The 4 Letter Word That Makes a Great Leader

It’s Father’s Day as I write this. 

My relationship with my father wasn’t perfect. Sometimes I would talk endlessly to him while he’d be working on the car. He wouldn’t talk back. At least I don’t remember that he did. Perhaps my timing was impeccably terrible. After all, he was deeply immersed in solving a problem. It’s as though the project had tentacles that wrapped around his mind and shut off his mouth and his ability to make eye contact with me. 
I was pretty sensitive back then. I had a way of making a bad impression swell to one hundred times its actual size. I could imagine all sorts of painful scenarios that for the most part, never came to pass. I’m sure it was the general ignorance that comes from youth. 
I had plenty of proof that my parents cared about me. I had my own room in a house that provided shelter from the rain, the cold, and the wind. I had my own TV that I could spend hours watching. (I didn’t, since there were only 3 or 4 channels to choose from.) I had a dresser and a closet full of clothes that weren’t embarassing to wear. I even had my own stereo to listen to the hits of the day – narrated by the late Kasey Kasem. 
Later my Dad apologized for not taking the time to develop a relationship with me. It was then I knew he really did love me. 
We Have a Hard Time With This
Leadership can be a lonely job. We have stuff to do so we run the risk of offending people by dictating to them what we need done. To steel ourselves against the resistance, we may tend to think of our team members as gears in a big machine. We use them to move the machine forward. If they let us down, we just plug someone else in to keep the machine moving. 
Then we might feel guilty. Someone gets hurt. Maybe in their pain and anger they say something that hits us right in the heart. We feel bad so to atone for our sins we get too permissive. We hope that being lenient will placate the rest of the team. Then we run the risk of losing the control we worked so hard to get. 
The truth is leadership is hard. People are a mess. So are you. 
So what do you do? Should you just give up and let someone else take over? As tempting as that is, there is hope for leaders in a messy world. Its found in …

The Most Powerful 4 Letter Word a Leader Can Learn
Fathers and mothers lead their families with this. 
If leaders used this, they could move from good to great. 
The 4 letter word is Love. 
This is the second lesson in John Wooden’s 12 lessons on leadership. 
Here are 4 ways you can lead with love. You can remember them with the 4 letters in the word L-O-V-E.
1. Lead instead of dictate.
What is the difference between leading and dictating? 
Dictating is exercising absolute control over others. It’s saying, “It’s my way or the highway.” That’s why one of my friends spent 3 days in a boat headed to Miami.  He did it to escape the oppressive conditions he experienced in Cuba. 
Dictators don’t win followers. They demand them. 
Leaders are different. They use persuasion to win followers. They use logic and emotional appeals to get people to do things. Ultimately, they lead others to embrace an idea as their own. And who doesn’t want to follow her own desires? 
Leaders direct people this way because they love them. Dictators make demands because they’re afraid that if they don’t, their people won’t follow them. So they take that choice away. 
And that’s not love, is it? 
2. Open your ears and listen. 
Leaders know their teams are made of living, breathing people, not gears in a machine. 
So they treat them like people. They listen to what others have to say. They ask them questions so they can learn, earn trust, and solve problems. 
And nothing shows you care more than sincere and open listening, does it? 
3. Verify that you care. 
Leaders have to exercise discipline. There’s no denying that a work team needs to accomplish things. A leader’s job is that of a director. She msut see everyone’s role as important. She must position her team members to maximize their efforts, abilities, and production. 
But sometimes a leader should be flexible. 
I used to have a part-time job every Saturday. One of those Saturdays I found out that my daughter would be graduating. I didn’t have the chance to ask off before the schedule was made, so I told my supervisor about the conflict. I acknowledged that she had scheduled me to work and was willing to keep that commitment. 
She told me to go the graduation instead. 
I knew then that she really did care about my life outside work. 
4. Expect that you won’t like everyone the same. 
There’s a difference between liking and loving. 
That might look like a blurry line to you. It may sound like a game of semantics. Maybe it feels like I’m trying to split hairs with a butcher knife. 
Not quite. 
Love means you treat everyone fairly. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know that some people annoy you more than ten people dragging thier fingernails down a chalkboard. Others you’ll love more than Santa Claus when he empties a full bag of gifts into your living room. You’ll have some people who will go the extra mile to do a good job even it means they have to dig deep to discover something to do. Then there are those who just do what’s necessary to stay on the payroll. 
You like the people who do more for you better, don’t you? 
But just as you’d love your children, you should love all the people on your team. That means that however much you like them, you will treat them as they deserve. In other words, people earn the respect they get, don’t they? 
Now Start Using that 4 Letter Word in Your Leadership
You’ve seen what it means to lead with love. 
Lead instead of dictate.
Open your ears and listen. 
Verify that you care. 
Expect that you won’t like everyone the same. 
If you’ll lead with love, you’ll see them as your family. 
You’ll be motivated to do what is best for each of them. 
And you’ll have the best team you possibly can. 
Start leading with love today and you’ll be a great leader tomorrow. 
Posted in Leadership, Love, Uncategorized.

I’m a Writing Coach, a Promotion Strategist, and an Entrepreneur. I help writers engage readers, sell their ideas, and build their tribes. I design non-sleazy promotion plans for artists, writers, and other creatives. When I’m not writing, I love coffee and conversation.