The other day, an esteemed colleague and I were having a discussion about why it seemed so difficult for some leaders, or others in authority at work, to see employees as humans and treat them accordingly. It compelled me to connect leadership and love. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I decided it was a perfect time to go public.
The issue at hand was an example I had from a client — a manager who had inherited an employee who was clearly not a fit for a position she had been shoe-horned into. The employee knew it. Her manager, my client, knew it. The employee needed to find another position with the company or move on. It was an increasingly painful experience as they both continued to suffer from her non-performance and insecurity.
The issue for me was that “the powers to be” (yep, I’m being cryptic on purpose) had yet to craft and finalize a letter to this effect in the appropriate language, which I can only assume would limit liability. They had been working, or should I say, not working on this for four months. My client and her employee really couldn’t proceed as they needed to without it.
Not for my client and her employee.
As a former HR Manager, I found out by accident that I tended to have a different perspective. Instead of leaving those I serve hanging, I made the choice to deliberately assess my options and whenever possible, do what I could so that they are not leaving work with a knot in their stomach or suffering a great heaviness in their heart and possibly losing sleep that night.
Unfortunately, all leaders aren’t built the same way. They allow their challenges (and choices) to result in unnecessary discomfort for the people they serve. And the end result appears to be inattention or indifference, to the other people in the organization. It happens far too often.
My conclusion: true character-based leadership is love. You can say I’m really talking about compassion, empathy or thoughtfulness, but I say “love”; not the emotion, but love used as a verb.
The Greeks called this type of love, “agape,” which can be described as choosing what is right and best for the other person, rather than what you want or feel like doing. It is about behavior, not feelings. Yes, it requires an openheartedness. You can call that feeling, but I suggest that to open your heart is a choice too.
As a leader, are you willing to choose to be openhearted enough to allow yourself to see how your actions affect others? Your choice can cause someone to lose sleep. What would it take for you to be openhearted enough to feel the consequences of your choices? Are you openhearted enough, as a leader, to make a choice right now to lighten another’s load and allow them some ease?
Whether you consider Valentine’s Day personal, about romantic love, or a holiday contrived to make money… in this “season of love,” I ask you to consider, do you make the choice to lead with love?