Webinar Recap: What’s Love Got to Do With Leadership?

It’s time to reconsider the connection between leadership and love.

It’s time to reconsider the connection between leadership and love.
November 2019, Volume 43, Issue 3

What’s love got to do with it? When “it” refers to leadership, the answer might surprise you. Love has a lot to do with leadership, says retired U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Col. Arthur J. Athens.

In this webinar recap of “Leadership: What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Athens suggests it’s time to reconsider the connection between leadership and love, explaining that love just might be one of the genuine keys to extraordinary leadership.

Three C’s of Leadership
Athens opened the webinar with a story about his mentor—a man named Tom Hemmingway, who was fresh into a leadership position as a platoon commander in the early 1950s. Hemmingway asked his platoon sergeant—an older and more experienced Marine—a bold question as a new leader: Why would you follow me? He answered with a set of questions:

1. Do you know your job, and are you striving hard to learn it? We’re going to be watching you, said the platoon sergeant. Do you ask good questions? Do you take advice? Are you willing to try? Are you willing to fail? And when you fail, are you willing to pick yourself back up and continue moving forward? Then, when you think you know it all, do you remind yourself there’s more to learn to continue to grow in your position?

2. Will you make the hard but right decisions, even if it costs you personally? We want to know we’re following a leader of integrity, said the platoon sergeant. We want to follow someone whose words and actions align with their values and someone who’s willing to pull someone back on track who’s not following the mission.

3. Do you care as much about us as you care about yourself? We know you care about yourself, said the platoon sergeant, because it’s the default of all human beings. We want to know you have genuine concern for each one of us—not just the ones you happen to have a connection with.

Hemmingway told Athens this story in 1978, as Athens took over his first platoon as a young officer. Hemmingway considered the answers to those questions to be the Three C’s of Leadership—competence, courage, and compassion.

During the webinar, Athens gave participants time to reflect on some key questions.

  • Question 1: Which of the three C’s have you spent the most time developing in your leadership pathway? He says that most will find competence comes first, followed by courage, and then compassion. Others will swap competence and courage and list compassion last. But he notes that very few leaders would say they focus most on compassion in leadership.
  • Question 2: Why is love so important for leadership? Athens says experience tells him that people want to feel special and valuable, to receive feedback in an atmosphere of genuine concern, and to know they can go to their leaders when facing adversity.
  • Question 3: What’s the “how” of having compassion for our people? Being good listeners and being empathetic with others.

To become an extraordinary leader, Athens says there’s a required attribute and a required action. The required attribute: humility.

“It’s not about us,” he says. “It’s about the mission, it’s about purpose, it’s about people, and it’s about service.”

The required action: sacrifice. “We don’t sacrifice with the expectation of getting something back,” says Athens. “We sacrifice because we really care about someone. When we take a decision to take over a leadership position, we decide up front that we are going to love our people.”

Watch the full webinar, download the audio version, or view the slide presentation. Find other past webinars in our archives—available only to NAESP members.

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