Love and Leadership

Blog 2022-02-08 photo Edited

“Oh, how I love you,” he said. One of my graduate school professors, the late Dr. Herbert Baker, professed his love for his students one evening at the end of a class on leadership. At the tender age of 25, it was the oddest thing I’d ever heard.

He explained to the class: To practice leadership, we must allow ourselves to feel love for – and express it to – others. “Philia” love between friends—intimate and authentic, without romantic attraction—is based in wanting the best for the other person, or people in this case.

When Dr. Baker asked to meet me for breakfast a few months later, I got a little nervous. What was that about?

I didn’t need to be worried. He sensed I was unsure about continuing my doctoral program due to mounting tuition debt…he showed he cared. Our candid conversation that morning was about what I wanted for my life. It was a tipping point that kept me going in the program and on the path towards the career I’d wanted since I was 15 years old.

Dr. Baker turned out to be a massively positive influence in my life. As I moved forward in my career, I realized his unorthodox methods were not so unusual. A lot of things started to click for me in understanding leadership – it’s about taking responsibility for your world, and inspiring others to do the same.

Responsibility includes being aware of your own emotions…and conveying them.

I began letting people at work know that I love them…not always with words, but through my actions. In doing so, I began to feel much more fulfilled. And I have built cherished friendships beyond the job which last to this day.

In their book, The Leadership Challenge, James Kouzes and Barry Posner offer love as ultimately the secret of leadership. When leaders genuinely care about – and are invested in – people, their leadership creates a positive impact.

I owe much to Dr. Baker for sharing this invaluable lesson about love and leadership.

This Week’s Challenge: Show people you work with how you love them. It doesn’t have to be with words, as there are a variety of ways you can demonstrate love. Some ideas: Acknowledge their work, encourage their ideas, listen to their concerns, be open about your own challenges, support their growth and development, and check-in beyond the formal 1:1s or team meetings to strengthen connection.

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  1. Doug Brady on February 8, 2022 at 9:41 pm

    Nice Jen.
    Thanks for sharing.

    I’ll think about your challenge and how I can accomplish that, because it’s outside my natural comfort. But I do get it.

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