No, a leader does not have to like his or her followers, although it helps.
BUT A LEADER MUST LOVE HIS OR HER FOLLOWERS! Love is a higher calling than like.
The second greatest commandment of the Christian faith is not ‘like thy neighbor as thyself,’ but “love thy neighbor as thyself.” As a leader, I am not called to like myself to lead others. I am called to love myself to lead others. “Liking” is about finding similarity, being conditional, and being involved. “Loving” is about promoting dissimilarity, being unconditional, and being committed. Go back and re-read the commandment substituting the word “neighbor” with the word “follower” and then again with the word “stranger.”
“Love is not a feeling, Mr. Burns. It’s an ability.” – Peter Hedges, director. Dan In Real Life. Touchstone, 2007.
To like is a feeling. To love is an ability.
To like is about ego. To love is about humility.
To like may be selfish. To love is to be selfless.
To like is to be served. To love is to serve.
To like may feed one’s narcissism and pragmatism. To love feeds one’s soul and spirituality.
To like is to offer sympathy. To love is to give empathy and have the courage to encourage.
To like is to hide weaknesses and flaws. To love is to be vulnerable.
To like is to connect. To love is to interconnect and bond.
To like is to want to be with. To love is to recognize the need to be with.
To like is to tolerate and endure. To love is to empower.
To like is to be comfortable with who. To love is to be comfortable with purpose, vision and mission.
A leader loves his or her followers for the values, gifts, talents, and passions they bring to the team, the organization or the community. A leader has the ability to help followers feel needed by helping them understand their contribution to the purpose, vision and mission of the team, organization or community. That ability is rooted in solid emotional intelligence to transcend the dislike of peculiarities, annoyances, difference in beliefs or opinions and focus on the value the individual brings to the team, organization or community.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty for a leader is to see a follower who is suffering and being rejected by that follower. At that those times, it’s best to remember Will Bowen’s words, “Those who hurt are hurting.”
The greatest challenge of love is the willingness to sacrifice for others, to give your life for others. Great leaders on the battlefield lead others into battle and are willing and expecting to take the first hit. Great leaders also make sure, when it’s time to eat, their followers get fed before they do. If you are unwilling to sacrifice, you really don’t love and cannot truly lead others.
The follower, who loves his or her leader for the significance the leader makes in their life, team, organization or community, gets a role model.
“He who cannot be a good follower, cannot be a good leader.” – Aristotle
Are you a leader who loves your followers? Are you a follower who loves your leader?