A couple of Saturdays ago, my sweetheart Arthur and I were talking business. (One of our many points of compatability is a shared passion for business geekery!)
Having attended a leadership conference the day before, I asked him for his definition of leadership.
(I believe leadership skills can be taught, and I also believe that, just like anything, certain people have a special talent. He’s one of them.)
His definition surprised and touched me.
In essence, he said that true leadership comes from the heart; true leadership is about the heart and soul of each individual as well as the heart and soul of the organization.
This, he pointed out, is the place of the gift – the treasure that the business offers, the treasure that the individual offers.
Being in and acting from this place puts the organization and its leaders in a place of authentic power, which in turn leads to growth, evolution, and health.
And it also helps make clear how the leader can help the individual grow in personally fulfilling and meaningful ways, even as they help propel the business forward.
So how, he asked, can we open our hearts to the people we want to lead? It’s only then that we find love and understanding for who they are, for their weaknesses as well as their strengths. And it’s only then, acting from the heart, that we can help them see the path forward – and instead of asking them to follow us, ask them to walk with us along that path.
I found myself agreeing instinctively, yet I had to think for a while before I could find instances of leadership with love in my own corporate experience. And no question, those were the leaders I most appreciated, respected, and was eager to work with – and for whom I inevitably did my best work.
So, yes. True leadership comes from the heart, with love.
I would add that leadership is also about clarity, rigor, and disruption.
Clarity, to help the leadership team define and then communicate what they take a stand for (which goes far deeper than pretty lists of values and carefully wordsmithed mission statements).
Rigor, to hold everyone accountable for adhering to those definitions in every decision, action, and statement.
And disruption, because it’s part of a leader’s role to shake things up, to prevent stagnation and complacency.
This is where Arthur reminds me to start with heart and soul. I can be a bit forcefully practical, and he brings me back to remember that while disruption and change are necessary, we must understand the impact on individuals.
As leaders, we must ask ourselves, how will this disruption arouse their doubts and fears? And knowing that, how can we work with them and help them, as Arthur suggests, see the way more clearly so they will walk with us on the path?
It’s not as easy as just laying down a mandate.
But by helping others grow, we grow ourselves, and we grow our organizations.