What's love got to do with it? The power of love and its impact for leaders.

What’s Love got to do with it?


I first heard that in a speech by Colonel Art Athens who was at the time, the Director of the Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership at the US Naval Academy. It was a phenomenal speech about the power of love and its impact for leaders. The concept of love as a leadership trait is not well established and I feel its execution is lacking or nonexistent in many leaders today. A variety of excuses for this may surface but none are valid…

“I’m teaching them how to be tough… I’m teaching them to have grit… I’m teaching them how to get up and dust themselves off.”

Nonsense. Followers may demonstrate those skills, but not because you are teaching them to do so by adding stressors to their work. They are doing so because they must. Not a great strategy to build a dedicated, loyal and an engaged workforce. Life and work are hard enough, must we also be forced to overcome poor leadership? This type of leadership is transactional not transformational.

Simon Sinek, in his outstanding book Start With Why, espouses that people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. Admiral James Stockdale’s primary lesson from 7.5 years of brutal captivity was that Trust and Purpose build Will. Great leaders build Will. Love is crucial to building trust and purpose in our people. I believe Sinek’s, as well as many of the other great leadership teachings, map back to Stockdale’s foundational lesson learned. If leaders build trust and establish purpose, they build Organizational Will. Leaders who choose the power of love to cultivate these sought-after goals will attain greater organizational health. Building will is how to teach toughness, grit and perseverance. I have the will to overcome. Because when you do it the right way, you end up with loyal, devoted people who want to achieve the shared purpose. A great definition of leadership—The art of positively influencing a collective group to achieve a shared purpose.

This is a simple yet powerful blueprint to achieve results. I believe this sort of leadership requires love. I believe that leaders who authentically love their people are the most capable of building trust and establishing purpose. Followers don’t follow because of what leaders do; they follow because of why they do it. A leader who genuinely serves their team does so best with love in their heart. This is not the soft heart, not the bleeding heart, but the heart of a leader.

Glen Miles
Talent Optimization Advisor

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