Have you ever been afraid of the dark? I recall driving home late one night as a young teenager and pulling up to my Mom’s house. The basement door had been left open while I was out with my friends. I immediately thought, what if someone was in there? It was one of those moments I felt a creepy suspicion something wasn’t right. In an attempt to avoid the dark, creepy basement I walked around to the front of the house and tried to enter there. The door was locked! I hesitantly circled back around and summoned up my courage and approached the basement door again. I came up with a strategy. The light switch was way across the basement next to the stairs leading up to the basement door. I held my breath and entered. Immediately, I closed the basement door and locked it. In the midst of the darkness I hustled to the light switch far across the room in front of the steps. A few feet away from the switch with my hand reaching out to turn on the lights, a HUGE bump sounded behind me! Someone or something was in the basement. With Ninja like reflexes, I turned the light on to face my intruder. I flipped around in my best Bruce Lee stance with clinched fists yelling at the top of my lungs fully prepared for combat. There he stood…a tiny, small, scared grey and white cat that had ran full speed into the sliding glass door I had just closed and locked behind me. He was staring at me blinking his eyes wondering what had happened. He had run full speed into the sliding glass door in an effort to escape. I finally came to my senses and with my legs trembling from the jolt of fear; I gladly walked back over and let him out. I will never forget that night and how paralyzing fear made me feel. It was so real I had trouble climbing the steps to enter my Mom’s house. As I am older now and look back, the story brings a lot of laughter. A small, tiny, helpless little kitty defeated the big tough guy! As I reflect on that story today, I am often reminded about how powerful fear is. A lot of leaders use fear to motivate people. Fear is powerful and can make you do things you would never dream of doing but fear always, always leaves you drained. You may get a lot done with fear, but in time it will cost you as a leader. I have never in all my years of studying leadership found anyone who has every enjoyed being lead with fear. Fear over time can literally cripple morale. My suggestion today is simple. Lead with love. Not the squishy, soft, twisted, spineless, and distorted view of love. I'm talking about real love. Firm, honest, candid, caring, tough love. When you lead out of real love you can guarantee one thing: You will be respected! Period. Here are three long-term benefits you can expect when you lead with love:
Liberates – Leading with love liberates people. It sets them free. It allows them to be all God created them to be and to flourish in their gifts and talents. When people feel love and are supported they aren’t afraid of making mistakes. They are able to flourish. They take risks, are more creative, and end up doing more than they are capable of. Leading people with fear is like imprisoning them. They are constantly looking over their shoulder fearful of making a mistake and the consequences that might follow.
Lifts – Leading with love not only sets people free; it lifts them to a whole new level. If you want to improve you leadership, be a lifter of people. Be like a boxing coach and stay in the corner of your people cheering them on especially when they are beat down. Use your words, body language and actions to show support. When people feel supported, you literally can lift them to new heights. Great leaders know this. Lifting others is a positive way to use your influence and get things done. Leaders, who use fear to lead people, often only get the bare minimum from others. When people are fearful, they only do what was asked and no more. Great leaders get more out of their people by being inspirational and lifting people beyond their capabilities.
Lasts - Leading with love is lasting.The people you lead may forget some of the things you did for them over the years, but one thing they will never forget is how you made them feel. – When you show people love, they will feel it and it will last well beyond your lifetime. It doesn't go away with time and is not easily forgotten. Look at the greatest leaders in the history of the world. The greatest leaders lead with love. Today, years after they been dead and gone we still talk about them. They are still leading from the grave. They will NEVER be forgotten. The greatest legacy as a leader you could ever leave is to be remembered as someone who loved people.
In closing, I ask you one question. Are you leading with love or are you leading with fear? Love is and will always be greater than fear. Rest assured if you are leading with fear, your people are like me facing the kitty that night – crippled! Fearful, small, tiny acts as a leader may seem insignificant to you to get things done, but in the end no one enjoys it! My encouragement to you today: Open the front door with love and lock the dark basement of fear. In doing so, your leadership will never be forgotten.