Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #177: Can You Really Lead with Love?
True servant leadership requires you to place others above yourself. Today, Chris and Perry talk about what it means to lead with love, especially when you don’t feel like it.
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Read the Transcript:
Perry Holley: Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach.
Chris Goede: And I’m Chris Goede, Vice President of The John Maxwell Company. Welcome and thank you for joining. We’re excited to, again, be coming to you, not only audibly, but we’re-
Perry Holley: Two guys with a face for radio.
Chris Goede: That’s right. And we said are you sure you want to do this with us? But we are excited about just the content that we’re going to talk about today. We happen to be recording together on Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what that says, but we’re here hanging out in the studio with our team and recording. But we’re going to talk about, can you really lead with love? And this has been a topic, I know you’ve been entrenched in. We’ve been in rooms together with executives that this comes up and they’re intrigued by it. And so, I’m super excited that you put some content around this for us today. This has been something that, not only for us in corporate environments and rooms, but also internally as the John Maxwell Enterprise, our family.
Joel Manby, who wrote the book Love Works, has come on to our team. He’s become one of our thought leaders, he’s going to be helping us with speaking engagements and developing content. And so what he’s doing, coming from where he came from, brings credibility. He’s a CEO of SeaWorld before he retired, held several other CEO positions as well. And he believes that this was the difference maker. And so, I guess, if he could lead at that level, then we can help, not only our teams and ourself lead that way, but maybe somebody that is listening to us today.
So thank you for listening. Thanks for joining us wherever you are. If you want more information on this or Joel, and some of the things we’re doing with him from an executive level, or maybe even some digital content, don’t hesitate to visit johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast. And just leave us a note there, let us know what you’re looking for and our team will be more than happy to help you.
Perry Holley: Fantastic. Yes. Well, I was doing servant leadership and we covered several times on this podcast about what is servant leader? How do you become a servant leader? And I told you some people really push back on that term. They think, can you call it something else? And I said, well, we could call it lead with love, but then their heads really would explode to do that. But we met Joel, I met Joel and got a copy of his book and he was gracious to give that to me. And then I said I’m going to read this and got the feeling, like you said, CEO at SeaWorld, how did he use that? And I had a couple of real ahas. I began to look into it a little more deeply. And that’s what I really wanted to cover today was what does that actually mean? And it’s not what most people think. And Joel was very clear in his book, it’s love the verb, not love the noun.
Chris Goede: That’s right.
Perry Holley: And I will explain that here. But for me, this became something you can really think about as a leader, if you want to, like we say at the top, increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, increase your ability to drive results and engage, people will start to buy in. It makes a lot of sense to me now.
Chris Goede: Yeah. And I like what you say, where it’s a verb, right? It’s something to where as a leader, it’s there’s action behind what we’re talking about here. Although most of us think about this word love, and it becomes about the feelings and we’re going to kind of differentiate the two and how you can lead with love. Which really kind of made it jump off the page to me, especially because we’re passionate about the methodology of the five levels of leadership where level two, you believe it, I believe it, is the foundation. Maybe that’s because where we’re naturally bent towards it being the best level.
But here where your influence grows, because your ability to connect with people and your actions behind that allow people to feel included, maybe feel not necessarily loved, but can live that out. Where most leaders, the traditional side of things that you may be used to, or maybe you work in an environment of this, where people believe it’s just about the power and the authority of leading people is the foundation of how they lead. And we would say that’s not true. That’s where you have a problem with turnover and retention and all those things. So love, let’s dive in.
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Perry Holley: I was laughing when you were talking because of thinking like Joel or one of the other said that love them, I don’t even like them. How am I supposed to lead with love if I don’t like them? I go, yeah, that’s actually a great point. Can you lead with love if you really don’t like them? If it’s the verb, you can.
Chris Goede: You can, absolutely. I love it.
Perry Holley: So that’s what we’re talking about. And you made an interesting point about the word power versus the word authority and that this was a big learning for me as well. That power is when you use what we would call level one, your title or position, is what you lean on to get others to do what you want them to do. People follow you because they have to. When you have authority though, it’s really, when you get people to want to do what you want them to do and that’s a level of influence that you have with them. Power kind of destroys relationships, power gets in the way of your influence, but authority feeds relationships. And that buy-in, that increases your influence with people around you.
Author James Hunter, a book I had picked up kind of by accident, but this kind of got my attention now. So I’m being drawn to things.
Chris Goede: You’re in it, yeah.
Perry Holley: He got me to thinking about how do you build authority? And it really is with service and sacrifice to the team, which now I’m back to servant leadership, and that service and sacrifice, he would say, was how do you do that? That’s built on love and the verb.
Chris Goede: That’s right.
