Leading Ethically Only is an educational outreach of Leadership Ethics Online (LEO). Essays range widely--from ethical analysis of the news, to ethical challenges to leaders in society, to personal reflections of an ethical nature. We welcome your thoughts and criticisms to make us better.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Essential Place of Love and Healthy Leadership

What I am about to write is profoundly true, Good Reader, so I ask your careful consideration of these things.  It required years of living to come to these conclusions, and they are offered to you out of love, though I never will see your face.

Love as Attraction and Attachment

During my research for my doctorate, one of the tasks I set for myself was to understand the precise nature of love and hate.  I had to complete this task as I worked on the history of violence among the religions.  The former essentially is attraction and attachment, the latter is revulsion and avoidance.  We can have love, then, for people, places, things, everything.

Speaking biologically, however, our emotional foundations and capacities for love are created in our earliest experiences with our parents and families.  For most of us, that is good news.  For some of us, that is not such good news.  When little babies are welcomed and loved, they become people who welcome and love others into their circles of trust and commitment.  When they are unwanted, even if never told that, their deep and natural emotional needs are not met, and they grow up to become people less apt to trust and commit to loving and natural relationships.  Yet, for those of us who were unfortunately born into less loving families--or who have suffered deep rejections or harms--the good news is, we are not destined to be chained to those experiences.

If a dog is mistreated and abused, we know it will become distrustful and may bite.  It avoids humans because of what it has experienced.  Nevertheless, we also know that such scarred creatures almost always can be helped to heal, if not completely, then at least in wonderful ways to learn again to trust and love again.  Horses and other animals show us this is the truth.

The fact remains that we human beings have our mammalian, biological natures.  And whether we have grown up in healthy love, or been harmed by unhealthy experiences, the good news is we can learn to grow, we can learn to heal, and to experience the great, deep inner need we have to be loved, and to be healthy by loving others.

Love in the Role of a Leader?

Leadership training typically does not include the role of love.  Oh, yes, there are people who talk about "self-esteem" and "self-concept" or "self-actualization."  And these all are related to love.  Yet I have come to believe firmly that we must talk about love openly and honestly, if we are to go deep into the emotional structures that make us who we are, and that affect how we relate to ourselves, our families, our colleagues, our customers, and all people we meet in the world.

Reciprocity is a natural law.  Normal healthy people respond with reciprocity.  If we are loved, we love back.  If we are struck, we strike back.  And, if we want to be respected and followed by our workforces, then we must respect them and follow closely the needs they have as human beings.  Oh, we may be told they are "human assets" or our HR departments may manage them more as "things" than individuals.  But they are human beings, just like you and me.  And they, like us, want to be respected and loved.  They want to give respect and love.

Granted, workplace purposes, goals, outcomes, and relationships are what they are.  It appears to us that there is no place for discussing or considering "love," since this falls into some kind of non-business, subjective, emotional, impractical category.  People must be hired and fired.  Production and business needs demand leaders act based on the balance sheet.  It is my opinion these are half-truths promoted by people whose values and ethics are distorted--and signs that they are disoriented from their own natures as human beings.

We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have

What do you want in your capacity as a leader, or as a person in the workplace?  What do you want in your capacity as a spouse, a parent, a grandparent?  What do you want in your role as a neighbor or citizen?  I write "what do you want?" because your goals as a human being affect how you will or will not arrange your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Because the need for love--and the need to give love--is so fundamental to human nature, I suggest that healthy leaders honestly assess the role of love in your life.

The healthier you are, in terms of healthy love, the healthier your relationships will be with your family, your coworkers, and everyone you meet.  The more love within you, the more love you have to give.  The more love you give, the more love you will receive.  The more that the principle of reciprocity is at work, regarding love, the better you will function, produce, and relate to all in your life.

The reverse is true.  The more unhealthy you are, the less love within you, the less love you have to give to others.  And throughout all your relationships, it will not be love that draws forth people attached to you and loving you, but you will be forcing yourself to coerce, manipulate, and obtain your goals without the aid of that "natural driver," love.


No, there is no conclusion.  There is only a beginning for you, and today is that beginning.  If you want to become a better leader, become more loving.  But this must begin within you, then it will flow out.  If you want to have a better home life, become more loving.  Do not let this depend on others (who you may have scarred yourself!).  This must flow out of you, again and again, regardless of their responses.  Now we are talking about leadership, to begin with you, rather than being a follower, waiting for their lead.

Guess what?  Over time, they will begin to love back.  Because there is that principle of reciprocity at work, in their very nature.  Start nurturing the seeds of love within you today!!

No comments: