How to lead with love

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By Stephane Leblanc, Founder and CEO, International Centre for Conscious Leadership

When I embraced my life purpose to be a catalyst for the transformation of leaders and the rise of consciousness in organizations around the world, I was advised to stop talking about love in leadership as love is not very popular in business.

I reflected on this for a while and I chose to ignore this advice as to me love is so fundamental to conscious leadership. Love is also who I am as I have been leading with love for more than 15 years and it allowed me to achieve many major successful organizational transformations, to create employee engagement and customer loyalty and achieve breakthrough results.

For many people, love is associated to family, friends and romance. Love surely includes these, but love is so much more. Thousands of years ago, the Greeks defined the many forms of love and one of these forms was called Agape: an unconditional love that sees beyond the outer surface and accepts the recipient for whom he/she is, regardless of their flaws, shortcomings or faults. It is about loving others as human beings.  Imagine if we could love our employees and clients like that.

The Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh defines the four qualities of love as: loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. 

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. 

Being present to our team challenges and acknowledging their wholeness allows us to better connect with them and increases our leadership and our ability to influence them.

Compassion is the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows. One compassionate word, action, or thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to freedom from fears. 

Conscious leaders are committed to help all their members rise to their full potential and having compassion for our team members can greatly contribute to the creation of a corporate culture where everyone can thrive which will undoubtedly allow the organization to achieve breakthrough results. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn CEO said that compassion is the no. 1 value at LinkedIn.

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.   

I remember a few years ago, an executive retreat I attended with our North American leadership team. As we started the meeting, the meeting was heavy because our senior VP was frustrated from his last visit at the head office in Sweden and he brought that energy in our meeting. I thought to myself that it was going to be a long day with such negative energy. I suggested to the retreat facilitator to ask everyone to check-in, to share how they were doing. 

As the senior VP spoke last, he started to share the challenge he had the week-end before to bring the new piano he had bought for his wife on the second story of their country house and how he was happy to have done that as his wife enjoyed playing music a lot. As he shared this story from his personal live, his energy completely shifted and he had a beaming smile. The rest of the meeting was a joy.

Equanimity the evenness and steadiness of mind when under stress. Equanimity is the foundation for wisdom and freedom and for compassion and love. It is not, as some have mistaken, a "dryness," coolness, indifference or aloofness. It is not the suppression of feelings, apathy or inexpressiveness. It is the capacity to remain neutral, to observe from a distance and be at peace without getting caught up in what we observe. It's the capacity to see the big picture with understanding. In essence, it is about taking nothing personally, refusing to get caught up in the drama - either our own or others'.

Equanimity allows us to stand in the midst of conflict or crisis in a way where we are balanced, grounded and centered. It allows us to remain upright in the face of the strong winds of conflict and crisis. Equanimity protects us from being blown over and helps us stay on an even keel.

I remember a senior management meeting with the 100 most senior leaders of our organization where the President said in one hour how disappointed he was at our results and where the CFO said we had no balls. The organization was going through significant financial challenges but I seriously doubt such behaviour from the President and CFO was the best in the situation as it only brought negative energy to the 100 of us who led 33,000 people. 

In my many years of experience as a senior executive and my more than 15 years as a transformation leader, I have experienced myself that leading with love leads to better results as it is the best way to create emotionally safe work places and to help people rise to their full potential which always leads to breakthrough results.

It is also the best way to create customers loyalty as clients who feel the love with love us back.

Are you ready to lead with love?