Perry Holley: And so that’s what really got this whole thing going is can I lead with authority, which is my influence through, service and sacrifice that’s fed by love?
Chris Goede: What I love about what you just said a minute ago, and I don’t want our listeners to miss this, you said, I’m kind of drawn to the topic right now. So you see this book, you see this article, you see, it reminds me of like from a personal growth standpoint, I just want to give you tie, like when you go and you’re like, man, I can’t wait to get that blue car. Then they’re like, no one’s got that blue car. And then all of a sudden you get the blue car and you see that blue car everywhere else, right? And you are an avid learner and consumer of content and product, this is where your mind’s at right now.
So leaders, I don’t want you to miss that little comment from a personal growth standpoint, even Perry who has tons of content all around, yet now he’s on a topic, he’s on a different topic, he’s curious about it. And so things are just showing up. That’s giving him a deeper appreciation and understanding for that. And so if you have that mindset as a leader, whether it’s about love or not, so this is kind of little sidetrack here for us, it’ll help you with your personal growth.
Perry Holley: Yeah, we talk about bias and availability bias, so now it’s available, I’m looking for it everywhere.
Chris Goede: Yeah. So let’s talk about this real quick. We said, hey, love is a verb and we need to change the way that we think about that word. I think that’s a pretty large hill we’ll have to climb up, but hey, let’s start taking baby steps and try to figure that out. And so most of us do think of this as a noun where it’s something where we have an emotion tied to a, it’s something that there’s a feeling tied to the word love. Whereas we want to look at this as a verb where we’re really talking about your behavior, your skill sets, your actions towards leading people. And so you can’t, I love this, you put this in my notes here just to kind of a comment I think is awesome, where it says you can’t command someone to have a feeling or emotion, although I’ve tried both personally and professionally, neither have gone well, for someone else, but you can behave well toward them. And that is that act of living out the love word.
Perry Holley: And that was exactly is why I put that in the notes was because that was the game changer for me, was can you command someone to have a feeling? No, but I can behave well toward others and get to that verb type of thinking. Even if you never use the words leading with love. And I know in leadership circles, we are in front of a lot of audiences. And I’ve actually posed this in a number of audiences recently because I’m so focused on it and say, what do you think about this? And it’s not a phrase people want to use, it sounds soft, mushy because we are thinking about it in terms of the feeling. But if you begin behaving lovingly, the verb, you’ll increase authority that we talked about and influence, which then leads to this higher engagement and performance. So we’re going to go through, I actually want to take them through a number of the words that what would define this in a loving way. But to me it really was about knowing that it’s more than a feeling. This is about action.
Chris Goede: Yeah. I was reminded of a quote that as we were kind of preparing for this, and then you even just said, I think Joel says, “Love them? I don’t even like them.” And there’s this great quote from Vince Lombardi who those that maybe don’t follow football like Perry and I do, is legendary coach Green Bay Packers, where he said, “I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates, but as a leader, I must love them. Love is loyalty. Love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization.” What a powerful quote.
Perry Holley: Yeah. Leaders talking about feelings for others, not actions toward them, it’s not that normal. And most cultures, especially in the US, we associate love with a feeling, just naturally the way we use the word. As long as I have a good feeling towards someone or something, then I can say I love it. We generally do not associate love with anything other than positive feelings toward each other. And that’s why that whole thing about can I love them, I don’t like them, type of thing comes up. So to me, it’s starting to differentiate itself from feelings to actions.
Chris Goede: And in the English language love has a narrow thought process, a narrow definition. But if you back out, and some of our listeners probably know the difference between those, but in the Greek, it actually has several different words tied to it. So you have the eros, which is the sexual attraction that you have a love. You have the philos, which is kind of the brotherly reciprocal love with each other. And then the agape love, which is the unconditional love that’s rooted in the behavior towards others, whether they deserve it or not. And they have that as kind of the breakdown.
This is very relevant to me because my wife is very passionate about this topic. And matter of fact, she and Joel got into a conversation recently and Joel’s like, “We need to go have dinner as couples together because we got to unpack this word agape.” And I was like, “No, Joel, I don’t know. I hear it at home.” But most people don’t understand that. And that is true unconditional love.
Perry Holley: Now that’s the key. And that’s where, before we start to wrap this up, I want to give a few words and I’d love to get your feedback on it. But if I’m going to make a deliberate choice to behave in a loving way toward others, no matter how I feel about it, it’s not about feelings, it’s about making a choice. Let me talk about some specific, I’ll use some specific words and then you kind of give me how it might show up in the workplace. But the first one, love is patient. How would that show up?
Chris Goede: Well, the first thing I think about is a word that you and I have dropped on here several times, which is consistency. Being able to have self control as a leader, no matter what the conversation is, no matter what the situation is, and to have consistent behavior, I think that shows a patient side of leading and or connecting or influencing with your people.
