You can’t say the words love and leadership in the same sentence – can you??
As I opened the FedEx package that contained the newest addition to my collection of sweaters with hearts on them, I found myself reflecting on the concept of love at work. In particular, how leadership and love are so interconnected and yet so often shoved into separate corners of our mind.
Could it be that it’s a connection that seems so obvious, we take it for granted?
In their latest book, Scaling Leadership, authors Bob Anderson and Bill Adams note that “great leadership is radically human – that is, showing up in more transparent, authentic, vulnerable, empathetic, passionate, and compassionate ways, even loving one another (characteristics that separate us from machines.)” In fact, their research has shown that one of the most fundamental competencies to effective leadership is the ability for a leader to create Caring Connections.
With sweater in hand, I pondered those words: transparent, authentic, vulnerable, empathetic, passionate and compassionate. Taking them in, it struck me just how powerful they are. And when we behave in these ways, how it creates the opportunity for a human to human connection.
In the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Travis Bradberry shares his insights around a critical component of emotional intelligence: relationship management. He discusses the idea that people who manage relationships well are able to see the benefit of connecting with many different people, even those they are not necessarily fond of. This connection allows them to build solid relationships in which both people benefit and can enjoy mutual success.
Sadly, I still see the opposite in the world of work my clients experience today. A view of leadership persists where leaders would rather exclude being radically human than to embrace it. A view that says, it’s not OK to get “close” to the people you work with. That you must maintain a distance. That you have to “check your emotions at the door.” Or even worse, that a leader absolutely cannot be vulnerable or transparent. That asking for help or admitting you don’t have the answer is a sign of weakness and will lead to bad things.
But what if these beliefs simply weren’t true? What if loving one another at work was actually the secret sauce? What if we let those two concepts come together in our minds? What might be possible?
Coming from a Place of Love
My thinking continued to take me deeper and helped me to clarify a process of inquiry that looked like this:
When I’m coming from a place of love (i.e. having someone’s back, seeing the good in them, believing that they are doing the best they can with the thinking they have available to them – even if I don’t really “like” what they say or do sometimes), how do I show up?
Am I more compassionate? Am I more empathetic?
And when someone shows up from a place of love for me, am I more likely to be vulnerable, transparent and authentic?
The answers to all of those questions were simple. Yes.
So how does a leader practice this mental yoga at work? How can someone shift their thinking from one that says we shouldn’t love each other to one that says we must?
The thing is, the way we see things is simply shaped by our thoughts and our experiences. Our upbringing, the values we espouse, the beliefs we hold so dear about how the world actually works, our fears, our hopes and a myriad of other things. We are ALL just radically human. With flaws, with gifts, with the things we wished we wouldn’t have said, to the things we wished we would have.
So as leaders, If we hold this perspective, can we soften to the idea that the people we lead and/or work with who show up every day trying to be the hero in their own story might actually need our love? Our compassion, our empathy? Can we then in turn be more authentic, more transparent, more vulnerable? And will we be become more effective as a result?
I whole-heartedly believe so.
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