A little over three years ago we decided to add a dog to our family. My wife is a city girl and I’m a country boy. I’d like a barnyard full of pets and she’d prefer… not. We compromise. We decided on a “small, sweet, loving, rescue dog.”  So we set out to find one who met those specifications.

We found one! A black and white spaniel mix. This little dog had a story, but we only knew part of it. Animal Services picked her up on the streets. She was about a year old. The Small Dog Rescue Group was to pick up another dog at the shelter. And then the representative from Small Dog Rescue saw this little black and white bundle of love with the giant heart and bubbling personality! He called in, “We’ve got to take a second dog. She’s precious! They’re going to destroy her within the hour.” The answer was, “No. We don’t have room.” The reply, “Never mind. I’ll take her home with me until you have room.” Room was found in a day to two and we were called, “We have just the dog you are looking for.” They were right.

We picked her up on the Saturday before Easter three years ago. Once we heard her story we named her “Hallelujah” and called her “Hallie” for short. When Hallie wagged her tail, her whole body “wagged.”

Hallie’s big heart and winsome personality won over the city girl. “I’ve never loved an animal like I love this little dog.” Even the cats accepted her as a member of the family. And so it has been: family.

Fast forward to the present: we had a bad weekend. Hallie sustained a spinal cord injury that left the back half of her body paralyzed. We had to “let her go” Sunday afternoon. Oh, how we miss her! My wife asked me this morning, “What will you miss most?” Well, everything, of course. However, Hallie had, as many dogs do, a special gift. No matter how long you were gone, ten minutes or ten days, she was glad (excited) to see you. She was joyful. She loved unconditionally.  That unconditional love was irresistible.

What does this have to do with leadership? Leadership is about building willing followership for a cause, an idea or a course of action. If you don’t love ’em, you can’t lead ’em!

Leadership consultants James Kouzes and Barry Posner believe leadership is an affair of the heart. “The connectedness of people is a fact of life. No leader ever got anything done alone in isolation. Exemplary achievement always involves a team of people working together in an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. To the extent that a little bit more personal suffering and a little bit more interpersonal communication, sharing and support – a little bit more of loving each other – can enhance our ethical character and abilities to achieve greatness, we ought to give it a try.

Love is what sustains us along the arduous journey to the summit. Love is the source of the leader’s courage and the leader’s magnetic north. Leaders are in love: In love with leading, in love with their organization’s products and service, and in love with people. In the end, ethical leadership is not simply an affair of the head, it is an affair of the heart.” (from Ethical Leaders: An Essay About Being in Love, © 1992 Kluwer Academic Publishers)

I believe Hallie would agree.

In Other Words…

“I have the secret to success in life. The secret is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to really ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn’t really feel the kind of excitement that helps them to get ahead and lead others and to achieve. I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is.” – Major General John H. Stanford, 1986

“Care and responsibility are constituent elements of love, but without respect for and knowledge of the beloved person, love deteriorates into domination and possessiveness.” – Erich Fromm, in Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics (1947)

“If you would be loved, love and be lovable.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard (1755)

“Love is the crowning grace of humanity, the holiest right of the soul, the golden link which binds us to duty and truth, the redeeming principle that chiefly reconciles the heart to life, and is prophetic of eternal good.” – Petrarch

“In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror.” – John Steinbeck in East of Eden

In The Word…

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 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. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians (NIV)