To be an effective leader you must have a heart that is filled with unconditional love. We may not like some of the ways those under our direction go about their tasks but we must never stop loving them. When I think of unconditional love I’m always reminded of the following story.
A soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam called his parents from San Francisco.
“Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me.”
“Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know the son continued, “he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mind and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”
“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”
“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide. The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are.
As leaders we must love everyone under our direction despite how they look, how they work or how they respond to us. You should never underestimate the dire consequences of not loving those you lead.