Would You Rather They Love You or Respect You?
Oh my. I have heard this statement from leaders far too often: “I would rather they respect me than love me.” And each time I cringe. If that’s what you’ve been taught and what you practice, I ask you to reconsider your position today.
For me there is no question. I would rather they love me. It truly befuddles me how some leaders can operate from a place where fear-based respect defines their professional relationships. I absolutely refuse to lead that way.
I want the people who work with me to love me. And I will love them first. I even tell them this. It can be a little awkward sometimes, especially in the beginning. But I say it because I mean it. And that is how I want our relationships to be defined. By love.
If I were to ask the people who report to you what they think of you, and they couldn’t honestly say, “I love him,” or “I love her,” then there is a problem. If they can’t tell me how amazing you are as their leader, and how much you care for them, then you are not where you need to be in your leadership.
“Well, I respect him, but I don’t really care for him.” Is that what you want people to say about you? Is that where you think their best work comes from? Forced respect is no way to lead. Love cements individuals and teams together.
So, what about respect? When love guides the relationships you lead, respect is a non-issue. Because naturally when you love someone, you respect them. If you don’t respect the people you love, then something is askew. I respect the people I love—at all times—regardless of what they say or do. When you truly love someone, you affirm them and empower them. You encourage them, support them, and sacrifice for them. Relationships grounded in love bind us together. They position us to go on journeys together. And respect is an organic part of these relationships.
On the other hand, when you are only seeking respect, that’s the only thing you will get. And in truth, it’s watered-down and mechanical in contrast to the respect people have for those they genuinely care about.
Some leaders firmly believe if people don’t respect them, then they won’t listen to them. Again, respect is my expectation; but respect must be born of love, not of fear.
Love and Respect in Leadership
When love is not the defining characteristic with someone I lead, I try to get out of that relationship. It is only a matter of time before that relationship will end anyway. And our effectiveness together will be limited until it does. Quite frankly, I simply do not want to work with people if we are unable to exchange love.
In our organizations, I expect affirmative responses from people about their leaders in these three areas:
- What do you think of your manager? (answer: I love him)
- Is the manager positively impacting the culture?
- Are you consistently growing?
I am not interested in mere managers and commanders who tell people what to do. I am interested in leaders who effectively touch people’s hearts, take ownership, and change the culture. I am interested in leaders who carry out all of their responsibilities by intentionally walking and growing in love.
What I am reading now: Practicing Excellence by Stephen Beeson, MD. Dr. Beeson, a family doctor and nationally renowned thought leader on excellence in healthcare, discusses how physicians and medical practices can lead their organizations to a better place in the area of patient care.
For Further Reading: