Do the words “love” and “leadership” belong in the same sentence? And what does that word “love” actually mean, anyway?
The dictionary definition is fairly simple. Love is “an intense feeling of deep affection”. Or it can be “a great interest and pleasure in something”.
We have all felt love, haven’t we? Love for a parent or a sibling; love for a partner or a child; even love for a pet. Of course, these types of love are all different from each other. The love of a mother for her child is different from the love of someone for their life partner. And that is different from the love between two brothers. OR IS IT?
I couldn’t say that I love my husband differently from the way I love my sister, or my cats. Yes, the intensity of the feeling might vary, and the physical expression of that feeling might differ, but the way I treat my loved one is no different. For me, it means you want the best for that person, you want them to be happy, you want them to succeed. If you love someone, you will go the extra mile for them. You will put yourself out for them. Or you would change your plans to accommodate them. Their welfare is important to you and you care about what they are thinking and feeling. These things are common for every type of love.
What do we mean by “love” in the workplace?
Firstly let’s separate the feeling of love from the actions which we take when we feel love. Then it is easy to see how this can translate to the workplace. Indeed, it can apply to any other situation in our daily lives.
We go to work for a variety of different reasons. The basic reason is usually to earn money to fund everything else in our lives. But while we are there, we have dealings with other people. Most of us want those dealings to be pleasant, friendly and helpful. Our colleagues can even grow into being personal friends.
For those dealings with others to be pleasant and effective, then we really need to love those people. We want the best for them, we want them to succeed, we put ourselves out for them, we help them. We do this, probably unconsciously, all the time. Maybe we thank people and we help people. Perhaps we teach people what we know. We help them to do the best job they can do. The underlying reason we do these things may be that we want them to do the same for us. We all have a need for love, and the workplace is no different from anywhere else – we want to be “liked”.
So what about love and leadership?
A leader – whether in the workplace or politics, or in a sports team or a country – would do well to show these outward expressions of love to the people they lead. Surely a leader should want the best for the team? They should want team members to be happy and to succeed? If those things are true for individual members of a team, then they will be true for the whole team.
In a position of leadership, I would say it is absolutely critical to “love” those you lead. On that will rest your success as a leader and the success of the outcome you are seeking.
How does a leader show love? Put every single possible step in place to ensure the welfare (physical and mental) of your team. Make sure your team are at the heart of all your plans and decisions. Be prepared to change course (or at least adjust the course) if it will be a better option for people. Consult with your team regularly to temperature test your plans. Make sure everybody is included.
The benefits of love and leadership
The strange thing about love is that the more you give out, the more you get back. A leader who loves the people they lead will find that those people are prepared to love them in return. They will bend over backwards to meet deadlines. Perhaps, they will sing the praises of the leader. Because they feel safe and secure they will do their best work. They will make sacrifices if necessary. In short, they will love the leader.
The question may not be “what are the benefits if I lead my team with love?” It is better to ask “what will be the size and consequence of the failure, if I don’t love my team?”
Oh, and what is the biggest benefit of all? You will find you love yourself, as well.
But what about the difficult decisions?
You may think you would not gain respect if you are “soft” on your team. My answer to that is that love is not soft. It comes from a place of strength. People will respect you far more for being kind, helpful, approachable and, yes – loving.
There are times in business when difficult decisions have to be made. Sometimes we have to do some difficult things. I am thinking about times like redundancies, disciplinaries, even dismissals. You might think that love doesn’t have a place in these types of action.
But I would say just the opposite. There have been any number of really difficult and unpleasant situations I have had to manage. I have seen every reaction you could imagine. And I am proud that I have helped people when they are facing some of the darkest times of their working lives. I have treated them as humans. Yes – I have loved them.