Leading With Love

Are you calling people in, or calling them out? 

Think about the last time that you called someone out for their behavior. Maybe it was when your teenager showed up late – again – or maybe it was when your employee completely dropped the ball on something you had put them in charge of, and now YOU are being held accountable for their performance. Or maybe it was that fight you had with your spouse about taking out the garbage for the N’th time this month. Infuriating, absolutely. Helpful, no.

Loretta Ross – author/reproductive justice champion/human rights activist and professor at Smith college – teaches about “call in culture” which is rooted in social justice. People irritate us, make mistakes and errors in judgment; when they do, instead of calling people out for their behavior, Ross recommends calling people in.  “Calling in involves conversation, compassion and context”, says Ross. “Calling in is like calling out… but done privately and with respect. It’s a call out done with love.” Calling people out = Shame. Calling people in = Love.

The business parallels are undeniable; simply stated, shame as a management tool is ineffective, dangerous and toxic. Calling people out – using shame as a weapon of compliance and control – causes people to armor up and disengage. It chokes out creativity and vulnerability and encourages secrecy, scarcity and fear. 

Love as a leadership tool? Yes! Do you care enough about your employees to be willing to have a difficult conversation, calling them in to reflect on their behavior, inviting a higher level of awareness and commitment going forward? That’s love, and it uses teachable moments as opportunities for growth.

As we close the chapter on 2020, I challenge you to dare to lead with Love in 2021. Commit to calling people in instead of calling people out. And remember, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~ Maya Angelou


Interested in learning from Loretta Ross? Check out her upcoming virtual series on Calling In the Calling Out Culture.


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