5 Surprising Ways to Lead With Love & Become a Heart-Centered Leader
So many of us believe that leaders are cold, aloof and analytical, or that they separate their emotions from their work. Surprisingly, the single most important factor that differentiates a good leader from a great leader is LOVE. Today, I’m going to share with you ways to lead with love and become a heart-centered leader.
Let’s face it: Love isn’t often said in conjunction with leadership.
We feel comfortable saying we love our family and friends, but hesitate to use the word when it comes to our team members. Yet, if you think about it, don’t leaders want the very best for their employees? To help them grow and to ensure their wellbeing? When you put these things together, they add up to a strong sense of affection and care — which, in fact, is the meaning of love!
Emotions are contagious. The best leaders know what to share and when.
Love is undoubtedly the most powerful emotion that we have, and one that is universally recognized by science and cultures around the world as a central aspiration of living. Keep in mind that a company is stronger if bound by love than by fear. Put your heart into your interactions with coworkers and employees, rather than looking for outward recognition as a leader. The focus is to serve the people that you are leading, not the other way around.
If you want to lead generations to new heights now and forever after, lead with love.
Leadership and love are perhaps the two single biggest factors guiding human history. Love, not leadership, is the force that fuels the behaviors and attitudes that lead to phenomenal results sustainably. For to lead people — and all businesses are in the business of serving people — you may want to lead with love.
When you lead with love, success inevitably follows.
Wondering how to become a better leader and encourage more emotional engagement in your workplace? The secret is in convincing your brain to let your heart take the lead. In case you wish to lead with love, here are some practical ways that can help shift your mindset.
Lead with Love #1: Dare to Care
Leading from the heart isn’t as hard as you might think. You may think it will take too much time or create an impression of weakness. This is a fallacy of grave proportion. When you, as a leader, take the time to stop and engage authentically with an employee, actually caring for him or her by giving your full attention and being present, there’s a visceral exchange of genuineness and love.
Doesn’t it make practical sense that to be successful–to bring out the best in your employees–you’d act in ways that show you care?
You can be a brilliant manager and a tremendous individual contributor but if you are trying to get others to work in tandem with you, know that people don’t care how much you know until they know you really care about them. Focusing only on tasks degrades organizational effectiveness when individuals recognize no one cares about them. A caring culture produces beneficial ripple effects as well. It manifests beyond the internal organization in healthier relationships with vendors and partners. When individuals and leaders reflexively care about one another, they do the same with everyone they work with, and live with. It becomes a very powerful force that strengthens a company in many ways.
When you choose the responsibility of leading others, relationships form.
That’s just part of any hierarchical leadership role. Leaders don’t have to be friends with employees, but they do have to care. Unfortunately, many managers get this simple lesson wrong. They make the mistake of acting like they are on a different team with their people instead of the same team. The best leaders do the opposite. They know their job is to be their team members ally and care about them enough to build a bond of mutual trust. Part of that trust is knowing an employee is cared for or even loved by their boss.
At our cores, human beings have an innate need to feel loved, cared for (belonging) and success.
Compassion is your ability to feel and experience another’s suffering, and subsequent desire to help alleviate the pain. Compassion seeks to deliver happiness to another thus stoking a visceral sense of safety, care, trust, commitment and loyalty. Compassionate leaders who lead with this understanding cultivate a great deal of goodwill with those they lead. Inspiring passion, purpose and presence that deliver superior results as those they lead push to their unlimited potential. Love your people and they will give you their all — blood, sweat and tears!
Taking time to get to know and care for the people you lead brings about greater unity.
This unity is especially important as your team faces adversity. When love exists among the members of a group, they are more likely to pull together than to tear one another apart. The bond of connection they feel helps them overcome the inevitable obstacles every organization encounters. What is needed is true connection supported by love. This love is driven by our feelings and desires to serve and help others as well as our love for what we do and whom we serve.
Lead with Love #2: Stop Avoiding Conflicts
Leading from within means leading with love, but sometimes we have to say something that is not entirely positive. When that time comes, we need to know what to say it, when to say it, and how to say it. Not only is approaching situations head-on inherent to your role as a leader, but your employees deserve candid, honest feedback, even if they don’t necessarily realize that while it’s being given.
Think about it — if someone had an issue with you, would you want them to talk to you about it? Or would you rather they tiptoed around, leaving you to wonder where you stand?
I, for one, would much prefer the former, and I don’t understand why we don’t always have that same respect for our colleagues in the workplace. At the end of the day, you never know what impact your words or actions have on others. People might not always be ready to hear your feedback, and it’s not until they later receive that same feedback from a different source–or through many different sources–that they’re willing to internalize it. You may just be the first in a series of people to convey the same sentiment–the first piece of the puzzle.
