Exercising Love

Paul Heagen Purposeful Leadership & Living, Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Over the last two decades serving as a leadership coach, at some point in our conversations I have asked nearly all of my clients to recall someone who has had a lasting positive impact on their life and career. 

Many people paused and went to a different place emotionally in rummaging up the name and the memory. The answers were never someone who was “the smartest person in the room” or “a great business strategist” or “a genius.” 

Invariably, the responses coalesced around some simple themes: This person had my back, or gave me a break when no one else would, or cared so much about a struggle I was facing, or took a risk in hiring or promoting me, or believed in me more than I believed in myself, or took the blame for a failure that was mine.

We call it care. Care for others as people, care for their dreams and struggles, care for their well-being in and out of the workplace, care for their lives and personhood. Care that is not just appreciation, but compassion. 

But more deeply, it is love. 

We get a little tangled up with that word in business, wary about what role — if any — it plays, and certainly dutifully aware of of what it should not be. The struggle might be that we have too limited an understanding of love, wading through the shallows in words like appreciation and care, instead of embracing a definition of love that summons the best of us.

Maybe we should up the game.

It has been said that there is no greater love than when one gives their life for their friends. Broadening that from the context in which it was said, we can start to think of love as imparting worth to someone even (or especially) at a cost to ourselves. 

The greatest form of love — and the one that means the most to others — is sacrificial. Not just a servant leader, but a sacrificial one. It is an exchange of worth and sacrifice. It is a giving of yourself — at a cost — in some way that builds into someone else, or what you hold for yourself is better magnified in someone else.

So, then the questions we have to ask are:

To someone, what do I need to give … and, for that, what am I willing to give up? 

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