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Love, the often overlooked key to effective leadership.

In the January 25. 2021 Gapingvoid Culture Design Group post titled The battle of hearts is what wins wars, They talked about Julius Caesar and his victory over Pompey The Great at The Battle of Pharsalus in the Roman Civil War. They explained that while Pompey was the favourite on paper to win the battle, Caesar had a secret ingredient: “He loved his men. He had a deep, personal connection with them. It was real, it wasn’t faked, and his men knew it. This personal touch was something Caesar was always famous for. It allowed his army to operate at a much higher level because his men knew that when Caesar gave an order, it was for the right reasons, and so they obeyed more willingly.”

Jimmy Capra is a retired DEA agent with 27 years service in the Drug Enforcement Administration. His last assignment was the Director of International Operations. Prior to joining the DEA he served in three branches of the US military. Jimmy writes and speaks about leading from the heart and stresses the importance of caring for and loving the people you have the privilege to lead. In his book Leadership at the Front Line Jimmy writes, “If you truly want to make a positive difference in your organization, learn to fall in love with those you have been entrusted to lead. Now, please understand, love can be very uncomfortable because it requires honesty, tact, consistency, and a constant drive for excellence.”

I have also heard a number of military leaders talk about the importance of loving the men and women they had the honor to lead.

It is easy to write off ‘Love’ as one of those “soft skills” or simply as “touchy feely crap”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Demonstrating love for the people you have been entrusted to lead as Jimmy Capra describes it is hard. It is hard and it is necessary if you want to have a highly functional, long-term, sustainable culture of learning, leading, inclusion and belonging. It is also critical if you are striving to inspire the pursuit of excellence in the people you have the privilege to lead.

Loving the people you have the privilege to lead means that you have to care deeply about them as people, as individuals, as sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, husbands, wives and partners and mothers and fathers not just as employees. This means learning about their hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations. This is what great leaders do and why, when people talk about the great leaders they have experienced they usually say, “He or she cared about me, and cared about the people on this team. They believed in us and they invested in us.” As a result those people would go to hell and back for that leader. It also creates a culture where people care about their peers and teammates.

When you feel like your leader cares about you, loves you, believes in you and is invested in you then you also feel that sense of Belonging that Owen Eastwood talks about.

Learn to love the people you lead. Let them know you care about them. People want to feel a sense of belonging. They want to feel valued and that they matter. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. When they know you care they will rise up and do great things.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning and enjoy the journey. The Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop was created for aspiring leaders and frontline leaders to help you on your leadership journey.

Brian Willis