About Love: A Reflection on Intentional Practices

About Love: A Reflection on Intentional Practice

Leadership Reflections

During the closing session of The Leadership Challenge Forum 2017, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner challenged all of us to practice our leadership intentionally. We were asked to write on a note card something we would work on over the next several months. The authors collected the cards and promised that they would be reaching out to check on our progress.

Jim had spoken earlier of the importance of love and leadership, and I reflected on all the kindness, generosity, and camaraderie I had experienced over the course of those few days. It was humbling. So, I wrote on my card that I was going to be more intentional about leading with love, and then I caught a plane back to Denver.

Getting Started
Why did I choose to write intentional love on my card? If you asked the people around me (perhaps depending on the day!) they would say that I’m generally a kind person who goes out of her way for others. I try to make others feel good about themselves and their work. I keep my door open to listen and provide feedback or assistance when needed. And many would say that I’ll do anything to make another person smile.

Also, love is the center of my guiding principles. I believe that it should all start and end with love. There is always room for it and there is no end to it. You can always make the time in any situation to express love to another through listening, compassion, respect, and kindness. If you lead with love, it makes less room for the things you do that cause harm.

But as I reflected on this back at Forum 2017, I didn’t feel like I was being as intentional about my belief in love. I was rushing through things to get to the next thing. I wasn’t being intentional about showing care and love to others at home and at work. And the worst of it, I had to face a hard fact that I’d known but couldn’t turn away from after the Forum: I’d turned into a bit of a complainer. By being a bit lazy about my value of love, I had allowed my amphibian brain to take over and focus on what was wrong. And my mouth had been going along for the ride, too.

So, I committed to being more intentional about love.

One book that has shaped my thinking about love and relationships is The 100/0 Principle by Al Ritter. Essentially, this work explains that if you want to have good relationships you give completely and take 100% responsibility for the state of those relationships while expecting zero return from the other party, i.e. 100/0.

That’s what I tried to focus on: giving of myself, of my time, attention, and energy completely, with no expectations of others. Each day I started with a reflection on gratitude and all the wonderful people in my life. In the moment when I felt myself going on autopilot (not really listening or being present), I made a conscious decision to listen and focus on the other person’s needs at that moment. I put down my phone! I made myself a promise each day that when I started to go negative in my mind, I would find something right about the situation. I would intentionally set out each day with a promise to be patient and understanding, and not just with others, but with myself. And I went out of my way, each day, to find someone who I could make feel special, valued, and appreciated.

What I Experienced
As it turned out, Jim Kouzes demonstrated he is a man of his word. When he sent me his post-Forum follow-up email asking about my commitment to intentional practice, I hadn’t really been thinking about the changes I had experienced. One of the reasons I’m not a scientist is I’m not very good at cataloging my observations. I had set out on the road to practice love more intentionally but not to measure the outcome, which is certainly an area where I can learn to be more intentional in my growth.

But then Jim asked, “So, what happened?”

As I thought about the five months that had passed since the Forum, I realized that a lot of great things had come from being intentional about love. My change had been subtle and the changes around me just as subtly returned to me. But, what I found was an amplification of love in all my relationships. My husband and I found the time to be more open with each other and to enjoy each other more. My kids and I now had a better connection because I was being patient with them and really listening. My teammates collaborated better, supported one another in new ways, and took some risks in their work because they felt better supported. And I was happier as my focus changed from what’s wrong to what’s right.

What I Learned
What I found upon reflection is how much being intentional about love creates both a ripple effect and an echo effect. The more kindness, patience, generosity, and gratitude I displayed to others made it more likely that they would act in-kind to another person, creating an amplification of positive outcomes for everyone. My acts also meant that people were responding to me in-kind as well, which only made it easier to continue to act with love the next time and the next time. Maybe it’s not something I didn’t already know, but it is different when you pay attention to how your actions impact others.

In fact, perhaps it isn’t really learning about love at all. Perhaps it is just about an awakening of something in my heart that I know to be a universal truth: Love knows no bounds. Love is the power that connects us. Love is what is required to overcome the deepest of divisions to develop understanding and common purpose.

I think the biggest lesson I have taken away from this experience is that love is the power that allows me to have the positive impact I wish to make on the world. The more I am intentional in being loving to others, the greater chance that we can come together to tackle the world’s toughest challenges. I am 100% capable of making extraordinary things happen; I am 100% responsible for my strength of my relationships.

And love is the power that makes it all possible.

Amanda Nelson, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a Certified Master-in-Training of The Leadership Challenge and currently Director of Human Resources at Lerch Bates, Inc. where she oversees global HR functions, including culture development, succession planning, and performance management. She lives to help others win in life and work through coaching and facilitating leadership development experiences. She can be contacted at amandanelson.sphr@gmail.com.

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