One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Craig Groeschel, “People would rather follow a leader who is always real, than one who is always right.” Rings true for me. Does it for you? If so, how are we supporting this sentiment through development, management, recognition, and reward?
If we look around, I would say that as a society, we have a long way to go in living out and reinforcing the sentiment shared by Groeschel, but deep down I think it’s what we truly want. At the end of the day, regardless of position or power, we are all human beings seeking to be seen and heard, to belong and to be loved. Many of you may cringe just reading that because once again, we falsely label those statements and sentiments as feminine and soft. It’s not feminine or soft to admit that we want to be seen and heard, that we want to belong and be loved. It’s reality.
There is so much pressure from culture and society for us to act like we know it all and have it all together. To lead with answers and opinions. We are made to believe that not knowing something or asking for help is a sign of weakness. We are taught to protect everything we have and control everything we can. These pressures and messages fill us with fear and make us feel insecure. They divide us. What if it’s all just a political game and power play? We’re doing a pretty good job of playing into it and perpetuating fear and insecurity all around us and it’s time for a change.
What if in those moments we were filled with fear and anxiety, instead of fighting back or armoring up we simply dropped the rope or asked for help? Even better, leaned in for a hug? It is awesomely awkward and usually ends with tears or giggles…trust me, I’ve tried it. It takes a ton of courage and requires us to set aside our ego which is hard for everyone. Leading with love means, I’m willing to sacrifice looking stupid or being wrong for the sake of something greater. Are you willing to do that?
It looks like dropping the rope and extending an olive branch first. It looks like allowing someone to be upset and to listen to their side with your mouth shut and your ears open. It looks like admitting you don’t know, you were wrong, or apologizing without trying to defend yourself.
Leading with love requires compassion and commitment. Approaching with curiosity and openness. Leaning in and staying in when things get tough. It requires an understanding that conflict is a natural part of collaboration, and when we work together as humans there will almost always be misunderstandings. Leading with love demands patience, bravery, a whole lot of unlearning from our cultural conditioning, and a shift in perspective that starts inside ourselves.
Listen up. We get so caught up in sharing our insights and opinions. We make assumptions about the perceptions and experiences of others instead of asking for them. This can get us in a lot of trouble and can kill creativity, openness, and safety in an environment. Come in with an open mind and open heart. Ask questions instead of making statements. Invite others into the conversation by asking for their opinion and perspective. Then shut your mouth and be fully present. No defenses, no interruptions. Leading with love means just listening.
Give first. In a world that’s always asking, “what’s in it for me” and conditioned to protect ourselves, it can be really hard to give first. Ask someone what they need and how you can help them without expecting anything in return. This builds connection, creates trust, and it just feels good. We were born to serve. Try it! Get out of your own way by worrying about yourself and see how you can help your boss, your team, your community. Watch the world and your opportunities open up. Leading with love means giving first.
Lift others. It’s so easy for us to look at the negative and point out mistakes. It’s sad but true that humans love to tear others down. We all know when we make a mistake, we don’t need someone to point it out. Now I’m a high accountability person, so I’m not saying that we don’t need to learn from our mistakes. We do! Leading with love means a focus on helping someone see the lesson, being clear about expectations, and inspiring them to try again. Celebrate the successes of others. No one is taking away from your success by getting a little of their own. That is a limiting belief someone taught you to keep you in fear. Leading with love means pointing out possibility and challenging others to be the best they can be.
Leading with fear will get you power and control for a moment, but erodes trust and commitment in the long run. Without trust and commitment, what do you really gain?
Leading with love is more challenging and takes more courage. It requires more time and more energy. It is an investment. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do, and it will pay off big in the end.