What’s Love Got To Do With Leadership?

We tend to think there’s no place for love in the workplace but former FTSE 25 HR Director Yetunde Hofmann, believes love-based leadership is critical to an organisation’s success. Here’s how.

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What is love?

Love is the unconditional acceptance of all of who I am as a human being – warts and all – and the unconditional acceptance of all of who you are and who others are as human beings.  It is the ability to separate an individual’s behaviour from the very essence of who they are, to see the innate beauty that lies within every single human being, their strengths and their talent. It is the commitment to establishing an environment where everyone, without exception, can be all of who they are and operate at their very best.  

Why love-based leadership is key to inclusivity and performance

Love is a critical leadership and organisational capability. It is the key to building an organisation in which your people feel like they belong and thrive.   When love is at the centre, it gives leaders: the clarity needed to understand where they want to go, the knowledge of how to get there and the ability to, with love and without condition, mobilise people to follow you

You can’t get anything done or make anything happen without the followership of others.  A strategy without your people to execute it is purely that – a strategy.  An idea without your people to execute it is simply that – an idea. A purpose-driven organisation or team can’t live its purpose without the living, breathing activation of the people who exist within it. An organisation is a living being – head, heart and gut. Love, therefore, has everything to do with leadership.  

For the reader who may not be yet convinced, here are 7 things that love-based leadership will enable for the better for you, your team, your organisation and the communities that you serve. 

1. It saves time

Love-based leadership allows trust to grow in teams and across the organisation because there is a culture of acceptance, one that focuses on the good of all and plays to each and everyone’s strengths, regardless of who they are. This means that the time it takes to make and follow through on decisions is significantly reduced.  For example, if each person can speak up without censure, the number of meetings needed is greatly reduced and debates on the pros and cons of different options are more focused.  

2. It increases productivity

When you know you are accepted and valued by your leadership, your willingness to step forward boldly with new ideas not only increases, your effort and commitment to doing a great job increases too.  Countless governments across the world invest time and money setting up think tanks and task forces designed to uncover what it would take to increase GDP and in-company productivity.  Yet the simplest of methods – the introduction and the development of love as a capability – is hardly examined. When an employee feels like they belong, that they can bring all of who they are to the workplace, that they are accepted and appreciated for the value that they bring, when they know they are treated equally, equitably, and fairly by their leadership and colleagues, it gives room for them to operate at their very best.  When everyone is operating at their very best, the pace of and the ability to adapt to change becomes faster.  When you focus on love as a leader you create an environment in which your people spend less time second-guessing the motives and intentions behind decisions and communications because they know without a shadow of a doubt that every decision made, even the most unpalatable, is made in their best interest. 

3. It makes money

Increased productivity, focus and attention will mean fewer errors and mistakes. And, when a mistake is made, there will be plenty to gain from it as love creates an organisation where learning is a strength. When you learn, you fail fast, adapt, recover and excel!  Through persistent excellence and a genuine focus on your people, everything else that comes from your people will flow and that means  healthy bottom and top-line growth.  

4. It enables the effective allocation of resources

Teamwork in love-based leadership manifests genuine team-based success. It is the notion of Ubuntu  – a South African saying that means “because we are, I am”.  When you come from a place of love, your willingness to attract talent from new and different sources, to take a risk on the individual who may not be quite the finished article but offers something different to the team, and to forego what benefits you for the sake of the greater good of the company and the team come out to play.  Love removes the presence of small-time politics in organisations and makes room for meaningful conversations that enable decisions that impact the organisation and its people positively.  The community that it serves will also benefit. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals -SDGs – can be grouped into three buckets: the reversal of climate change, the eradication of poverty, closing the gap on gender inequality. If love-based leadership was present in every leader in the world, the likelihood of them being achieved in record time would be maximised. One could even dare to imagine that if love-based leadership were pursued by every organisation in the world, we may not even  need their mention. 

5. It engenders purpose

A leader who develops love as a capability for self and organisation is a leader who appreciates the gravity of responsibility that leadership carries.  Understanding the self is critical to -acceptance.  When a leader comes from a place of love, they appreciate that they are serving something much bigger than themselves – they are purpose-led. You know decisions can cause a butterfly effect that goes beyond the boundaries of your organisation; that a decision made in one part of the world can impact the livelihood of others in an entirely different part of the world.  Every decision that you make in response to the request of the stakeholder or investor is made with careful consideration for your people, knowing that each person in your team and organisation is indeed a village. Every merger and integration decision will be made only after carefully considering the intended and unintended consequences to human beings inside and outside the organisation. New technology development and implementation and indeed any change small or big will be done in genuine consultation with all impacted. Reskilling and retraining will happen where needed.  In love-based, purpose-led organisations everyone in the business, from the top to the bottom, without exception, will know how they fit in and how what they do contributes to the organisation’s purpose. Without love, you cannot live your purpose, as a leader or as an organisation. 

6. It produces kindness

Kindness is increasingly important in the world of work and society today, as highlighted in Psychology Today and in this blog.  It promotes wellbeing and supports mental health.  Without accepting another person for who they are, no matter how different or similar they are to you, it is difficult to be genuinely kind or compassionate to them.  When you come from a place of love, it makes it possible to take tough decisions that may impact others negatively in the short term but are in the interest of the wider team. It means a willingness to forgive the clumsy expression of a colleague or indeed to call out someone’s bad behaviour in support of another colleague who may be in the minority, no matter how “career-limiting” taking that stance may be for you.  

 7. It enables joy

Love, as a leadership and organisation capability, enables joy inside of you and your organisation.  Joy is a combination of acceptance and a sense of purpose.  When you accept all of who you are and, at the same time, are clear about your role and responsibility as a leader, your ability to recover fast from knockbacks grows.  It means that no matter the challenges and the storms you face, as the current socio and economic trends have proven, where others may recoil and collapse, you are more likely to remain standing. 

In summary, love may be seen as something soft and at times a challenging topic to broach as a leader.  It takes courage and boldness – leadership traits that are needed in the world today – to initiate the conversation and to pursue it as a capability that if developed will indeed have the world be a much better place than it is today. 

About the author: Yetunde Hofmann is a Board level executive leadership coach and mentor, global change, inclusion and diversity expert, author of Beyond Engagement and founder of SOLARIS – a pioneering new leadership development programme for black women. Find out more at http://www.solarisleadership.com/

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