The Leadership Lesson of Love

By: Lieutenant Brian Ellis

I have never been particularly fond of road trips.  The thought of sitting still for hours with nothing to do other than keeping your eyes on the road can be discouraging.  As my family and I pulled off the highway during a recent road trip, we stopped for some sustenance.  Well, not really, on the stretch of northern California’s Highway-99 in “farm country,” there are limited options.  Maybe it was more of a way to satisfy my boredom and put my mind on my stomach as opposed to the driving blues.  As we were waiting in line to order, a well-dressed elderly man had a stack of papers.  The joy of his face illuminated the room as he approached and handed me one of the 6×8 pieces of paper as he extended a kind greeting.  As fast as he distributed the papers, he was gone.  I turned my attention to the paper which was entitled “What is love?”

My curiosity was channeled as I had recently reread a leadership book called “The Radical Leap by Steve Farber.  In the leadership fable, Farber describes leadership in four words: Love, Energy, Audacity, and Proof. Each part works together to create a framework of leadership.  Love generates energy, inspires audacity, and requires proof, all of which are expressions of love.  Since reading the book I had been thinking of ways to cultivate more love. After all, leadership gurus Posner and Kouzes (In their book “The Leadership Challenge, How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations”) claimed that love is the secret of leadership.  And here I was on the side of Highway 99, far from the hustle and bustle of business life, where I stumbled upon the “leadership sweet sixteen.”  On this small piece of paper rest my hands, ready to cultivate the labors of love in multiple ways.  While police leader skeptics might think this is too touchy-feely for them, love is quite tough.  I doubt there is any real weakness in the power of love.  In fact, according Kouzes and Posner, it is one of the most powerful sources of energy in the world. The love of our country (or perhaps freedom) has led us to war.  The love of an idea has made people push harder than they ever thought possible.  Marriages, relationships and everything life touches is challenged, yet the strength of love provides opportunities for success.

One of the pledges I have made to myself in recent years is to be more mindful of improving my surroundings every day.  This happens mostly through the lessons of life, and pushing into areas that challenge my way of thinking or creating useful opportunities for me to strengthen my values. Of course any good gift is worth sharing, so here I extend the same list as the elderly man provided to me with specific leadership lessons to each of them.  Here I give you the leadership sweet sixteen:

  1. Love is patient: The opposite is impatience which breeds hostility and frustration.  According to “Challenging the Law Enforcement Organization” by Jack Enter, leaders have to make sure they are patient enough for others to go through the learning processes of mistakes and errors of judgment.
  2. Love is kind: No one will follow the authoritarian past his power reach. Leadership is yielding to people-centered policies because of the bounty and force they create.  In “A Higher Standard of Leadership” by Keshavan Nair, it is suggested to look below the surface and identify the hidden needs of others to create a bond with those you are trying to serve.
  3. Love does not envy: Envy can be subtle and indirect, and interferes with subordinates, colleagues, family, and friends, according to “Envy and Leadership” by Mark Stein. Being authentic to yourself means understanding who you are and who you want to be.  Being comfortable with the journey is part of the experience.  More doesn’t fix anything, and the idea of being content is the way to a satisfied heart.
  4. Love does not boast: Boasting is the logical outpouring of an arrogant heart, at least that’s what Robert Yost said in the book “Leadership Secrets from Proverbs.” There is a line between being confident and being self-absorbed. Understand the differences between the two, and find ways to give to others often.
  5. Love is not proud: Nothing is more slippery than the road of pride and an inflated ego. According to Ron Carucci in “Leading to Green: When Envy and Leadership Join Forces,” pride leaves a person with an inflated sense of self-importance.   Understand that it’s ok to be proud of accomplishments, but it must be done with humility.  The reflection should be that it took more than you to make anything successful.
  6. Love is not rude: In the 1985 book “Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge” by Warreb Bennis and B. Nanus, people love others not for who they are, but for how they make others feel. Kindness is reciprocal so practice it often.
  7. Love is not self-serving: The greatest rewards in life are those accomplished through others and the gratitude that comes back to you. We earn trust to the extent that we are genuine and from the heart, which, as said in “Transforming Leadership” by Terry Anderson, aids in the development of ourselves and others.
  8. Love is not easily angered: Hating is futile and hating anyone or anything means that there is little to gain, according to Brett and Kate McKay. We all get frustrated and upset, but we have to not let it control us.  Self- reflect often and utilize forgiveness.  In the end it’s worth it.
  9. Love keeps no record of wrongs: Let’s face it; I’m no saint and neither are you. Be compassionate enough to problem solve which also means to understand when it’s time to turn around and reassess.  Create an environment that is problem-solving focused rather than people blaming focused through learning and development.
  10. Love does not delight in wrong-doing: Two wrongs don’t make a right. There are a lot of people that put themselves in poor situations because they have knowingly made unethical decisions they knew to be wrong, as “The Power of Ethical Management” by Ken Blanchard and Norman Peale explains.
  11. Love rejoices in the truth: Be true to yourself and others. It means having difficult conversations with the ones you love for the sake of love.  It also helps us to be proactive, by eliminating victim thinking within our lives that leads to frustration and blaming, as stated in “QBQ” by John Miller.
  12. Love always protects: We all have a duty to be good honest people of character. In addition, according to J. Barrett in his book “Total Leadership,” we have to protect our teams in order to have total leadership.
  13. Love always trusts: Trust is challenging at times, but requires us to be a little vulnerable and confront the things that stand in trust’s way. When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers.  But when trust thrives, the organization grows stronger as a result, as illustrated in “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t” by Simon Sinek.
  14. Love always hopes: Hope enables us to believe our vision is attainable and moves us towards our goals. Hope is the fuel that keeps life going through the darkest times.  People without hope can be scary and dangerous.  Find the ways to provide hope and inspiration to others.
  15. Love always perseveres: Love has grit. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.  It takes the advice of Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never, never, give up”.
  16. Love never fails: It will be the one constant that gives you inspired life. Life without love is not life at all.

The next time we are pondering our next move, creating our next vision, or building our next plan, let us not forget the most powerful force we have to build, bridge, and sustain.  It is through our love of our passion, our love of what we do and the love of our journey that makes it worth doing.  Our answers are always under our nose if we use love to guide us.  Remember one thing Farber said in the leadership fable, “Money can buy the dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.”

About the author:

Brian Ellis is a 17-year veteran with the Sacramento Police Department.  Lieutenant Ellis has worked in a number of specialized assignments including with the Problem Oriented Policing Unit, Parole Intervention and Career Criminal Apprehension Teams, Narcotics and Robbery/Burglary divisions.  He is currently a watch commander for the East Command.  Brian earned his undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from California State, Sacramento and has a MS in Organizational Leadership from National University.  He is a life-long student of leadership. Brian is passionate about helping others reach their true potential by inspiring authentic action.  Some of his publications appear in Law Enforcement Today, Peace Officers Research Association of California, PoliceOne, and The Journal of California Law Enforcement.  Follow him on Twitter at @BrianEllis10.