“Love can only be the solution for those who are hungry for its answer.” Dr. Melodye Hilton
The word love is so common in our day to day vernacular. It holds such vast and varied meanings that it is far more complex than a simple four-letter expression.
Love frequents the languages of relationship, social justice, and faith, but is seldom voiced in reference to leadership. This void is misguided as love is, in fact, applicable to every sphere of leadership influence. After all, leadership is the business of people and love is our central need. Governments, businesses, educational systems, or any organizational structure for that matter cannot be instruments of justice (power used for good) without the love-motivated values of its leaders.
Many elude the word love because its attributes and expressions are vastly misunderstood. Counterfeit definitions have been constructed through the selfishness, manipulation, and needy perceptions of its participants. Just fill in the blank: “If you really loved me you would ___________.” These faulty expectations often create co-dependent relationships where the mentor sacrifices more and works harder than the beneficiary is willing to do for themselves. In a world of entitlement, the recipient will wear the exterior mask of gratitude when they are getting what they want. Sadly, the heart is quickly revealed when the leader draws a boundary line and instead of gratitude for all that was invested the result is accusatory allegations of abusive control and lack of love.
Love is NOT defined by sentiment. Though sadly mistaken more often than not, love is NOT giving people whatever makes them feel good or causes them to be happy. It is not becoming the proverbial doormat or meeting their felt-needs so they love you in return. It is not about being the fixer, enabler, or the one who bails them out of their self-sabotaging behaviors. Love is not evidenced through clingy dependence. The end of that saga is estrangement not partnership. This often feels like love, but it is powerless love!
Love IS the most powerful force in the universe when welcomed, appreciated, and reciprocated. Neuroscience has proven that our brains are wired for the giving and receiving of genuine love and validation. This passion is intrinsically conceived from the courage to invest into another’s growth, development, and success. Love is a genuine desire to nurture the seed of another’s value, uniqueness, purpose, and gifting. As it develops and grows the result is full potential actualized as each one contributes their gift to the world. This love is a deliberate action not based upon emotions, sentiment, or obligatory service.
The giving and receiving of purposeful love originates from a place of mutuality. It stems from a life-giving exchange of integrity and wisdom in order to identify what and when to invest. Wisdom will empower the love-motivated leader to know if it is the season to give or hold back, to speak or remain silent, to be accessible or draw boundaries, or to provide assistance or step away.
Purposeful love will initially model and do for someone when they are learning to “walk.” As the person matures, the leader partners with them in order to build their confidence, see their value, and support their passion. There must come a time, however, when the protégé must stand on their own two feet and personally pay the price. Their healthy independence does not mean that the relationship or partnership is diminished, but rather maximized to its full potential.
When you’ve sown into someone’s life and they then continue to work the field and reap the harvest, it is powerful! When you have invested and are able to witness the return from the mutually-empowering relationship, it is something to celebrate! When love is not forceful, but waits for the invitation and reciprocation of the beautiful gift being presented, it is life-giving and gratifying.
Remember that investing into someone will only benefit them if they are hungry. Let me give you an example. One day my husband received a call from a distraught father who said he did not have milk for his children. We were thrilled to meet this man’s need, but when we presented our gift he began to complain that it was 2% milk and not whole milk. Our investment of love was met with a lack of value and criticism sending a clear message that it was not good enough. Powerless love cannot change a life without the recipient’s commitment to celebrate, embrace, steward, and pay it forward.
Here are some thoughts to help identify whether a potential investment is solid or shaky:
- Avoid investment if there is dishonesty in the relationship. Half-truths are just as deceptive as a full-blown lie. Are they saying what they want you to hear or being respectfully honest with their communication?
- A wise investor looks at the track record. How responsible were they with opportunities previously given them? Did they steward the investment in authenticity? Did they value the opportunity and the one who gave it to them? Were they lazy and irresponsible or vigilant making the most of their opportunity?
- Do they play the “blame game” complaining about the unfairness of their lives or where they were victimized by others or circumstances? Do you hear the “hard luck” stories in order to gain your sympathy? Or, contrariwise, in spite of life’s challenges have they embraced the willingness to take personal responsibility for their growth?
- Do they want investment but not accountability? Can you imagine a financial investor giving without accountability? Your lifetime, emotional energies, and resources are more significant than money.
- Are they people who honor, value, and genuinely appreciate both the small and the great investments, even if it is a ten minute conversation on the phone?
No matter how great your love-motivated investments are, if the recipient does not treasure what you are offering, as genuine as your love is, it is powerless for them. No matter how grand your desire to build platforms of opportunity for someone, it is powerless if they do not make the most of that opportunity. No matter how pure your motives and authentic your love-motivated leadership, if it is belittled or unappreciated it is, to that person, powerless love.
Invest where you are celebrated, not tolerated. You will see your influential love impact lives, build mutually beneficial partnerships, and accomplish great things!