The Influence of a Leader Who Loves

The Influence of a Leader who loves


John Maxwell declares, “All leadership is influence.” Michael McKinney presses the thought, “Leadership is intentional influence.” A leader who gives in love is a leader who grows in influence. What gifts can a leader give? Here are three gifts of love a leader can bring to the team:

The Gift of Inclusion. The theory and research of Graen and Uhl-Bien demonstrate the difference between employees and volunteers who feel they are part of the in-group or the out-group. In-group members give extra effort while out-group members focus primarily on what is required. The difference between the in- and out- groups is the relationship with the leader. Ethical leaders treat everyone fairly, but there is a difference with the in-group.

Here is the gift: Treat each person with a special, uniqueness that nurtures a high quality, professional relationship with that person. Here are specific ways to make each person part of the in-group:

  • Let each person know how satisfied you are with his or her work.
  • Understand the problems and needs associated with each person’s job.
  • Recognize and express the potential in each person.
  • Use your power and influence to help solve work problems for your team.
  • Come to the defense of an employee or volunteer, even when it cost you.

The simplest acts of favor and support create significant change in a person’s relationship with the leader. The qualities of a unique, productive, and professional relationship between a leader and a member of the team are 1) mutual trust, 2) mutual respect, and 3) mutual commitment. This quality of relationship, this gift of relationship, brings untold benefits. When someone feels they are part of the in-group, he or she will go the extra mile, put in the extra effort, and do what is above and beyond the requirements of the contract.

The Gift of Transformation. Traditional leadership in the command and control model focuses on the rewards and punishments distributed by the leader upon employees. This is a system of carrot and stick with, at various times, leaders providing a little more carrot or stick. There is another form of leadership, a gift of leadership that transforms the tit-for-tat model of command and control into personal motivation for a grander vision and personal significance.

You, the leader, can give a gift that transforms the motivation of employees and volunteers. Be a leader that transforms your team. Help them see the importance and values of the mission of the organization as well as specific goals and challenges. Help them rise beyond self-interest to a greater interest in the greater good. Help them move from the daily grind of work to the potential for professional and personal fulfillment. This gift of leadership, transformational leadership, is a gift of love that influences the vision, motivation, and emotions of others. What are specific ways a leader can give the gift of transformation?

  1. Be a role model of high standards and ethical conduct who does the right thing.
  2. Engage in conversations about the higher meaning of the vision and values.
  3. Use pep talks that encourage high expectations for all team members.
  4. Use symbols and stories to communicate the value of working for the greater good of all.
  5. Praise creativity, innovation, new approaches, and unique solutions to problems.
  6. Listen to individual needs, concerns, and problems with consideration and care.
  7. Be a coach and adviser who provides individualized structure and direction.

You can give the gift of transformation.  You need not be a motivational speaker, a professional therapist, or organizational guru.  However, you need to believe deeply in the mission of your organization.  You need to sacrifice your own self-interest for the greater good.  And, you need to invest significantly and personally in the lives of your team members.  It is only when you are transformed that you may give the gift of transformation.

The Gift of Authenticity. The gifts we have discussed, inclusion and transformation, are valuable if and only if the leader also gives the gift of authenticity. Authenticity: genuine, valid, truthful, faithful, dependable. Bill George, introduced this type of leadership gift in his books, “Authentic Leadership” and “True North.” This is a gift of leadership in which the leader is true to his or her core values. An authentic leader empowers and inspires employees.

How can you develop your authenticity as a leader? First, authentic leadership begins with your self-knowledge, self-regulation, and self-concept. Reflect on your own experience. Your life story is the textbook of authentic leadership. Second, authenticity is forged in life’s difficulties and expressed in optimism and a positive outlook. Moral convictions, balance, and appropriate transparency are signs of authenticity. Third, authenticity in leaders is relational. Indeed, it is a reciprocal relationship where the leader affects the followers and the followers affect the leader. This expression of authenticity is appropriately vulnerable, a great and risky gift from the leader to the team.

Let me share a story. A decade ago I consulted with a manufacturing company in a small town. The plant was part of a large organization. The home office in Chicago was preparing to outsource the work of the plant to China. I was asked to work with the head of the plant to help strategize a way to save the jobs of the employees. I would like to say we succeeded, but the work of the plant was moved to Asia.

In that experience, I came face to face with a leader who loved his people. I remember standing with him in his office that was perched over the plant floor, windows as three sides. He read every book I suggested, shared his inner thoughts genuinely, and carried the concerns of his people in his mind and heart. Standing beside him as he looked from his office to the floor of the plant, I heard a deep sigh, almost a groan. “These people have families and mortgages. I must do everything I can to help them, no matter the cost to me.” Here is a leader who loved his people.

Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.



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