This article was initialy published on Forbes.com
One of the recurring themes in my life in the last few months has been the place of love in leadership. I work with many clients who, when I bring up the topic in conversation, find this concept to be a bit shocking and jarring. There seems to be a notion that love — authentically caring and nurturing the people you lead along with providing them unconditional support — does not mix well with the realities of the business world. But I disagree. This article will explore love in the context of leadership to help you come to your own conclusions.
Why Some Leaders Don’t Allow Themselves To Love
In my recent management training courses, a few young leaders told me : “As a manager, I can’t afford to get close to my people. It may create jealousy among others, or I may have to let one of these people go. It’s just too painful!”
These young leaders were in their mid-20s to early 30s, and their difficult work experiences were leading them to believe they had to detach themselves emotionally from their teams. They felt they needed to numb themselves emotionally, like Brené Brown explains in her TED talk on vulnerability.
On the other hand, in many organizations, there are people who get promoted to management roles because there’s nowhere else for them to grow within the company. They learn about emotional intelligence and soft skills as they go or by emulating the leaders they had in the past. But no one necessarily teaches them to love and take care of their employees.
Allowing yourself to love your employees as a manager can be as simple as taking a genuine interest in what is going on in the lives of the people around you. What lights them up? What’s their journey?
Allowing yourself to love also means sharing what’s happening in your own life. By opening up even just a little and creating real connections with the people around you, you create a much more valuable space for communication and collaboration.
Yes, it hurts when you need to have difficult conversations with employees you are close to. But maybe it’s supposed to be hard in order to remind us we are all human and that we must be more mindful of how we treat people.
Why Some Leaders Forget To Love
I often have discussions with managers and leaders who express frustration either about the lack of engagement or results they see from people on their teams. But the corollary to this is that they often don’t take responsibility for bad decisions they made which created the disengagement in the first place. Leaders often speak from a place of blame instead of possibilities, solutions and their role in improving things.
I see a variety of potential challenges for these leaders:
- They can’t see where people could stand to improve and aren’t providing help.
- They can’t see the impact they are having on their team members.
- They don’t have the emotional maturity and soft skills necessary to provide the right support.
As a leader, you should always remember that understanding other perspectives is a key leadership skill. Make an effort to see the world from the perspective of the people you are talking to. You are responsible for having real conversations with people and not building up conversation debt that may be the root cause your frustration.
How To Have Conversations From A Place Of Love
A few years ago, I was the “interim” director of my company’s consulting team. I remember, at the time, that “interim” moniker often impacted how I led the team, the conversations that I had with people, and more importantly, the ones I didn’t have. In my current position as a small business owner, my perspective of leadership is very different.
I learned that being a loving and caring leader also means engaging colleagues in difficult conversations around behaviors, performance and expectations, even though they may not be easy or comfortable for all those involved. Did you ever notice how you speak to your colleagues in these situations?
One thing that can make it easier is setting the stage right at the beginning of the conversation. Let them know it may be uncomfortable or awkward but that it’s important to have this discussion with them. During the conversation, remain calm and present for them as you would for people who are close to you. Listen and ask questions to help you better understand their perspective instead of listening only to respond and argue. Accept and acknowledge your responsibility for your actions whenever you can.
Most importantly, pay attention to the place your words are coming from. Is it out of frustration or compassion? Is it out of impatience or love? By having more conversations from a place of love, you may discover there is more compassion, listening, understanding and less blame. You may also notice more connection, safety and trust between both parties and a stronger focus on personal responsibility, requests and promises.
Leading From A Place Of Love
Have you ever wondered how you feel about the place of love in leadership, especially in the business world? Although some may see them as incompatible with one another, have you ever taken the time to reflect on this for yourself? How could you lead your people differently if you chose to do so with love instead of frustration and shame?
My belief is that leading people from a place of love, mindfulness and intentionality is the key that enables people to give you the permission to lead them. What is your leadership based on? Fear, shame and blame? Or does it come from genuine compassion for the people you lead? How could you add more love to your leadership?