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The Love Connection for Effective Leadership

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

To lead with love is not exactly the first thing you think of when it comes to leadership.  Often seen as weakness in a leader, love has traditionally taken a back seat to the more traditional approach of being forceful and demanding.

But can love really be all that effective in a culture permeated by unforgiving standards?

Drawing from decades of marketing and leadership expertise, Dr. Steve Greene contends that love-based leadership is far more effective than the screamers and authoritarians who seem to dominate industry these days.  In his debut book, Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity, Dr. Greene demonstrates to readers the importance of love in leadership and how it can have a far reaching, positive impact in the workplace as well as family situations.

I recently sat down with Dr. Greene to discuss why love seems to be a forgotten leadership skill, the importance for leaders to love, and strategic ways a leader can create a loving environment for their people.

I sense that this book has been decades in the making.  What was the catalyst for writing Love Leads?

In I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, I took everywhere that the word love appeared and replaced it with “leaders”.  Love is … Leaders do.  And I started to see a connection between love and leaders. It struck me that if God leads us with love then why don’t we lead with love?  It seemed like a pretty simple statement but I couldn’t find anybody who had written about it or any direct reference to God’s love for us is the way He leads us.  He leads us because He loves us.  He leads us toward a certain thing so you’ve got to love.  So, my first sentence is pretty clear as to what my purpose is and how I got to it.  That is … if God is love and I have not loved how then shall I lead?  More importantly, what am I doing trying to lead if I don’t love?  We have all worked for leaders who don’t lead with love.  In any industry we have the table bangers, the screamers, or the job “threateners”.  Those aren’t the kind of folks who bless the Kingdom of God.  That is not how Jesus led.  None of our spiritual models, none of our Bible stories show leadership in that way – that strong, hard, harsh leader.  We’ve got to go the opposite direction and get closer to God. 

Leaders must love is a highly intriguing concept.  Sadly, people don’t see this very often in the people they look to as leaders.  Why is it so important for leaders to love?

Let’s go the opposite way for a second.  Leaders are afraid that it shows weakness.   Imagine a drill sergeant who is soft.  He is leading lives that are threatened every minute by artillery fire and armor.  People in general are much the same way.  We have numbers and quotas to meet, production goals, marketing objectives – everybody keeps score everywhere.  We are afraid of being shown and thought of as being weak and not being able to get the job done.  Whereas, most parents lead their children every moment they are alive.  They are loving.  There is never a doubt to the kid that their parents love them and yet they build corrals and fences and give rules. When you add love to servant leadership that explains everything.  Now, I’m not selfish.  A leader who is selfish may be really strong but in no way demonstrates love.  As soon as we get rid of selfishness and become “you” focused that’s all you really need to get started with love, to really begin to demonstrate it.  That means to not be selfish … “I want”, “I need”, “You will”, as opposed to “Wouldn’t this be in your best interest if …”.

What are some effective ways that a leader can demonstrate love to his/her followers?

One of the simplest ways is to do more talking.  Spend more time explaining the reason why.  Be highly transparent.  Good parents give the reason why most of the time.  That is good teaching.  That builds strong, independent young people.  It does the same thing inside an organization too.  I do not want my organization dependent on me.  Saying things like, ‘Mother, may I?  Can I do this?’  I don’t want them asking permission.  I want to give them the boundaries to work within.  If there is an exception come see me.  The struggles come from a lack of communication.  The more high level we get at communicating the more people are going to really feel like I care.  When I sit down and just talk to people one on one it’s amazing how good the relationship works.  It’s stunning and so simple.  But the bad guys, the big leaders, they want to show up and pound their fists and act mad.  Frankly they do damage that way.  They damage more relationships than they them build up.

How can a leader be tough on standards but yet lovingly demand excellence?

I have an expression that I use: tough on standards, soft on people.  We all make mistakes.  There are mistakes made every day in every department.  So, I’m not mistake focused.  I’m focused on how can I effectively assist people.  This is our system.  This is what we do and how we do it here.  How come we didn’t do that?  Help me understand why this is happening so that I am questioning the issue not the person.  And I make sure I restore an individual.  People will feel bad without me making them feel bad. I don’t attack them.  I take a different approach.  I ask things like:  How did we get here?  How can we improve from this? How did this happen?  What led up to this?  I know as a leader and as a man that sometimes employees are hurting.  They feel bad.  So, I need to restore them even though I didn’t make them feel bad.  I want to release them of that.  I want to coach them back to standards.   This is what we want.  What can I do to help you? You are there to serve.  Servant leaders serve you when you get in that hard place and don’t know what to do.  Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know.  I love it when employees do that.  I will fire you up when you come in and make you feel like you got the answer you need.  To me, that’s the kind of leadership that makes people comfortable and not afraid to make mistakes.

In all your years of expertise in this area what is the number one weakness that you see in those who identify themselves as leaders?

Insecurity.  Insecurity is number one.  There is no question.  I try to be strength focused not weakness focused.  If we can help leaders become more sure of what they do they will get rid of their insecurities.  They are either insecure about reaching a goal, or about how their supervisors are treating them, worried about people talking behind their back, they think their work is not good enough, and so it all passes down.  So, what I am feeling as the head trickles down to the rest of the team.  When I am leading with insecurity everyone around me feels insecure.  I will speak insecurely.  I will use the word “if” a lot in my dealings with employees. So instead of being honest, insecure leaders lash out, yell at employees, because they think that makes people think they are strong and in control.  They think if they do this things will get better.  People notice insecure leaders because they make sure they are noticed.  They yell, scream and shout because they think that is the way to get things done.  Whereas, the quieter I am the more in control things will be.

It’s easy to lead with love when everything is going well but what about those other times when everything feels like it is falling apart?  How does love lead in the face of a crisis?

Leadership can be lulled asleep by success.  We can genuinely believe our press clippings.  When an organization is number one a leader has to manage like they are constantly in crisis mode.  They have to keep reinventing themselves.  That leader has to convince everyone that we have more miles to go.  We aren’t there yet even though we are lapping the market and number one.  I would rather lead optimistic people than pessimistic people.  There is word I talk about in the book called entropy – that all matter moves toward disorganization.  It all falls apart.  I use the closet analogy.  A closet can look real good this week but by next week it’s a mess.  And until I do something it stays a mess.  So, until we do something while things appear to be going well the organism is destroying itself.  As leaders, we need to find our Achilles heel, where we are weak, and take measures to get better in those areas.  That is the mark of a good servant leader – a person who knows where to put his time.

As an author, what is the one thing you want readers to take away from the experience of reading Love Leads?

I wrote takeaways at the end of every chapter with that intention.  My hope is that people will find the nuggets that they need from these areas. They will find the ones that they need. You will read through this book and feel like you know 80 percent of the information already.  But there is another percentage of the book where readers wish they could acquire those qualities … so much so that they will start praying that.  You will start focusing on that.  God will show it to you.  Everything will open up to you.  When the student is willing the teacher appears.  When I throw my arms up in the air and shout, “Help me Jesus,” He appears.  When I am very specific about where I am flawed that is where He shows up and helps me.  He is strong in my weakness. He’s not strong in my strength.  You think you’ve got it go ahead and try it by yourself.  As for me, I am going to bless this weakness over here.  I rely on the Lord’s help.

To purchase Love Leads: The Spiritual Connection Between Your Relationships and Productivity.

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