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When your child was born, what was your first instinct? (Right after you wept openly or freaked out that you have a little human to take care of.) My wife and I immediately had the natural instinct to love, care, serve and support the needs of this life that had been entrusted into our care. We didn’t make a choice in this; the inclination to serve as a parent came naturally. Even when our children are challenged or challenging in some way, we as parents love them and work to create an environment where they can thrive.
What does any of this have to do with leading an organization? Everything! It’s time to question why we leave who we are as Mom or Dad at home and turn into our “work self” when we walk through the door of our jobs.
We also leave behind that loving, caring, serving nature that is so instinctual to us as parents. We temper the natural instinct to love to the point where it is watered down and unusable.
Yet our teams, employees, peers and bosses are people, just like our kids. They aren’t a steel pipe that pumps out work. They thrive when they’re nurtured and loved, just like our kids.
It’s NOT just love for love’s sake. You’re not detached from the results. Just as you know that the love you invest in your kids will increase the chance for a successful and fulfilling life, you can expect that the love you invest as a leader will lead to a productive, fulfilling and wildly successful business.

The following three practices will tap into your loving, serving nature and transform how you show up at work:

  1. Unlimited liability – Start to assume unlimited liability for those you lead. Love them unconditionally, just like your kids. Organizations today are guided to mitigate risk and assume limited to no liability. Turn that norm on its head and provide unconditional support and care for those you lead. Then watch their trust, respect and creativity soar.
  2. Listening – Parents of teenagers know that your kids aren’t always in the mood to talk. So when they are, you’d better be ready to listen or you might miss a valuable opportunity. Your natural instinct to serve responds to any problem by first listening. True listening builds strength in other people and you’ll receive all the insights you need to set the right course.
  3. Teaching – Remember when you taught your son to ride his bike? You didn’t sit him down at the kitchen table, explain the ins and outs of riding a bike and then send him on his way. You took him outside, placed him on the bike and then ran next to him until he could do it on his own. Next time you give an assignment, walk next to the person for a while and support him or her to succeed.

Good luck. Let me know how your week goes when you bring along the Mom or Dad in you, so you can serve and love in your leadership. We’ll explore next week why it’s so hard to love as leaders.

Jeff Harmon

Jeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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