I had just clicked on an article in The Atlantic, entitled “Masters of Love.” Before I started reading, I noticed that a message had arrived on one of my social media sites.
To be honest, this article had a title I would not normally respond to, but the byline spoke to me: “Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.” My interest was piqued because I’ve always been a passionate proponent of leadership guru Peter Drucker’s description of management as “Relationships, relationships, relationships.”
I am easily distracted. So before I could start the article about relationships I had to see what message I had received. It was from a former staff member contacting me after reading some of my posts. I haven’t seen her in over fifteen years and was pleased to learn that she was married to the love of her life, the proud mom of two boys, and had achieved promotions and commendations in her work.
When I read the message, I realized that I had just received a compliment that might be at the top of my list for feeling good. She complimented me for my leadership and writing skills. Then she said, “I remember you as always being so kind and gracious.”
I hadn’t thought 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. I’ve written a fair amount about the struggles I had to learn how to manage my mouth. Now, in my current role as an executive coach, I frequently help others manage theirs.
Still glowing (and feeling slightly bemused) from the kind words of my former associate, I read the article. It was about marriage and how experts examined how some marriages were happy while other failed or were 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 who want attention by ignoring or downplaying the request, partners in good 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.
Clearly leaders must also make their team feel valued and important. Many times your team is looking to you with a bid for attention. They want you to turn toward them and make them feel valued and important. When you neglect to do this, your actions have the opposite effect.
Kind and gracious are not words I immediately associate with leadership, although I think they are important qualities for leaders. The fact my former team member described me as both baffled me at first because I felt these were qualities I lacked from time to time. However, when I considered the context of the Masters of Love who gave their partners attention by turning toward them when they asked for it, I could see how it could be considered kind and gracious when you did the same for employees. It struck me that 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 can 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 that facilitates success and collaboration. You might even hear you are “kind and gracious” one day.
Thanks, Joy. You made my year!