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To Sir With Love

To Sir With Love

Jul 2016

In the teen film, To Sir With Love, Sidney Poitiers’, character (Mark Thackeray) takes up a temporary position as a teacher while waiting to hear if he is accepted as an engineer in a firm. Ultimately he connects with his students, even with those who did not not love him back and is faced with a decision - to follow after his dream in engineering or his new found love for his students.

As leaders we all struggle with attempts at follower engagement from time to time. Why do we sometimes find it hard to engage with some people yet find it easy to empower others? Could it be because we like some and find others more difficult to love?

Unfortunately, liking creates bias a - connectedness with favourites and a disconnectedness with those we dislike. The liking bias creates a relationship where a leader tends to overlook, if not altogether ignore weaknesses while inflating the strengths of those they like. 

The liking bias can create a situation where one may become so completely blinded that they cannot truly be objective about the performance or behaviours of a follower or colleague they like. As a leader we must be able to care for all members of our group, whether we like them or not.

Love, on the other hand, is not conditional on the feelings and biases that “liking” create. Love chooses to seek another’s good regardless of their behaviour or condition. The contrast between “like” and “love” is both striking and critical. For example, love allows one to encourage and promote a top performer we may truly dislike or correct one we love to help them improve.

It is through connectedness that leaders express their love and care for their followers. Only when we connect with followers and colleagues can we begin to truly care for and empower them. Unfortunately, most leaders never make it past liking others and don’t know how to empower those they dislike.

Love is not a word we associate with leadership or the modern workplace because it has become a sentimental, ambiguous notion. As leaders our attempts at follower engagement and empowerment become easier with love.
Leading with love allows one to encourage and promote a top performer or correct another because our actions are not dependent upon whether others will love us back for our effort or not.

Like Mark Thakeray, our “students” may not love us back but the greatest impact of leading with love comes through choosing to empower others regardless of how we feel, or if we like them or not. As a leader we must be able to love and care for all members of our group, whether we like them or not, if we wish to create a lasting legacy, empowered employees and successful organisations.

At Joseph Consulting we are passionate about organisational growth, and empowering leaders so they can make the most of their situations. Please call Joseph Consulting if you would like to discuss how we might provide you specific leadership coaching for you or your teams.


Rob Boynton
Leadership | Business Consultant
Joseph Consulting

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