Like philosophy, art, history and music, the topic of leadership lends itself to seemingly unending number of interpretations. If I had a dollar for every book, article or Linked In post about leadership … well, you get the point.
That said, here’s another post about leadership. But this one’s also about love.
I’ve been immersed in the field of training and leadership development for over three decades. My experience has helped shape and refine my perspective about what “leading” means. Conventional interpretations include a broad spectrum of behaviors, which include individual task achievement, ideation, overcoming barriers and adversity, inspiring others, etc.
We gravitate to one or more iterations, based on personal awareness, experience and perspective. My bias (and personal interest) is to examine leadership in the context of how one’s behavior demonstrably impacts the growth and development of others, versus goal achievement or gaining market dominance.
Regardless of preference or perspective, leadership rarely (if at all) happens in the absence of human connection, which requires effective and functional intellectual – and emotional – response among and between people.
Though not new, the science of emotional intelligence (sometimes referred to as “EQ”) has quickly gained a rightful place in contemporary training and development conversations. Individuals with a high level of emotional intelligence demonstrate four levels of awareness and behavior, which build upon one another: People with self-awareness [knowing your emotional triggers] have a greater capacity to self-manage [controlling and/or managing positive or negative emotions in a given situation].
Self-management is the requisite behavioral pathway for modeling social awareness [leveraging empathy to meaningfully connect with individuals or groups]. Exhibiting social awareness enables the fourth level of emotional intelligence, relationship management [influencing others through compassion, especially in difficult situations].
Emotional intelligence is the big lever in leadership. It’s also why showing up as a leader can be insufferably hard when engaging with other emotional human beings. Understanding EQ from a cognitive perspective isn’t too difficult. Navigating from one emotional encounter to the next during a busy day is a whole other reality.
Self-management sounds easy, but entails a broad spectrum of challenging behavior: Can the extrovert shut up and listen through an entire meeting, then ask thoughtful questions, versus telling and telling? Can the introvert exhibit the courage to speak up and follow their instincts, when they know they have the right solution? Can someone who models a frantic and busy demeanor slow down enough to convey “thank you” in a genuine a caring way, day after day? Can a more fearful and timid soul demonstrate the willingness and courage to challenge a decision when they know it’s wrong?
All of which brings me to notion of love – and its rightful place in the realm of leadership. At this point in my life and career, I believe that effective leadership begins with love. And the highest form of love requires sacrifice: It begins with one’s ability to sacrifice their ego, in order to allow self-kindness, self-acceptance and self-worth to serve as the foundation for embracing and acknowledging their strengths and gifts, while constantly seeking input and feedback in order to be intentional about growth and evolution.
Humans have a highly refined (and regretful) ability to deny their own goodness, accept their own worth and be okay in moments that require EQ and effective leadership. Conversely, we all know the people in our lives who are skilled in acceptance and great at navigating whatever lies in front of them with a sense of purpose, reflection and grace.
That’s the goal I have been pursuing for all of these years. I have moments of greatness and achievement, followed by missteps and more learning, or as I call it, “being human.” I have come to embrace the journey for the meaning it offers and the rewards it brings.
The journey to lead more effectively is a labor of love.