Does love have a valid place in leadership? We say, absolutely yes! In fact, effective servant leadership cannot exist without love. Then why does the term not hold its rightful place in the leadership vernacular alongside concepts like compassion, empathy and respect? Well, it starts with how the word love is defined in this case.
Love, for our purposes, has nothing to do with attraction or obligation. Servant leaders who love express a genuine desire to want the best for others; to see them grow, improve, acknowledge mistakes…to lead the best possible life. So, what does this type of love look like?
Servant leaders who show love for their employees do so by investing in them; personally (appropriately) and professionally. They don’t just show care, they actually care. Servant leaders take interest in others and are curious; they ask questions and genuinely want to hear the answers before responding. They challenge their employees to grow and develop, but not without the support and encouragement needed to overcome challenges. Finally, servant leaders hold their employees accountable. They hold tough conversations with employees when they fall short of expectations or stray off the beaten path? Such conversations are not meant as a gotcha or a means of baseless criticism. Similar to how a parent disciplines a child; accountability reinforces a love based on learning; not enabling or avoiding.
Many will refuse to incorporate the term love into their leadership approach out of fear for misinterpretation or misunderstanding. The lesson here is not the label used to describe these actions, but rather the actions themselves. As the workforce is changing, employees are demanding things like care, compassion, recognition, and praise. They want to be loved.
For more insight into how to love as a Servant Leader, read James C. Hunter’s book The Servant.