Hmmm. I’m not so sure I like this trend.

I seem to be stuck lately on numbered lists — low-calorie observations on personal and leadership effectiveness. And, now, this pithy title, pathetically begging for your attention like the cover of a self-help magazine.

Gosh, I hope it works.

To be honest, though, I don’t know any other way to put it. From my observations, the best leaders and the most effective people in the world all seem to share a passion for some very important ideals.

These four deep attachments — love affairs, really — are powerful advantages not only in the pursuit of success and accomplishment, but in the pursuit of happiness and quiet fulfillment as well, no matter what your mission in life.

One. A Love Affair With the Truth. Great leaders love the truth. And not just any truth — the truth. In other words, reality. They’re focused on uncovering as much objective truth as possible about their customers, their markets and their environment, of course. But the one truth they love the most is understanding and acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses as people, and the impact of their behavior on others. And when they speak the truth, they do it with love, intent on building other people.

Two. A Love Affair With Learning. Most, if not all, of the highly effective, happy and successful people I’ve come across share a love of learning. Not an earth shattering observation, I know, but I think what distinguishes them in this passion is their approach to learning beyond the anticipation of discovery or the acquisition of knowledge or information.

What is unique about them, I’ve found, is their comfort with the inevitability of mistakes and errors. These mistakes are not seen as disasters, but as the elimination of one wrong answer — or, conversely, moving one step closer to the right answer. They recognize, on some level, that the sin isn’t the misstep, it’s failing to learn from it that’s unforgivable.

Similarly, they love to test their ideas and solutions, to patiently and constantly refine them when presented with new information or environmental changes. More importantly, this love affair with learning gives them the confidence to “open source” their ideas — inviting the contribution and knowledge of others. It’s the result of an easy embrace of the truth — hello — of how much they don’t know.

Three. A Love Affair With Mastery. Related to, but distinct from, the love of learning, mastery is the focused, passionate pursuit of  performing as well as humanly possible. It’s not an obsession with perfection. It’s a love of, and commitment to, the joyful, never-ending process of growing, improving, practicing and pushing your abilities to their highest and best use. Mastery is never saying, “good enough.”

Four. A Love Affair With Other People. At its most basic, I believe the measure of leadership is how great you make other people at what they do. Our cultural concept of leadership is too often upside down — “how influential/powerful/secure/successful can I be,” instead of “how great do I make others?”

Great leadership takes a selflessness and focus on others most of us don’t spend enough time developing in ourselves.

The world’s best leaders and the most effective people have a deep, genuine desire to see other people achieve, learn, grow and succeed. They believe success and effectiveness are abundant, and not scarce resources to be hoarded for themselves. They devote their lives to building other people. That’s why we’re attracted to them. That’s why we follow them — they make us better at what we do.

To live like that, you have to love other people. And not just the good parts, or the people who are easy to love. You have to love the time they demand, and the frustrations they cause. You have to love them despite their imperfections (and because of them). Building people is hard work. The first step is to care about them — genuinely. That’s what great leaders spend most of their time doing.

Each of these four love affairs, like any deeply meaningful relationship, calls for some sacrifice — to “die” just a little, to put to death your ego, and most of the little voices that scream “me” and “mine.”

Is it worth it? I’m convinced that if you make a commitment to nurturing each of these love affairs, your life will bear their fruits — whether at home, in your workplace, or in your community.

AuthorJoseph Fusco