The 'L' word
Leadership and love are perhaps the two single biggest factors guiding human history. In business however, there is a pervasive belief that leadership, not love, drives results. Except for some like Herb Kelleher, the late Southwest airlines CEO who demonstrated that love is the ultimate competitive advantage.
Love, not leadership, is the force that fuels the behaviors and attitudes that lead to phenomenal results sustainably. For to lead people - and all businesses are in the business of serving people - you may want to lead with love.
Prioritising love can seem a little odd, being that for decades we’ve been conditioned to believe and are taught in business schools that shareholder’s supremacy is the reason why a business exists in the first place.
Today, shareholder’s supremacy has become a thing of the past as more and more businesses realise they have a responsibility to not just their shareholders but to all stakeholders. Therefore, it makes sense to embrace the truism that ‘if you love those you lead, they will love you in return’. Your results speak for themselves.
To be clear, the love I refer to in this context is not a love that’s ‘touchy feely’ but rather, the kind of love that’s defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as ‘a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties’.
If you’ve ever led anyone, be it as a parent, teacher, politician, clergy, or as a business leader you know that influencing others takes more than just telling them what to do. In fact, ‘telling’ is a fail-on-arrival strategy.Leadership at best is influence, and influencing others requires you care enough to understand what motivates them as well as be present to meet their needs, and remain committed to help them succeed.
To create sustainable value and profitability, business leaders may want to espouse leading with Love. In so doing, they forge alignment in meeting their employee’s goals and aspirations and in return, their employees help them reach theirs.
Leading with love thus requires a shift in mindset to one that prioritises employee's needs. Great leaders like Herb Kelleher have proven that prioritising love as a competitive advantage creates incredible results and success for all stakeholders.
In case you wish to lead with love, here are attributes that can be learned to help shift your mindset: connection, commitment and compassion.
According to a survey report by Harvard Business School, some leaders noted that they have chosen to unlearn management and relearn being human. That is because at the heart of true leadership is one’s ability to connect with another.
Connection is the bond between two individuals. Great leaders like the late Herb Kelleher of Southwest airlines build a successful business year after year by focusing on his employee’s state of happiness – because a happy employee is one that is connected with your vision, value and brand message.
Quoted from its website: "The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service. Delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit."
Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him. It's something we call heart power. Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop him short of success. – Vince Lombardi, Legendary Coach
Leading others can be burdensome if you are in it for selfish reasons or are in it for the short haul. This can lead to stress and burnout over time. However, if your love for those you lead is your core motivator, then sacrifice and devotion automatically becomes meaningful and fulfilling.
Leading with love is not for the faint of heart. It’s like parenting, and as such requires you count the cost, commit fully and have a great deal of unconditional love for those you lead. Without love, you will feel trapped, dry and unfulfilled.
At our cores, human beings have an innate need to feel loved, cared for (belonging) and success.
Compassion is your ability to feel and experience another’s suffering, and subsequent desire to help alleviate the pain. Compassion seeks to deliver happiness to another thus stoking a visceral sense of safety, care, trust, commitment and loyalty. Who would not want that?
At our cores, human beings have an innate need to feel loved, cared for (belonging) and success. As such, leaders who lead with this understanding cultivate a great deal of goodwill with those they lead. Inspiring passion, purpose and presence that deliver superior results as those they lead push to their unlimited potential.
Note however, compassion cannot be faked – you either have it or you don’t. Nevertheless, it can be learned for those willing to lead with love. Despise your people and they will abandon you. Love your people and they will give you their all – blood, sweat and tears!
Leading with love is legacy leadership. It creates impact that transcends the present. Like many great leaders before you, consider that legacy leadership demands that you lead by being human first. Embrace connection, commitment and compassion without which your leadership is just as bland as anyone else’s.
However, if you desire to lead generations upon generations to new heights now and after your mortal state, then lead with love.
Check out this great video on "Power X Love" below: