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The boss who loves you

Business

Sheep need a shepherd, and even a group of the brightest and most virtuous people needs good leadership to move the use of their talents toward a constructive goal.

Books on leadership and management abound. One such book is Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, published in 2002 (which for someone who is used to reading ancient books was like yesterday). What struck me about this secular advice is the extent to which the principles and good habits the authors identify are for the most part just various forms of Christian love.

Generally, if there is a problem with morale and cohesion in an organization, it stems from a problem in the leadership. The authors contend that central to the success of any leader is his (or her) ability to be emotionally compelling to those under his care: “Great leaders move us.” Your boss will foster a work environment that is emotionally toxic or harmonious, dissonant or resonant.  Leaders who have a tin ear to workplace emotions produce a group hobbled with anger, fear, and a sense of futility. The team gets off mission, and their mission-capability itself suffers. In this sense, effective leaders are sympathetic and compassionate. The authors call this “emotional intelligence.” Christ calls it “love.”

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Emotionally intelligent leaders understand the relationship between emotional well-being and the capacity and motivation of people to labor for even the worthiest goals, whether individually or co-operatively. “When people feel good, they work at their best,” the authors wrote. Transparency builds trust. No one suspects a hidden agenda because there isn’t one. Empathy is essential. A good leader senses the emotional tone of the workplace and can address discord before it deepens and spreads. Workers will be more effectively on task if they know the boss cares about them and believes their work to be valuable. He gives helpful performance reviews on his employees’ contributions. He’s a true team builder. He helps people understand and develop their strengths, and directs them to the work most suited to them. This helps him sympathize with the people he is managing. He will also foster a friendlier workplace among the employees. He’s a peacemaker. He knows he is not the sole repository of wisdom, vision, and insight. No one is. So he listens, consults, and collaborates.

Is this your supervisor? Is this you? If you think your leadership gifts would be more obvious if only you had a better team to lead, you need to add the humility and love of Christ to your no-doubt-many amazing qualities. You cannot lead people you do not love, whether in the workplace, church, or home. If you love people, you will respect them. If you respect them, you will be honest with them, listen to them, and honor their accomplishments.

D.C. Innes
D.C. Innes

D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King's College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.

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