There are a few four-letter words that leaders would like to use more at work. You can probably guess the words I’m thinking of because you’ve almost certainly wanted to use them yourself! (Or perhaps you have…or do!)
Although there is some research that advocates the benefits of cursing at work, I’m still old-school in my approach. My mother would frequently remind me that the language we use reflects our level of intelligence and maturity, so instead of using curse words, we should find better ways to express ourselves. I still roll that way.
So, you won’t be surprised that I’m not advocating leaders more frequently use the four-letter words that begin with F, S, and D. No, I’m suggesting leaders use the four-letter word that begins with L.
In my new book, Simple Truths of Leadership: 52 Ways to Be a Servant Leader and Build Trust, co-authored with Ken Blanchard, we share Simple Truth #20:
Love is the answer. What is the question?
Most people have probably heard the “love passage” from the Bible read at a wedding or other special occasions. According to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I don’t know a better representation of the qualities of a trusted servant leader than the virtues listed in this passage. But if you ask someone who works for a self-serving leader to describe their boss, you’ll hear the opposite of these characteristics. Self-serving leaders are seldom perceived as patient or kind. They tend to envy others with more influence, brag about their accomplishments, and so on.
I believe servant leadership is love in action. And if love is the answer, perhaps the question is, “What do servant leaders lead with?
Do you want to know if your people see you as a servant leader? Well, if you’re up for the challenge, consider doing this:
- List the personal traits from this passage and rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 (least to most) as to how much they describe you as a leader.
- If you’re courageous, ask your team members to do the same. Make it anonymous.
- Once you get the feedback, set up a meeting with your team, share what you’ve learned, and ask them how you could improve on the traits where you scored low.
- Then—this is key—make changes in your leadership style to show them you are serious about improving.
One of the great things about love is that you don’t always have to say the word to let people know how you feel. You can demonstrate it through your everyday actions and interactions with your people. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with saying the word, too.
Love. It’s the four-letter word leaders need to use more often at work.