Four Behaviors to Start Leading with Love

At its core, love and love for others is not a feeling. Love is expressed through actions that inspire...

Four Behaviors to Start Leading with Love
Jerry Zazzera
December 6, 2022

One mission of the Severn Leadership Group is to inspire others to live lives of selfless courage and service to others rather than themselves. When discussing the foundation of this leadership paradigm, I can not think of a more perfect example than the historic Jesus of Nazareth.  But how did he live a selfless life and lead with courage and service to others?  In John 13:34 he tells us.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Love? The key to a courageous life is love?

At its core, love and love for others is not a feeling. Love is expressed through actions that, in turn, inspire the recipient to follow the leader, not out of obligation or the following of orders, but out of a desire to please the leader.

So, how can a leader inspire such followership through love?

The answer lies in examining the consistent behaviors leaders demonstrate to their followers. There are many behaviors one can express to show love but to give you a place to begin, let us start with four.  It is important to note that these behaviors are the same regardless of one’s personality; however, the way these behaviors are expressed may come across differently due to one’s personality, gender, physical attributes, tone of voice, facial expressions, and presence to others.  We will explore this phenomenon as well.


Every follower in a leader’s organization has different gifts and weaknesses. It is incumbent upon the leader to identify both gifts and weaknesses in each person and marry each person to a position that best meets the needs of the organization. But doing so takes time. The leader must observe the person in their job roles, praising, encouraging, and challenging while correcting the person and seeking their feedback. This ongoing engagement develops mutual respect and leaves the follower feeling valued.

Because this process takes a considerable investment in time, the leader must exercise patience as the follower grows and matures. In Jesus’ case, the time investment was three years with his "front-line managers." Surely, his patience was tried by his followers during that time. But in the end, his organization flourished and endured for over two thousand years and continues to do so.


Kindness can appear in disguise based on the leader’s personality. A kind person is most often depicted as having a gentle spirit, perhaps soft-spoken, and this can certainly be true of one who is kind. However, it can be equally true that a person can be a total hardass and still be kind.

A case in point is General George Patton. His gruff demeanor would not be looked upon as kindly on the surface. However, he was a stickler for training his men hard, both physically and mentally. He spent time walking with them on forced marches. I submit that his disciplined approach to training, however severe, was an act of kindness to his men. We cannot quantify how this type of kindness translated into saving many men’s lives during WWII, but I suspect it was no small number.


Leaders must protect their followers from ambushes from within and outside the organization. This does not mean that leaders agree with the decisions followers may make, but they will protect them first and then privately correct, rebuke, and teach them to be better prepared to perform their job tomorrow.

This act of protection cannot help but engender trust in the leader. That old cliche "He’s got my back" comes to mind. Where trust is present, hope thrives. In a relationship where trust exists, the follower overflows with a sense of well-being, security, and a confident expectation that is hope. Anxiety and worry diminish when the follower experiences protection, trust, and hope from the leader.


Finally, the love exhibited by the leader perseveres. When challenges or trouble confront an organization, the leader demonstrates perseverance with a joyful heart. This may seem odd to the reader, but perhaps you have witnessed how the perseverance of a leader underpinned an organization allowing it to weather a severe storm and emerge stronger than ever.  

To tie all four behaviors together, I offer Johnson and Johnson’s (J&J) response to the Tylenol Tampering Scandal in 1982 as a beautiful, modern example of demonstrating love to his employees and the nation.

Briefly, someone, or a group, added potassium cyanide pills to Tylenol bottles in stores around the Chicago area. Seven people died. J&J's CEO, James E. Burke, took timely action. Within a week of the first death, J&J ordered a nationwide recall of Tylenol products, which cost the company around $150,000,000 in lost sales. They also stopped all advertising of Tylenol and ceased production temporarily. They urged the American public not to consume any product linked to Tylenol or its active ingredients through the media. Ultimately, Tylenol recovered from the tampering scandal. Sales were very slow at first, but they soon rebounded to the extent that, within a few years, Tylenol, once again, became one of the most popular medications across the United States.

How was love demonstrated through leadership here?

First, he protected the company and consumers by recalling the product within one week to minimize any future deaths from product tampering. His kindness was demonstrated through his courage to do the right thing even when he was not legally bound to do so and it came at great financial sacrifice for the company. Finally, his perseverance in maintaining transparency and integrity throughout the scandal and patience with the public as they processed their fears resulted in restoring their trust in J&J.  

Love is the foundation of any good, effective leader. There are many more behaviors that can express love, but if you are looking to follow the example of the historic Jesus of Nazareth I encourage you to start with patience, kindness, protection, and perseverance. By loving your followers you will inspire them to be loyal, hard-working, and joyful.

Jerry Zazzera Headshot

Jerry Zazzera is a physical therapist at Kaiser Permanente and Anne Arundel Medical Center and mentor with the C.S. Lewis Institute and Certified Mentor with the Severn Leadership Group.  He served a combined 23+ years in the U.S. Army as a Field Artillery Officer in the cold war era and for the Lockheed Missile and Space Company on a variety of programs.  He lives in the Baltimore-Annapolis area with his wife Angie and is passionate about developing wholehearted disciples of Jesus Christ who will articulate, defend, share, and live their faith in personal and public life.

Four Behaviors to Start Leading with Love

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