Contrary to popular belief, LOVE is not a four-letter word in the workplace (I’m sure many of my HR friends are cringing right now, furiously composing a rebuttal). And yet, it is a rare workplace in which I encounter a leader comfortable enough to embrace the power of love (shout out to Huey Lewis) in how he or she leads. Emotional distance is safer. As one leader recently shared with me, “I keep a safe distance with all of my direct reports because I may one day have to let them go. It is much easier to have those conversations if I don’t know anything about them personally or don’t have a deeper connection with them.” No doubt, arms-length leadership is the safe play, the legal play. But arms-length leadership is neither inspiring nor compelling leadership.
For the purposes of this post, consider the notion that “leaders must love to truly gain the commitment of others.” Love is a powerful form of positive energy, and simply put, leadership is all about pumping energy into a system in order to drive alignment and progress. Whether we are talking about inspiration or instilling urgency, leadership is all about energy.
“Leaders must love to truly gain the commitment of others.”
Consider the following leadership loves that I would argue great leaders possess:
- Love the mission and purpose of the organization. They feel an emotional connection to the “why” of the organization and are comfortable sharing that passion with others.
- Love the customers they serve. They care about their customers enough to be curious about their customers’ needs and how the organization might be able to make their lives better.
- Love their employees. They feel a deep commitment and care for the people they lead.
- Love their jobs. They consider themselves blessed to have the privilege to touch so many lives and lead others to something better. Their role brings them joy and a personal sense of purpose.
Leaders that have these four leadership loves inspire others. They have the ability to lead others through difficult change. Followers and customers alike give them the benefit of the doubt in times of uncertainty.
Leading with love is a long-term strategy. It is rewarded with loyalty and commitment from others. Arms-length leadership is a short-term strategy and is rewarded with temporary commitments until something better comes along (something better always does seem to come along).
So what are you waiting for? Time to stop playing the field and time to get serious. Take a chance and lead with your heart.