Good leaders lead. Great leaders love.
In my daydreams I think about what comes after grad school. I fantasize about starting a company — the sort that changes the world for the better through the efforts of amazing creative people acting with shared purpose. I am not in graduate school to land a fancy degree; the degree is incidental. The plan all along has been to develop certain embryonic ideas in the fertile soil and timeframe that graduate studies afford. The shape and form of this imagined entrepreneurial endeavor gets just a bit clearer as time moves on, as I have opportunity to encounter profound ideas and interact with exceptional people. Of course, only time will tell if these lofty things will come to pass.
The thought of leading such an organization is thrilling (and terrifying). I've seen my fair share of leaders, in the business world and elsewhere. There is certainly something to be said for the essential discipline of leading. Books on the topic abound. Many of them are quite good. But as I have pondered the most remarkable leaders — known to me personally or simply admired from afar — it is their character more than their practice that stands out. They love what they have been charged with accomplishing. Or they love those with whom they work. The greatest among the great do both.
When I say “do both” I mean that little “do” as an action verb. I can easily be infatuated with the idea of my work and with my ideas of who I believe people to be. But it's not love without action, without attention, without investment, without empathy, without risk, without sacrifice. And, so, as I prepare to be the leader I desire to be, and as I watch those around me busy with the privilege and burden of leading, I am now considering it all through the lens of love. What will it take to love my work? What will it take to truly love those with whom I will work? How can I do so in the here and now — not merely in my daydreams? How can I love those leading me?
In the end, should I be blessed with the opportunity to live out my daydream, I want to lead in such a way that those around me follow not because they must, but because they choose to in response to being loved. If I am successful, though I desire to contribute towards achieving something significant, I hope I will be remembered some day more for how I loved than only what I achieved.