Every good leader I know has a heart to influence the lives of those they lead. But what does it really take for a leader to gain that influence? The key ingredient, illustrated by a Culver’s franchise owner, might surprise you.
We live in a day where advice about leading a business, a ministry, or family is rampant and readily (perhaps even overly) available.
There is hardly a time when I tap into my Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn account that I don’t see some post or article like the one I saw by Inc. recently: “Top 10 Skills Every Great Leader Needs to Succeed.”
Often such articles highlight the need for leaders to become better motivators, team builders, problem solvers, visionaries, strategic planners, innovators, etc.
All of these skills are certainly needed, but notably missing from many such lists is the most powerful ingredient for influence a leader can possess: LOVE.
Love: Our Greatest Initiative
As Jesus so clearly taught, love is the greatest initiative we can undertake in our leadership:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (~ Matthew 22:37-39, NIV)
Love is What Inspires
One leader I met in Kansas City a couple years ago, whom I will refer to as Tom, viewed love as his primary initiative in his business.
Tom was a franchise owner of a few Culver’s restaurants. In a private conversation, he shared with me how taxing it was for him, as an older man beyond normal retirement age, to manage his stores.
Having found out in our conversation that Tom had ample resources to retire and really didn’t need to work any longer, I asked him what kept him from just selling his franchises to someone else and enjoying a much simpler lifestyle.
In a nutshell, Tom was driven by love. Through his business he saw first hand how God was using him to change the life trajectories of several of the teenagers he had hired.
One of those was a 16-year-old young woman who showed up for work one day with her face swollen and discolored from the beating her dad had given her the night before.
Tom sought to console her and encouraged her to take the day off, wanting to protect her from embarrassment. She insisted on staying, saying that Tom and the Culver’s crew she worked with were the best family she had known and wanted to contribute to his/their success.
Tom’s loving leadership has forever changed the lives of many of the young people who have worked for him. He created a work culture that caused many of them to feel closer to him and their colleagues than they did their own families, which precipitated greater loyalty, devotion, and hard work, leading to a more profitable business. For anyone who has worked with troubled teens before, I’d say that is nothing short of miraculous!
Tom could have caved under the weight of his leadership responsibilities and quit Culver’s. Instead he donned a self-sacrificing love that became a hallmark of his leadership and business brand.
A self-sacrificing love is something that should brand us all regardless of our life-stage, leadership positions, or life callings:
“A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (~ John 13:34-35 NIV)
Love Informs & Instructs
“That’s all well and good. I can see how love can inspire, motivate, build trust and teams, and maybe even improve bottom lines. But what does love have to do with dealing with true business, ministry, or life problems in general?”
Consider the following quote by Carlo Caretto from Letters from the Desert:
“Live love, let love invade you. It will never fail to teach you what you must do.”
Before reading on, ponder that for a moment. “Love will never fail to teach you what you must do.”
Think of some of the greatest challenges you face in your life and leadership:
- Knowing how to instruct, encourage or coach your kids through life’s dilemmas
- Figuring out how to gain generous donors or generate an income and manage those funds
- Finding volunteers or employees that are people of great character and competence, and then motivating and training them well
- Letting someone go, confronting them, or having to be the bearer of bad news
- Determining a direction or negotiating a deal that’s a win/win for all involved
In every experience that flashed through my mind as I typed the above list, when I was driven by a Christ-like, self-sacrificing love, I gained precious insight that informed my decisions, gave me the power to carry them out, and enabled a better outcome than could otherwise have been achieved.
Let the goal of our instruction be love “from a pure heart, a sincere conscience and sincere faith.” (~ 1 Timothy 1:5 NASV)
Peel back the veil of self-protecting professionalism and get more personal and powerful in your influence through a Christ-like, sacrificial love that will never fail (1 Cor. 13:8).
“If I can communicate clearly and cast vision for an earth shattering business or ministry strategy, but have not love, I am just a loud nuisance in the ears of others. If I have the gift to achieve maximum efficiency in my personal or professional projects through exercising wise time and budget management principles, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I can engineer change and be a world-class innovator and problem solver, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (My Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
- How have you seen someone embody a self-sacrificing love in the workplace that has inspired you or others?
- How has having a self-sacrificing love instructed you in a directional decision you’ve had to make in your leadership? What was the outcome?
Leave your thoughts below.