In “I Feel Loved,” the 2001 release by English electronic group Depeche Mode, Martin Gore’s lyrics paint a picture of how feeling loved cuts through pain and heartache and loneliness.
It’s the dark night of my soul
And temptation’s taking hold
But through the pain and the suffering
Through the heartache and trembling
I feel loved
I recently heard a talk by Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages, about the signs of a healthy family. He made a statement that really connected with me. He said, “It’s not a question of if we love; it’s a question of whether others feel loved.”
Even though his talk was about families, almost everything he said could be applied to any community and specifically to its leaders. As I took notes, I found myself writing out his points in terms that applied to my leadership. What follows is my take-aways from that talk—with complete transparency that I got all these ideas from him.
Woodrow Wilson said, “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” He said that in the context of a speech to college students at Swarthmore College in 1913. As leaders, this should be our mantra.
If we are here to enrich the world, what better course is there than to not only care for people but to do so in ways that make them feel cared for? To that end, there are several traits that will be present if I am being a leader who cares in tangible ways that can be felt.
An attitude of service. It’s hard to reject someone who is serving you. First and foremost, a leader should be a server. This might be the most tangible way to communicate care. When we meet another person’s needs, we demonstrate that we are paying attention, that we care enough to act, and that the other person is a high priority. This should go much further than just “basic needs” kind of stuff. We should include others as true partners in what we are doing, communicate clearly and often with them, and discover their unmet needs, all unconditionally.
Intimacy. People often think “physical” when intimacy is mentioned, but that is a very narrow and dangerous view. Intellectual intimacy is sharing thoughts, opinions, and desires with each other. Emotional intimacy is sharing our feelings. Social intimacy is sharing our experiences, including participating in experiences together. As a whole, these areas of sharing and learning about each other allow us to feel cared for.
Teaching and training. Time is valuable, and when someone gives you time, you know they care about you. As leaders, we are responsible to teach and train the people we serve. We teach with our words by explaining and informing. We train with our actions by showing how something is done and what our values look like. Both are necessary. Words without action is hypocrisy; action without words is frustrating.
There is much attention given to dysfunctional things—dysfunctional families, dysfunctional systems, dysfunctional communities—we should really be focusing on what is functional and duplicate and repeat that. We should be looking for communities and leaders who exhibit these caring traits, so we can celebrate, collaborate with, and learn from them. I want to live and work in a community where people say, “I Feel Loved.” Leading with an attitude of service, an openness to true intimacy, and a willingness to teach and train with patience is a great place to start, and it is The Kimray Way.
P.S. Happy Valentines Day! I hope someone makes you feel loved today.