“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu
Love is another one of those leadership aspects that people will typically look over. It goes alongside vulnerability; it’s uncomfortable and it can feel as if someone else has control over you. Despite these risks, love is extremely important in leadership.
I feel I need to make a distinction here. The English language is pretty limited when it comes to this term “love.” Someone can be talking about how much they love tacos and in the same breath mention that they love you. In English, love is the single word we have for a strong like or emotional attachment. I want to take this definition further, as I’m clearly not talking about romantic love or the love of tacos. Love, according to dictionary.com (which I will use as the guide in this post), is an intense feeling of deep affection. This need not be romantic, sexual, or familial. However, it is definitely an action and needs to be treated as one.
A long time ago, before I could even imagine myself as a leader, I encountered what would be the only manager that I’ve ever had that did not show me any form of love. Everyone expresses the type of love I’m describing in different ways, but this person was exceptionally rude and never took their time to build me or anyone else up. In that sort of environment, I felt like I could never do anything right, and that I was a failure. I eventually had to leave and transfer out of that location because I was too overwhelmed by the lack of love received from this boss. I’m not sure what happened to them, but I can’t imagine them being in their position for that long without developing a love for the people they lead.
It’s important to love people because no one really wants to be anywhere they don’t feel welcomed or appreciated. It is our jobs as leaders to love people. Yes, we expose ourselves to being hurt, but that’s the trade-off. Fortunately, as Lao Tzu writes, this aspect of love is reciprocal. The person you love is given strength from your love, from your seeking out of their wellbeing no matter what. You are given courage and confidence by loving your people. In turn, you’ll be loved back, which gives you the strength.
I encourage you to think of some practical ways to love your people, to make them feel like they are appreciated. This is going to look different for everyone, and it will take some time to figure out, but it is worth it.