Healthy leaders choose to meet the needs of their teams first. When leading with love, the needs of others come before our own, and the team’s health and success are a healthy leader’s true measure of success. It reminds us of our son’s former high school football coach, Chris Cunningham, who preached this same leadership concept of “team over me.” He even had T-shirts printed with a BIG “team” and a little tiny “me”:
For a healthy leader, your feelings must be subordinated to the demands of a higher cause: serving your employees.
Putting your team first to lead with love requires a crucial quality: humility. British writer C.S. Lewis described humility well when he wrote that it “is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Healthy leadership, likewise, is about focusing on other people—not on yourself. This is especially relevant when your team brings home a big win, since success tempts even the humblest person among us to sing our own praises. But you must genuinely credit others’ contributions above all else. Humility is also the seed of continuous learning.
A few years ago, Lee had the privilege of interviewing Colleen Barrett, who has since become a dear friend. As we mentioned, she is president emeritus at Southwest Airlines, and she has been the chief nurturer of the company’s famously positive culture. Colleen is a paragon of humility. She likes to say she is a better follower than she is a leader. During her conversation with Lee, she discussed the concept of “followership,” arguing that following can be just as important as leading when it comes to creating a thriving company.
You, as a leader, likely won’t be a specialist in all the areas your team relies on, which is why you hire people who specialize in those roles. Naturally, then, it follows that you will be listening to experts most of the time rather than talking as one yourself. An important part of a healthy leader’s job is to listen to and follow the people on his/her team.
Leading with love is simply doing what is in the best interest of others, and this requires humility.