Perry Holley: So that’s an action associated with the verb love. So if I said love is kind?
Chris Goede: Yeah, the action here is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s like being kind to others. How are you giving attention to them? How are you showing them that you have a little bit of appreciation? Or maybe even you’re just being encouraging to them. I’ll give you just a quick example, today we had a team meeting and after the meeting I stayed on with one of our team members who’s working through some things and I just said, “Man, how’s it going? How’d it go? What’s the trip? Man, you’re doing the right thing.” And just connected with and encouraging just from a kind, those are the actions behind leading with love.Perry Holley: But what if I don’t like this person? What if I really don’t like them?
Chris Goede: Remember, we’re not talking about the feeling Perry, it’s about the behavior towards others.
Perry Holley: Well done. That was a test. I was just wanted to see, okay.
Chris Goede: Perry not only helps me with the content, but then he makes sure that I’m paying attention. Right?
Perry Holley: So love demonstrates humility.
Chris Goede: Yeah. For me, this is really about just being transparent. We’ve said, hey, trust is a accelerator when it comes to influence. And the more that you can be authentic, the more trust you’ll have, which the more trust you have, it will increase your influence. But that all starts first with having that humility side.
Perry Holley: What about love is respectful?
Chris Goede: For me, this is no matter what the topic is, no matter what’s going on, no matter where they are from, Perry, you’ve developed some content for us just recently around inclusive leadership and I think when you think about it from this standpoint where people feel valued, they feel needed and respected, that is being respectful.
Perry Holley: What if I said, love is selfless?
Chris Goede: That that’s just, and leaders go last. And make sure that as a leader, you’re putting the needs of others in front of yours and rolling up your sleeves when you need to and getting in there. And maybe there’s shifts that you need to take as a leader in order to serve somebody, whatever it might be, be willing in to do that from a standpoint, that leaders go last.
Perry Holley: But that does mean you need to know the needs of others on the team.
Chris Goede: You do need to know that.
Perry Holley: If I said, love is forgiving?
Chris Goede: Perry, did you put this one on here because Sarah asked you to do this? This may be the hardest one for me personally. Maybe it’s the hardest one for you as a listener to where, hey, tension is good in teams, right? We’ve got to have that, but we got to make sure that we are able to leave that in certain meetings and not keep it personal. And you’re able not to make sure you don’t hold resentment towards other people so that you can forgive and move on.
Perry Holley: And the last one on my list, but definitely not the last one, would be love is honest.
Chris Goede: Yeah. I think the greatest thing for me around this is your team needs to know the truth. They need to know whether they’re performing or they’re not performing. And I think if you continually lead with honesty and truth, you never have to remember what you said. I remember our parents saying, “Hey, if you tell a lie, you make up a story, you better hope you remember it. It’s a lot easier just to tell the truth.” So don’t mislead people.
Perry Holley: So if I follow this right, that if I was patient, kind, humble, respectful, selfless, forgiving, and honest, I just led with love?
Chris Goede: You did.
Perry Holley: And I didn’t even have to like them.
Chris Goede: You did. And you wouldn’t even have to use the word love. You don’t have to walk up and go, I love you. That’s right. That’s right. So, well, listen, as we wrap up here, let me close with this. This is for leaders, influencers, this is for, even if you don’t feel like you’re an influencer, then I would wonder if you listen to any of our other podcasts, because all of us are influencers. I think there’s really two things that we need to think about as we wrap up today, are we stretching ourselves to be able to lead like this? Are you stretching yourselves to grow like this? As I mentioned earlier with Perry and just having a lens in something he’s in right now and so he’s stretching every time he sees a book, an article, whatever it might be, he’s stretching himself to say, man, I want to learn more. Are we doing that as influencers?
And then the second thing is serve. So not only do I want you to stretch yourself, but are you really serving your people?
Perry Holley: Service and sacrifice.
Chris Goede: Service and sacrifice. Are you serving your people? And are you leading with love? Maybe without even using the word. Matter of fact, you probably don’t even want to use the word, walk and go, “And I love you today Perry, I want to be kind to you.” Don’t go about that way. So man, just think about it. Continuous stretch yourself in this area. It’ll serve you well. And then continue to serve those on your team.
Perry Holley: Man, good stuff. Thank you Chris. And thank you all for joining. Again, as Chris said, if you want any more information about what we’re doing here, about the five levels, 360 leader, you can find all that information at johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast. We love hearing for you. Please leave a question. It really helps me with the content development, I love hearing from you. And as always, if you don’t know it, let me tell you from now, we love you and we appreciate you joining us. We’re very grateful for you.
That’s all today from the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.
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