What’s Love Got to Do with Leadership?

Posted 02.14.2013

candyheartsBeing the topical kind of guy that I am, on Valentine’s Day I find myself asking what does love have to do with leadership? As it turns out, quite a lot I think.

In surfing the web while writing this post, I came upon this Wikipedia article which addresses the differing concepts of love from culture to culture. It was a good reminder of how limited my perspective can be.

That said, having been raised as a Christian in the Western world, my understanding of love starts with the different definitions used by the ancient Greeks. Of course, there was eros which may have a lot to do with Valentine’s Day but usually shouldn’t have a lot to do with leadership. Then there’s agape which when described as a love for humanity and the divine is more relevant to the practice of leadership. And, of course, there’s philia which is the love that is concerned with the well being of friends. There are certainly leadership applications in that definition of love.

When I think of ancient Greece and love, the definition that comes most immediately to mind is the one written in a letter to the Corinthians by the Apostle Paul:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

I’ve often thought over the years that if you substituted the word leadership for love in the passage above, you’d have a pretty good starting point for what effective, sustainable and inspiring leadership looks like.

As I’ve written here before, one of my favorite definitions of leadership is that it’s a two part job. The first is to define reality. The second is to offer hope. Paul more or less said the same thing when he encouraged another group of ancient Greeks, the Ephesians, to speak the truth in love.

What’s your perspective? Is there a connection between love and leadership? How does your answer affect the way you lead?