LEADERSHIP AND LOVE
A NEW BOOK
I would like to recommend to readers a new book of mine that speaks of love. This radical new interpretation of love as the touchstone of the Christian message explores the human longing for meaning; the Scriptures; the relational model of the Trinity: the ideas of human vocation, destiny and community; the mystical spiritual traditions; and our own experiences to explain what love is, how we find it, and how it can change the world. Love is critical component of good leadership.
Spiritual leaders insist that people and relationships precede structures and tasks. This implies leaders need to think positively of others, try to understand them, forgive when necessary, and always show compassion. After all, the journey to spiritual leadership begins with an awareness of being loved, not with the leader’s love for others. The latter follows on the former and is a response to the call to leadership. It is a journey in which the leader daily makes decisions based on love. Thus, he or she changes attitudes to life, rejecting selfishness, greed, self-satisfaction, and thus moves away from self-centeredness to the service of others. Appreciating that one can transform leadership with love is a rigorous self-training. When a leader is motivated by a conviction of the transforming value of love, he or she treats others with a natural benevolence, wishes them well before any encounter, appreciates the good in others, and presumes that they will do good. This positive, optimistic approach to others has a healing effect on relationships and opens up the development of a different kind of leadership. Loving and encouraging approaches are more effective than adversarial ones and give the leader far more ability to influence others and draw the best out of them. In such an environment followers sense they are loved and grow as individuals and then contribute more to the common vision and mission.
When a leader focuses on the love of others in daily life, he or she emphasizes simple human qualities that are also a noble part of being human—attitudes that are humanizing, caring, trusting, and supportive. Focusing on others requires tolerance of their differences, dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It means mutual respect, appreciation of each other’s gifts and genuine solidarity. A leader can do so much good to others by allowing them to be themselves, living in interdependence and mutual esteem. For such a leader the welfare of others is as important as one’s own. This includes concern for others’ health and well-being, both material and spiritual. Engaging in the welfare of others calls the leader to delight in others’ growth and advancement, furthering their rights, protecting their justice, and celebrating their achievements and progress.
A spiritual leader who recognizes that he or she is called to love makes a positive difference to other people’s lives by respecting their dignity, empowering them in whatever ways possible, thus releasing their human energy, talent, and dedication. A spiritual leader can look into others’ hearts. Such a leader does not impose views, vision, or priorities, but influences others to be the best they are capable of being. Part of that response will be to help others appreciate their own basic values, enduring purpose, and mission in life. The leader can also train others to be visionaries; helping them to see what others do not, but also challenging them to look at things in a different way. This requires understanding, building connections, giving visibility and significant responsibilities to others, collaborating, challenging constructively, and working toward shared values and mission. Recognizing that one is called to love has serious consequences, for love is very practical and demanding on a leader at every moment of each day.