A Lakota Tribe’s Elder Schools a Harvard Professor

Authenticity Kindness Respect


Key Point: Do your employees just get a lecture or do they get your love? I recently read a great story in Forbes magazine. It was about Harvard’s renowned professor, author, philosopher, Clayton Christensen, and a time when he was struggling to really connect with his students. Let me share a fascinating segment from this article:

“On a plane flight to Minneapolis, Clayton sat next to an elderly man who belonged to the Lakota tribe. He was very wise. In their conversation he learned of Clayton’s profession and asked, ‘Is it fun to teach at Harvard?’ Clayton responded that it normally was, but this semester was very difficult and explained how his students didn’t enjoy his class. After listening patiently, the man said, ‘The reason this is happening is that you are not teaching with love. You always need to teach with love.’

This profound comment took Clayton completely by surprise. The concept of teaching with love and the Harvard Business School case method had never been put together prior to this. So the next day he tried it. Just before he entered the classroom, he knelt down in his office in meditation, self-reflection, and prayer. His desire was that his students would feel love emanating through the way he taught. Within a few days, the animosity left. It was replaced with a spirit of warmth, trust, and happiness. And many of those students have remained close to Clayton ever since. More interesting, many of them wondered what had happened. They asked Clayton, and he told them the story of the elderly man from the Lakota Indian Tribe on an airplane to Minnesota.”

Love is a challenging and complex word. And people resist using it in the work world. But the idea of separating work and life is ridiculous; kind of like waiting to retire to live your best life. Really? And yet if I think deeply, with honesty and courage, I understand that it really is the conveyance of love that makes a profound difference. If I “lecture” my kids, my words are much more accessible to them if they FEEL my sincere love and care for them. The same applies to my teammates. If my words and action comes from anger, arrogance, self-righteousness, and so on, it is likely to fall on very deaf ears. The authenticity associated with love is not there and others know it.

Ken Krogue, the author of this Forbes article and a thoughtful leader in his own right, goes on to say:

“Love is far more powerful than belief. Love takes work. It is a decision that leads to action that leads to feeling that leads to change… Do you truly love what you do? Do you love who you work with? Do you love who you work for? If not, you have two choices: Change your work, or work your change.”

Character Moves:

  1. Do you teach from a position of love in your daily life? All of it? We are obviously imperfect beings, but if we do not come from a position of love when we coach and teach, it is difficult for others to genuinely connect with us. Reflect on this.
  2. Think about what it means to teach, coach and share with love as the foundation. Our work then becomes about others much more than ourselves. The Lakota elder is very wise. Teach with love. It is the love not the lecture that profoundly conveys the content.

Teach with Love The Triangle,