What does love have to do with commitment and leadership? Love is at the core of extraordinary leadership and all human relationships. In the traditional definition of leadership where one guides or directs another, it is all about creating bonds and relationships with those you lead. Yet there is a missing piece in training for such leadership.
I prefer to begin with a personal form of leadership development that aligns your heart, mind, and spirit to live the life you truly desire and to achieve your goals and dreams. Achieving truly desired and lasting results is impossible without love and commitment.
Leadership (personal or otherwise) is much harder without an emotional dose of good will and affinity that shows others you care for them. People can sense when love is present even if they can’t or don’t articulate it. Leadership without love is control and the bane of human existence. People don’t like to be controlled, cajoled or manipulated — but they do want to be loved and know that they matter.
For example, a child knows when its teacher emanates love. Children in a loving teacher’s classroom thrive, both personally and academically. Yet we don’t teach love in education. Why? Primarily we view education as we do leadership: an intellectual exercise full of the facts, figures, strategies and tools that you need to learn to get what you want or to get the job done. These things are called hard skills.
When was the last time you heard about an MBA leadership course on love? Chances are you haven’t, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fruitful.
Love and compassion sprout empathy which is the fruit of human nature. In the corporate world and academia, these are often referred to as soft skills. Rather than being referred to as soft skills, how about: human skills that produce extraordinary results in the home, school and workplace?
You may have read the quote by W. H. Murray in his book The Scottish Himalayan Expedition: “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too ...“
Notice that even commitment— a critical leadership skill— expressed this way has a spiritual connotation that requires faith grounded in love.
There is a process essential to achieving goals and producing results that I call the “circle of commitment" — declare, act, complete and celebrate. Absent love and the underdevelopment of one or more leader behaviors — visualize, organize, harmonize and energize — a leader may get stuck somewhere in the circle.
I call this a “commitment paradox,” defined as an unwholesome attachment or obligation to an outcome. When love is present, it transcends any unwholesome attachment and obligation to the outcome and moves the leader and the team through their commitments with ease. It is safe to say the love fertilizes the completion of every amazing goal and dream.
Why is that? The answer is simple: our ego’s unwholesome attachments and obligations can get in the way of our true commitments.
Remember, when you lead others, or yourself, it is usually to achieve some kind of goal. In the academic and business worlds, there is a heavy emphasis on results; and rightfully so, for you can’t achieve goals without results. And in all leadership there are obligations and attachments. It is the unwholesome part that we should worry about. Let’s take a let at that.
The emotional memories stored in the brain trigger our attachments to how things should turn out and the obligations we feel we should make. The operative word is “should,” not “shall.”
Unwholesome attachments lead to linear thinking and unwholesome obligations lead to guilt — our own or that which we impose on others. With a narrow focus and driven by guilt, it is hard to change directions when thing aren’t going as planned. That is where the love fertilizer comes in to help you break you free of the paradox.
Think of a time when you felt stuck in a commitment and couldn’t find your way out. Ask four questions and keep the focus on you, since you are the only one who can change what’s not working or add what’s missing for you:
1. Is love present? If not, what emotion is present?
2. What’s missing in an action or the relationship?
3. If love were present, how would I be feeling right now? Be specific.
4. Standing in love, what action shall I take now?
Whenever you are stuck, you can use these “commitment paradox” weeding tools to dig out unwholesome attachments and obligations, fertilize love and get back into healthy action.
Debra J. Slover is an award winning author and founder of the Leadership Garden® Legacy. Her goal is to seed and nurture 11 million Leadership Gardens by 11/11/11 through the U.N.I.Q.U.E. series of youth and adult leadership empowerment books. An educator, speaker and advocate for creating positive home and school climates, her expertise stems from seven years as a classroom teacher, 20 years directing a statewide youth leadership in prevention program in schools and organizing 20 state and national youth-led conferences. A mother of five/grandmother of seven, she resides with her husband in Albany, Oregon. For more information please visit www.LeadershipGardenLegacy.com