Bring love to your leadership style
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
While “love” and “leadership” might sound like incompatible concepts, leaders who are unafraid to add love to their leadership style will find it motivates and engenders loyalty in their teams like nothing else can.
Obviously, I’m not talking about hearts-and-flowers love or even familial love; those types of love are usually best left out of the workplace (family businesses aside). The kind of love I’m talking about is broader, more encompassing. It’s often called agape love, and it’s selfless and unconditional, like you find in the Bible.
This kind of love is not easy to practice, especially in these volatile times, when office chit-chat can easily run aground on the rocks of ideological differences and judgments about our world. Yet it’s interesting that a couple of plagues — COVID-19 and social injustice — may actually become catalysts for introducing the idea that love has everything to do with leadership, because it can help heal the stress and divisiveness in our politics, our society, and yes, especially our business cultures.
It is possible to practice love at work in ways that are comfortable and not too difficult. Here are four suggestions to get you started:
1. Be responsible for the energy you bring into the “virtual” room.
Love is productive energy. In her popular TED Talk, “A Stroke of Insight,” Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain, makes a compelling case for consciously choosing to bring positive, caring energy into any room you enter. She said that during her miraculous recovery, she could feel if people’s energy was positive or negative when they entered her room, and it directly impacted her ability to heal.
In your next meeting, pay attention to levels of productivity when the energy feels good (love) versus when it doesn’t (anger/frustration/fear). This is especially important in virtual meetings, where you have to work a little harder to make the emotional connection with people that will raise positive energy.
2. Ask people how they’re feeling rather than how they are doing.
This may sound like splitting hairs, but when you ask people how they’re doing they tend to say, “I’m fine, thanks” or even, “I’m so busy!” They report what they are doing, just like you asked. Asking how they feel is more personal; it lets them know you care. You might also get a more honest answer rather than an autopilot response.
In his book “Back to Human,” Dan Schawbel cites Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former U.S. Surgeon General, as stating that the impact of loneliness on health is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making loneliness one of our nation’s greatest health risks. Sadly, in our society people feel ashamed or embarrassed to admit to loneliness and disconnectedness. A wise leader assumes that people struggle in our current work environments, then takes the time to make it safe to say so. Start by asking.
3. Remember people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
In the book “Trillion Dollar Coach,” about executive coach Bill Campbell, who worked with some of the most successful tech companies in the world, the authors reveal that Bill attributed his impact as a business coach to teaching five timeless things: getting things right in how you interact with people; building trust; collaboration; and his personal favorite, showing both love and appreciation as a leader. His clients say that Bill helped generate over $1 trillion in revenue.
Market knowledge and strategy are important but overrated as the most important leadership capabilities to drive growth and high performance. As the saying goes, the soft stuff is the hard stuff — it takes courage.
4. Time and attention are the most powerful ways to show love.
No one seems to have enough time these days, especially leaders facing today’s relentless barrage of unpredictable business challenges. We talk about time management and have convinced ourselves that having limited time is the problem when, in reality, limited time is simply a universal truth that affects us all. This “problem” should instead be considered an opportunity to choose how we spend our most precious resource.
With prioritization as the challenge, how we spend our hours must pay big returns. Everyone knows that your time and attention are your most valuable resource, so when you invest it in reaching out and checking in with people, they notice. That small effort on your part builds loyalty and commitment. It says “I care” more clearly than anything else you could do.
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