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Leading with love: Three ways great leaders show love in the workplace

Natasha Bonnevalle
February 14th, 2018
Article by: Natasha Bonnevalle
Leading with love: Three ways great leaders show love in the workplace

As technology develops at an accelerated pace, the way we work is changing fast. Tasks that were once in the hands and minds of humans are increasingly being carried out by machines. At the same time, we continue to adapt to new technologies that keep changing how, when and where we get our work done.

 

Globalization implies that the people we collaborate with are often sitting at the other end of the world, speaking a different language and living in another culture. The human interactions that underlie good decision making, complex problem-solving, and alignment are becoming more fragile.

 

When we leave for work, we don’t leave our humanness at home. Our needs, emotions and dreams come with us. We want to know that our colleagues respect us, recognize us, care for us - and we want to know that the people who lead us do the same.

 

At the recent World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Jack Ma reiterated that leaders need IQ, EQ, and LQ – the quotient of love.

 

“A machine does not have a heart, a machine does not have soul, and a machine does not have a belief,” said Ma. “Human beings have the souls, have the belief, have the value; we are creative.”

 

So, what does leading with love look like in the workplace?

Make a genuine effort to understand each other

Working in diverse workplaces with colleagues from around the world can make communicating a challenge. But we only need to look at our relationships outside of work – with our parents or our partners – to know that even if we are spending a considerable amount of time together, it’s still hard to truly understand one another. It helps to assume that, most of the time, our colleagues have good intentions – and to acknowledge that those good intentions can sometimes be quite literally lost in translation.

This gets easier if we foster a deep sense of wonder and curiosity, becoming genuinely interested in our colleagues. Listening deeply to what they are saying (and crucially: to what they are not saying), asking lots of questions, exploring their perspectives from all angles. Judging and blaming are easy and just as easily lead to disengagement and conflict. On the other hand, staying open and curious in conversations generates an environment where people feel heard, seen, and truly cared about.

Accept that we are all flawed

No one is good at everything and everyone makes mistakes yet our natural tendency is to hide our failures and cover our weaknesses. In intimate relationships, our flaws are only too visible to our partners. Feeling accepted despite our shortcomings increases our own tolerance for the mistakes of others and builds our generosity for forgiving them. It’s no different at work.

The key for leading with love is to nurture a culture where people feel safe enough to be vulnerable. Vulnerability is one of those qualities we first look for in others, but is the last thing we want to show ourselves. Being vulnerable takes courage. We need to know that we can ask our colleagues for help when we are struggling and that we will be supported when things go wrong. Yes, we will get feedback and are expected to learn from it, but we will not be rejected for making a mistake.

leading with love
Vulnerability is one of those qualities we first look for in others, but is the last thing we want to show ourselves. Being vulnerable takes courage. #vulnerability #leadership Click To Tweet

Have courageous conversations

No relationship is free from rocky junctures and most of us want to walk away from addressing conflict (and there are a million ways in which we do this). If we are willing to knowingly walk into hard moments to have the kind of conversations that require us to show up fully, we can both work on the issues and improve the way we relate to each other.

Courageous conversations are so difficult because they play both on our anxiety to upset the other person as well as on our fear of not handling the conversation well and being rejected ourselves. We need to go in with unconditional positive regard for the person sitting across from us and be prepared for real emotional engagement. A courageous conversation blends mercy and truth, requires and creates tenderness and, if done well, builds stronger connections.

Leadership is about love

Infusing the kind of love I have just described into our workplaces is more than just a humane thing to do. Research shows that people who work in a culture where they feel free to express affection, tenderness, care, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the organization, and accountable for their performance.

 

leading with love
Research shows that people who work in a culture where they feel free to express affection, care, and compassion for one another were more satisfied with their jobs and committed to the organization #lovequotient #leadership Click To Tweet

As leaders, what does all of this mean? That we intentionally seek out to build connections with those that are most different from ourselves. That we model curiosity and wonder. When we’re leading with love, we embrace our own vulnerability, openly acknowledge our imperfections, and share how these allow us to learn and grow. And that we build a culture where the tough love discussions can happen that build ever deeper connections between co-workers.

Exercising leadership is as much an expression of our potential to make things happen as it is of our humanity. If leadership would be less about love, our workplaces would turn into the very same places we fear if the machines take over. What then would be left of ourselves?

To build up your own love quotient and to discover how you can lead with love, check out THNK’s Executive Leadership Program.




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