Love and Leadership

Love and the concept of being ‘in love’ is an universally accepted condition that is evident in every culture. Within distinct cultures, the expression of love varies, i.e the action of what love does. Those actions of love on display broadcast a signal of love evident to all who observe. For example, I love my wife Stephanie. I enjoy spending time with her and I especially enjoy experiencing new beautiful places with her. So occasionally we travel to a new place to see its beauty together for the first time.It gives us so much to talk about and it becomes a shared memory of beauty and wonderful conversation. We are in love. It is what lovers do. Or is it?

I have friends who are in love too (just like we are) and a case could be made for the idea that they should behave like we do, because they have the same condition we have. They are in love. Therefore they too should enjoy experiencing new beautiful places together. Truth is though, they don’t. Does that mean that they are not in love? Not at all. It just means that what love does, is not what it is. What love does in their relationship, is ride roller-coasters together. Go figure.

I think this is especially true in Leadership. What Leadership does, is not what it is. As leaders though, the trap we often fall into is to assign what leadership does, to what it is, because we feel the burden of being able to train others into it, and we need to point to it to teach about it. It could be said therefore, that Leadership is a condition that reveals itself in an infinite number of ways in response to an infinite number of circumstances.

Leading Leaders.

In the end, those of us who lead in leadership, seek to understand Leadership all the more, so that we can more successfully teach about it and convey it to others. So we look for it and when we find it, we place a magnifying glass over it(X) and point to it, so that we can all learn and improve. This is helpful and educational, but it also has a negative connotation. It leads people to understand(as unintentional as it may be), that particular action (X) – is what Leadership does. Our inherent ‘formula/solution’ perspective then creates a new Leadership formula that shows: (X) action = Leadership. When in reality (X) is simply riding a roller-coaster, something I want nothing to do with and which doesn’t work in my world.

Leadership in 3 parts.

I absolutely concede that the actions of leaders, teach us something about their leadership. They reveal aspects of their craft and we can learn from those actions, but Leadership is more than replicating another’s action. Otherwise I should be able to express love to Stephanie on a roller-coaster ride and in truth – I can not. Each circumstance requires uniquely applicable solutions. What becomes paramount in the concepts of leadership we portray to others then, is not just the action (X), but the context of the action and the motivation or intent of the leader in the action(X). These three elements combined, answer not only the action question, but why that action is appropriate and how it is applicable in those circumstances i.e the context of the situation.

Attempting to address all three of these concepts when leading leaders, is a strong way to train your style of leadership or said another way, to transfer a leadership culture. This becomes especially important when developing a successor. Most exiting leaders not only want competence in their stead, but they also want some confidence that the ‘way we do business’ will remain. The only way for that to happen if the originator exits the business culture, is to infuse the principles into the culture and that implies the new decision makers must know which action (X) to choose, in any given circumstance and follow a prescribed intent or motivation.

I would submit that the three elements of action, context and motivation, come closer to describing what Leadership is than simply telling what Leadership does.

Two questions then:

  • If you exited your organization, would the ‘way you do business’ remain?
  • What Leadership culture are you building?