The title of this post has probably already driven some people away and it may have some of you who decided to check it out wondering, “What does love got to do with leadership?” My answer is, of course, “Everything!” That may sound way too “kumbaya,” but I’m not going to apologize for it because it’s the truth. The bottom line is that if you do not love your people, you will fall short in leading them and you will most certainly not serve them to the best of your ability.
I’m going to let you in on a secret about me: I hate discipline! Not only do I hate it myself, I can’t even fathom why and how someone could like it at all. I mean, I understand that there is a lot of good stuff produced by exercising maturity and having the discipline to do what you don’t want to do in the present so that you get to have what you want to have in the future. I have personally experienced the joy of having accomplished a few things in my life that would not have been possible if I just did what I felt like at the time, but that doesn’t mean I like discipline. It just means that I like what discipline produces.
If you have ever had someone on your team whose performance is just not up to acceptable standards, you know that it creates a drain not only in the form of the results they fail to produce but in several other less quantifiable ways. The energy and effort that it takes to try to figure out what it takes to have them turn their performance around, their negative impact on morale as others perceive them as not pulling their weight, and the organizational waste that is created by all the conversations around the issue do far more lasting damage than whatever tangible gaps exist in the individual’s results. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that their poor results are a secondary symptom of the problem, while the primary problem itself is all the cultural and interpersonal issues that precipitate their lack of performance.
I will never forget the look on my kids’ faces the first time they were served a summons to appear in court. They were about 9 and 10 years old. The letters addressed to them arrived in the mail. Somewhat excited and surprised that they had received official looking correspondence in the mail, they opened them and started reading: “You are hereby summoned to appear in…” That’s when they started to get a bit concerned. Bewildered by the idea that they would need to go to court, they handed me the letters, hoping that I could explain what was going on and whether there had been some sort of mistake. As it turned out, there hadn’t been any mistake at all.
I have a confession to make. My natural tendency is to be a glass half-empty person. And to be completely transparent, I am more like a glass 5% empty person. It has taken me years to realize that the part of me that feels inadequate and always projects the worst case scenario into the future and worries about events that will most likely never occur is never going to go away. One of the greatest revelations I have had in my life is that rather than trying to silence that little voice in the back of my head that hardly ever has anything good to say I should focus on developing the conviction to remain in action and move forward while the little naysayer is doing his thing, trying to derail my efforts to be extraordinary and accomplish great things.