It is said that one of the most powerful forces in the world is love. Love has spurred the creation of hospitals in some of the most remote villages all over the face of the Earth. Love has moved many men and women to leave their homes–their places of safety and comfort–to go and serve those that are less fortunate and in significant need. Love gave us new and effective medications as doctors and scientists sought to bring relief and healing to those who were plagued by life-threatening diseases. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is a leader’s ability to love that allows him or her to be the most impactful and influential.
The late United States President Theodore Roosevelt has been quoted as stating the following: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This statement has since become a staple in the leadership world due to the obvious truth that it represents. There are many organizations that are led by individuals who are highly skilled and trained and who possess immense volumes of knowledge in specific or multiple disciplines; however, in many cases, there are leaders who fail to connect with their followers in such a way that leads to individual and, ultimately, organizational ineffectiveness. Knowing a lot may get you a job but I believe that loving and caring for those with whom you work will help you to be most effective in the job.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, the five-star general who later became the 34th President of the United States, is recognized by many to be one of the greatest leaders of the 20th Century because he understood the value of caring for those he led. In 1944, he made a presentation to graduating cadets at the Royal British Military Academy and said the following words: “You must know every single one of your men. It is not enough that you are the best soldier in that unit, that you are the strongest, the toughest, the most durable, the best equipped, technically – you must be their leader, their father, their mentor, even if you’re half their age. You must understand their problems. You must keep them out of trouble; if they get in trouble, you must be the one who goes to their rescue. That cultivation of human understanding between you and your men is the one part that you must yet master, and you must master it quickly.”
Leaders love. I have found that those leaders who intentionally seek to invest time and effort in demonstrating genuine care for those persons they lead are the ones that have the greatest levels of influence over their followers. Have you ever had a leader, that if he or she asked you to stay a little longer or to take on additional duties (for no additional pay), that you would do it in a heartbeat? You may just be that type of person, but I would hazard a guess [ you would do this because ] at some point in time, that leader showed you that he or she cared about you – not just as an employee but as a human being.
It really doesn’t take much for us as leaders to demonstrate genuine concern for our people – a simple query into how they are doing (and actually listening to the reply) can go a long way in connecting with your team members as human beings. Did one of your team members celebrate a milestone recently? Maybe they passed a course that they were on for some time, or maybe they celebrated a wedding anniversary or the birth of a child. Do they need to leave work a bit early so that they can tend to an ailing family member? These are all opportunities where a leader can seek to express care for their followers and in so doing, grow the level of influence he or she has with those persons.
In addition to loving those whom you lead, a leader must also love what they do. Unhappy people make others unhappy and a leader who hates what he or she does will find great difficulty in inspiring others to love what they do. Of course, there are elements within every job or career that are not ideal but overall, there needs to be a zeal for what you are doing, as this leads to commitment and commitment leads to progress. When we love what we do, there is a greater desire on our part to invest in our own development through such activities as attending training workshops or seeking academic or vocational certification. As we do these things, we will be setting a good example for our people to follow which will [ improve ] the collective skill-set of the organization.
Remember, we are all leaders in our own right – in our homes, in our communities and within our workplaces – so we need to love and therefore, express genuine care for those under our charge. By the same token, seek to do what you love and love what you do, as this will enable you to become a more inspirational and effective leader in all spheres. Let us love.
(Davidson Ishmael holds a MBA in Leadership and Innovation and is an operations manager in the financial services sector.