love plays in your leadership. If love isn’t at the center, it’s not worth doing. Let love be your guide!
Until next time, be you! Be true! Be a hope builder!