Love: The Language of Leadership

Last month, I asked for your perspectives on two questions:

  1. Is Love, in essence, the language of leadership?
  2. Are we the same people at work as we are at home?

Here is a sampling of some of the intriguing responses I received:

  • My belief is that passion is a form and expression of love. When we are passionate about something, we are more apt to take risks and to take a leadership role to ensure that a project, a methodology, a client is taken care of and seen to fruition. When someone is passionate about their work, they dig in and learn more about it, get an understanding of the nuances, and strive to be the best. In whatever work that might be, that usually entails being a living “stand” for that work or for what’s trying to be accomplished by that work. Leadership is no less than a stand for what it is we are passionate about. And, as leaders for what we stand for and are passionate about, we infuse our daily work, our words, and our leadership actions (strategic and tactical) with the love and passion we feel. It draws people to follow, it empowers others to take actions, and it brings us fulfillment.
  • I do not think I am the same at work as I am at home. I bring far less emotion to my work relationships than my personal ones, yet I do bring a lot of passion to my job. With your idea that love is the language of leadership, I wonder what my approach could mean in terms of my leadership role. I think of myself as someone who loves deeply. Bringing more of that to work sounds a little frightening.
  • In a world that pushes growth, scale, profit, and progress, a true leader’s job is to contend that none of that can come at the cost of love. A leader has to recognize that regardless of industry, location, market cap, or number of employees, we are all in the human business. That recognition requires leadership to be imbued with love.
  • We are the same person at home and work, but we have different job descriptions! We may also function very differently, especially in moments of stress. Now, if we are walking in everyday enlightenment (egos subsumed by hearts of continuous courage), then we’re much closer to being the same at home and work. Except for the kisses….
  • Love is the foundation that allows us to feel compassion and empathy toward our colleagues, family and friends. Love allows us to put aside judgment of others and to work together, rather than against each other. Love leads to the greatest possible outcomes.
  • Love is the core of true leadership. I’m not sure you can be an effective leader if you don’t come from caring for the business and the people who make it happen.
  • I think it’s more true that love should be the language of leadership. I’m not sure many leaders actually operate with that mindset or approach. Men, in particular, might have trouble living this out in their professional lives. Perhaps it’s about their level of emotional intelligence. I’m thinking of a friend who has started several businesses. He’s exceptionally smart, but he seems to be quite lacking in his comfort with love in general. Again, he might be more inclined to agree that love should be the language of leadership, but I think he would be entirely uncomfortable actually living it out in his various businesses.

Everyone’s feedback (which you can view and download here) has expanded my thinking on this topic. Now here’s my take.

Whether it’s our professional or our personal relationships, it is Love that holds us together.

In our relationships at work and at home, we are trying to coordinate our actions to get things done. Yet we are constantly bumping up against our differences. Traditionally, we call this “conflict”. At the first sign of differences, we have only one fundamental choice to make.

Will we choose contempt or compassion in how we interact with one another?

Choose contempt and we are inclined to hold to our own point of view, to judge one another and, at best, to agree to disagree.

Choose compassion and we are inclined to treat each other with respect and to give each other the benefit of the doubt in the presence of our differences. From there, we can learn from each other. We can solve our problems together. We can transcend what would otherwise divide us.

At work, it is a leader’s responsibility to make this fundamental choice. It establishes the norm for what happens in the face of conflict. And considering today’s world, we need more and more leaders choosing compassion, the language of Love.