Two years ago I attended a doctoral commencement as a guest of a graduate. It’s a great accomplishment to gain a doctorate. It represents a lot of work, and it usually represents a lot of potential for impact. And yes, you get certain letters and titles before or after your name.

The main commencement address came from the chair of the program. It was an amazing address from a brilliant woman. She began by congratulating the graduates on their milestone. From now on, she said, they would go by the title of “Doctor,” and they would have three new letters following their name.

But quickly she added that having those three letters following their name would mean nothing unless they were also a DHB. They could be amazing doctors who could do amazing things, but unless they were a DHB, it didn’t really matter. Being a DHB is what would enable them to really make a difference. Not being a DHB would cause them to forfeit the greatness they could potentially bring to the world.

The D in DHB does not stand for doctor, she said. It stands for decent. The full acronym is not a degree. It is Decent Human Being. Her entire commencement address described what it means, as a doctor, to be a decent human being. She made the case that these three letters were much more important than the three new letters after their names.

As a leader, you have a title or a role in your organization. You likely have achieved certain certifications or awards. You may have earned degrees or even gone back to school to advance your education and career. But few of us think very much about the work that it takes to earn our DHB certification.

In the opening session of LEAD, all of us were asked to think about leadership. What is it? What does it look like? We learned that there is a difference between having people follow you and being a leader worth following. In fact, you were asked to wrestle with this distinction and encouraged to seek clarity on what it means to be a person worth following over the entire year.

That is what led up to the essay you wrote as your year in LEAD came to a close. After a year of content, what does it now mean to you to be a leader worth following? These are some of the most meaningful essays that we receive. They are often the most clarifying and life and career-defining essays that participants write.

It is common to read essays that include trust, vision, and integrity. And even though the word may not be used frequently, there is another common theme in the essays: Love. Great leaders love the people they lead. Love inspires them in vision. Love inspires the teams they build. Love motivates them in giving feedback: the five positives as well as the one adjusting item of feedback. Love keeps them up at night sometimes. And love helps them lead themselves well. Love reminds them to be bottled water and not Diet Coke.

The greatest of these leadership characteristics is love. Not titles. Not degrees. The greatest of these is love because love is what makes you worth following. Love is what makes you a Decent Human Being.

Lead well my fellow DHBs,

Image by Jangra Works. Used under CC by 2.0 license.