Avoidance is the best short term strategy to escape conflict, and the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering.
Great leaders cannot lead effectively without addressing conflict as it arises within the workplace. In fact, if they choose to avoid conflict at all costs, they can put their business at great risk. It is a leader’s job to address issues as they arise and take decisive action. If we choose to avoid conflict at any price, the price may be far greater than we are willing to pay. The impact of conflict avoidance can ripple throughout the organization and cripple the future growth of the business. So, embrace conflict resolution. After all, conflict can be very healthy, too. It is often how we get the best answers to the toughest questions.
Let’s be honest: No one is perfect — including you.
Spend less time hiding who you are and more time showing your true self. At the same time, accept others for who they are with grace instead of trying to fix their flaws. No one on your team should feel like they can’t contribute because they’re worried about being wrong. Instead, leaders who lead with love empower people to act authentically. You don’t love someone because of who they are. You love them because of the way they make you feel.
Last but not least, love overlooks minor offenses.
When love is present in a team, department or organization, people are more likely to assume the best in others and give them the benefit of the doubt. For example, if a colleague says something that is irritating, they may be inclined to cut them some slack. Absent love, potentially offending words or deeds are more likely to bring about retaliation and sprout rivalries that undermine performance.
Lead with Love #3: Invest in Human Connections
While it’s a fact that automation and AI will dramatically change the world we operate in, the need for human connection won’t change. Today’s management systems are built to prioritize shareholder value, commoditizing human beings as numbers or widgets. But what these systems fail to recognize is that great opportunities exist when you place value on the lives of those actually doing the work.
The best leaders love their teams. The best leaders love their customers.
The best leaders show love with their words, actions, and emotions. When we take the right action in the face of fear, grief, or pain — it is called courage. The more courage we show, the more courage others will also show. It is true with love as well. The more love we show, the more love others will show. The more love we feel, the more love others will feel as well. In business, love just makes sense. It makes sense to care about others. It makes sense to think about the needs of your team.
Loving-kindness is the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness to others.
We develop that capacity by practicing looking and listening deeply so that we know what to do and what not to do to make others happy. In leadership, we can practice loving-kindness by being interested in the whole person of the people we lead and serve and recognizing that they have lives outside of work with kids and parents and that sometimes they bring the challenges of their personal lives to work or the challenges of their work life at home.
Leading others can be burdensome if you are in it for selfish reasons or are in it for the short haul.
This can lead to stress and burnout over time. However, if your love for those you lead is your core motivator, then sacrifice and devotion automatically becomes meaningful and fulfilling. Leading with love is not for the faint of heart. It’s like parenting, and as such requires you count the cost, commit fully and have a great deal of unconditional love for those you lead. Without love, you will feel trapped, dry and unfulfilled.
Leadership requires first connecting to, then inspiring, people.
When you regularly express gratitude and treat employees with respect — you lead your people by example and set them up for alignment with others. This also engenders trust. The bonds of trust can only be forged when you consistently show your team that they are valued, listened to and involved. Besides, when you have the integrity and foresight to understand that everything you do and say has an impact — you’ll begin to consciously direct your energy and intentions. If you can master this, the perilous outcomes brought about by short-range thinking and impulsiveness comes to a halt.
Lead with Love #4: Feed Your Soul
To outwardly express love, understanding, and compassion requires an internal compass that is centered and loving. Nurture and feed your soul so that you pay it forward as the love leader you are.
One aspect of love that is central to the effectiveness of leaders is having love for themselves.
If our aspiration is to care for others as much as we care for ourselves, then we’d better be taking care of ourselves first. The initial step toward leading with love is to operate from a strong foundation of self-compassion and love. Once anchored in self-compassion, we can move outward towards caring for those close to us. When we practice love and compassion in the workplace, what happens? The evidence is quite compelling. Teams produce more. Employee satisfaction rises. Employee turnover declines. Teams operate more creatively.
Joy originates from inside of us and is independent from extrinsic factors.
If our love does not bring joy, it is not true love. Many small things can bring us tremendous joy, such as the awareness that we are healthy, live in a safe country and that our primary needs are cared for. Leadership is about connecting with people and bringing them energy. Business can often become too serious as leaders lead from the head with excessive focus on results, KPI’s and PowerPoint presentations and leaders often forget that business can also be fun and that in fact fun leads to better results.
Because the pressure is on you to perform, you may put yourself last.
