It may seem strange to associate leadership with love. Leaders are supposed to be tough, right? Thick-skinned. Fearless. Implacable. That’s what conventional wisdom has taught us, but these traditional views of leadership may be fundamentally flawed. Evidence is mounting that shows that tough leadership only works well in the short-term, while love-based leadership is more effective and sustainable in the long-term.
Ray Williams, leadership development advisor and author of The Leadership Edge, has conducted extensive research on both love-based and fear-based leadership. According to Williams, “Driving, directive, coercive styles of leadership may move people and get results in the short-term, but the dissonance it creates is associated with toxic relationships and emotions such as anger, anxiety, and fear.” Fear might motivate your staff in the immediate future, but a more sustainable leadership model is one based on love.
What does love-based leadership look like?
Love-based leadership means showing genuine care for others, really trying to understand and appreciate your co-workers, and practicing empathy. It also means developing an atmosphere of trust and openness, so that others will not hesitate to approach you with a problem or bring forth an idea. This kind of open communication and mutual respect is what makes people want to get up and go to work in the morning. Doctor Maria Church, author of Love-Based Leadership, says, “Happiness can be directly translated into engagement, productivity, and satisfaction—that is the wide definition of productive work. Likewise, positive affect is associated with multiple positive outcomes including better performance ratings at work, higher salaries, and improved health.”
Keep in mind, workplaces do not transform over night. It takes time to build your leadership brand and establish an atmosphere of empathy, love, and trust. What’s the key to making love the center of your leadership style? Practice compassion every day.
You can start by paying attention to your co-workers and asking them questions. Inquire about their weekend, their family, what they are doing after work. Ask them their thoughts about a current work project or challenge. Get them talking and truly listen to what they have to say. Stop thinking about what you’d like to contribute to the conversation and start focusing on the person in front of you. Intentional listening is one of the keys to developing a good understanding of others.
Take time to learn about and care about someone every day. You’ll find that your leadership brand will naturally evolve into one based on love and genuine compassion. Remember, a workplace that is open, compassionate, and healthy starts with one loving leader at a time. Be that leader.
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