graciasI had just clicked on an article in “The Atlantic” about new relationship research. At that moment, a message arrived on one of my social media sites. Easily distracted, I had to see my message before I read the article about relationships.

A former staff member contacted me after reading some of my posts on LinkedIn. I haven’t seen her for over fifteen years. I was pleased to learn she married the love of her life, was the proud mom of two boys and received promotions and commendations in her work. She also complimented me on my leadership and writing skills. And then she wrote:

“I remember you as always being so kind and gracious.”

I don’t think of myself as particularly kind or gracious. There were many moments in my leadership when I was considerably less kind or gracious than I should have been. Over time, I learned how to manage my mouth. Now, in my current role as an executive coach, I frequently help others manage theirs.

Still glowing (and bemused) from the kind words of my former associate, I read the article about Love Masters.

To be honest, the title, “Masters of Love” is not one I normally respond to, but the byline spoke to me. “Science says lasting relationships come down to (you guessed it) kindness and generosity.” I am a passionate proponent of leadership guru Peter Drucker’s description of management as “Relationships, Relationships, Relationships,” so it piqued my interest.

About marriage, the research described why some marriages thrived while others failed or suffered, steeped in dysfunction. The key, according to the researchers, was when one of the partners made a bid for attention the other partner gave it to them. Instead of turning away from partners that want attention by ignoring or downplaying the request, partners in real marriages turned toward the other. The happiest couples were quick to invest time and energy into making their partner feel valued and important. These couples were the Masters of Love.

It occurred to me reading the article leaders must also make their team feel valued and important. Many times your team is looking to you for a bid for attention. They want you to turn toward them and make them feel valued and significant. When you neglect to do this, your actions have the opposite effect.

Kind and gracious are not words I associated with my leadership, although I know they are essential qualities for leaders. The fact that my former team member described me as both baffled me at first because I felt I lacked these qualities from time to time. When I considered the context the Masters of Love gave, I could see how it was kind and gracious when you turned toward your employees. It struck me she couldn’t pay me a higher compliment.

One of the tenets of Intentional Leadership is the importance of respecting your team members. Giving respect to your members is one of the ways you turn toward them, helping them get what they need pertaining to attention. When giving respect is your action consistently, you will have a relationship with your team facilitating success and collaboration.

You might even hear you are kind and gracious one day.