However, remember there is a reason that when flying you are asked to place your oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. If you are not strong, mentally and physically, then it is unlikely you will be able to take care of your business and your employees. When you are healthy, focused and calm, your positive behavior can’t help but enhance employee productivity and engagement. When you embark on your leadership journey, I strongly encourage you to explore who you are. It’s time to authentically lead from your soul.
And for God’s sake, give yourself grace.
As we learn to manage with compassion and lead with love there will be ups and downs. Don’t give up when you hit a wall (because it will happen), or when things don’t work out the way you planned. Pivoting and course-correcting takes practice and over time it will get easier. Easier for you to check your ego at the door, easier for you to get to personally know people in order to coach them in a way that is effective for them, and easier for you to empathize with them.
Lead with Love #5: Show Appreciation
According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, workers enjoy a 50% higher success rate when their leaders show gratitude. This makes perfect sense: If you reward (verbally or financially) the good things that staff members do, they’ll do it again. Additionally, other team players will emulate the practice. Leaders who lead with love show appreciation without expecting anything in return.
Gratitude at work isn’t about platitudes. It’s about action.
Despite increased autonomy, humans still have need for feeling valued. Feeling valued comes from having self-respect and being recognized for your contribution to society. Leaders, let that register in your mind for a moment. Your people NEED you to appreciate them and recognize their efforts. I really believe that as a leader, sharing your appreciation is an obligation, it’s a responsibility. Leaders have to be in integrity to communicate with other people, how much and what you really appreciate about them.
Good leaders recognize people; Great leaders appreciate them.
As a leader, it is important to give appreciation because it enhances self-esteem for both giver and receiver and creates a human connection. One reason why appreciation is powerful is that, “I appreciate you” is very different than, “thank you.” While many of us were taught to say please and thank you whether we wanted to or not, because it is polite, we often do it automatically. An appreciation, however, is special, intimate and should always be given thoughtfully. Long story short, a state of appreciation is one of the highest vibrational emotional states possible.
While reprimands are common enough, forgiveness remains an underappreciated love language among leaders.
Caring for people means being able to forgive their errors and move on. When leaders hold grudges, give the cold shoulder or simply fail to verbalize their forgiveness, team members keep carrying around their guilt, fear and insecurity — all negative emotions that impede wellbeing and performance. Offering forgiveness is a powerful way to signal closure, restore trust and build up confidence. You could say something like, “We all mess up sometimes. It’s okay, consider it forgiven. Let’s move ahead.” Simple words with a big impact.
Genuine appreciation is a very intimate display of recognition and respect about specific things from people who understand the situation. It isn’t a $50 gift card for being a star employee.
Appreciation is big. After all, we were all programmed by society to expect appreciation when we were going to school. Why shouldn’t we expect this at work? Furthermore, it’s usually within someone’s emotional needs to attain a feeling of need and validation which is brought about by appreciation. Indeed, it is up to the people that work every day with employees to offer a show of appreciation. And so, if you feel like you haven’t done enough to appreciate the work of others start today on it and start building on your abilities. You won’t regret it.
Leading with love is legacy leadership. It creates impact that transcends the present. Like many great leaders before you, consider that legacy leadership demands that you lead by being human first. Embrace connection, commitment and compassion without which your leadership is just as bland as anyone else’s.
The best strategy is the one that works. Caring for others is always the best strategy.
To be a leader who leads from love is to continuously develop the art of leadership. No matter how masterful or successful you may be, you are always working on improving and inspiring others. To lead with love benefits both the leader and the follower. It benefits your business, your relationships, your community, and our culture.
To be honest, few leaders use the L-word.
So the next time you hear a leader speaking about “love” in terms of how colleagues treat one another and work together, pay close attention. You may be seeing a future Herb Kelleher in the making. As it turns out, love is a powerful source of competitive advantage. When we show care in ways that make sense to our team members, we communicate to them how deeply they are appreciated and how much we value them as individuals. It is in such an environment that people can truly flourish and achieve great things.
People don’t change in an instant. They evolve over time.
Leading with love means not letting fear get in the way of communicating with sincerity. Sometimes, loving people means acknowledging that, despite the best of intentions, you are just that one piece in their puzzle. Sometimes it means letting them go and waiting for them to come back. But it always means putting your best foot forward and giving them the honesty and respect that everyone deserves.
Love is our most potent, most positive emotion. Don’t settle for a sentimentalized box of candy this week. Lead with your heart! Lead with love!
It’s high time that we as leaders expand our understanding of ‘love’ and embrace this wonderfully nurturing quality at the workplace. Don’t forget your light switch. Turn it on and turn it up. Wake up and live fully illuminated. And share your love in the comments section below!
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.