Leading from love

This is an extract from my framework for loving leadership, which I hope will give you a good feel for the six beliefs that inform thinking as, practising and being a loving leader.

Loving leaders embrace six core beliefs

There is no enemy

This is a very important belief and that is why it is the first. Throughout history fearful leaders have created a narrative where they are often the hero or heroine, and there is an other-some kind of monster who is the enemy and we should be fearful of these people. We should hate them and be scared of them. And fearful leaders have created an enemy out of people for being of a different skin colour, nationality, religious belief, political association, sexuality, the reasons are often completely false and unjustified. The underlying sinister aspect is this- they seek to create a boogeymen, and make others into that monster: and they seek to make is see it as true.

A loving leader sees through such false narratives and understands this: there is no enemy. There never has been. People have only been enemies to each other through-often unconsidered- choices. This narrative that others are our enemies and we are the heroes or heroines is one of the most damaging that we have experienced in our human history. It has resulted in wars, death, prejudice, pain and suffering.

And the wonderful news is that loving leaders choose better, they actively base their actions on the solid foundational belief that we no longer have to be enemies to each other. Take a moment to consider the incredible transformative ramifications of this belief. We do not have to exist in a binary choice of enemy and ally, or friend and foe, or us and them. Consider this for a second, how do you, in your life, define “us”? How do you define “them”? Is it from a starting place of love or a starting place of hate? This first choice can completely revolutionalise the way you lead and the way that you treat people.

Loving leaders do not believe in enemies. They understand they the only enemy you have is the one you choose to have. We can choose better, and they do.

Self reflections questions

Who have been your perceived enemies in the past?

Can you think why this was?

What would it look like if you no longer thought of them as enemies but as flawed humans just trying to do their best?

Grow and develop

Loving leaders understand that they have a duty to grow and develop people.

We all carry huge potential inside us, but so often this potential is unrealised and unfulfilled. A loving leader understands that it is their role to help to provide an environment where people feel safe and comfortable and also challenged and thought highly of, so as to strive to achieve their greatness. From a business point of view, empowered and fully capable teams are absolute dynamite in terms of high performance, loyalty and always, always worth the investment of effort, time and money. If you doubt this, just look at the affect that a favourite teacher of yours from your childhood will have had on you and your classmates- can you remember the positive vibe in the room?

Loving leaders have very high standards and expect a lot from their people; they expect them to put in the effort and by providing opportunities consistently, for their people to embrace them and run with them. So they provide training, mentorship, peer reviews,
two way feedback that is more like an honest conversation than and interview, and always seeks to empower their people to be able to do it themselves. Like a parent teaching their child to ride a bike, a loving leader invests and creates the opportunity, then nurtures a sense of adventure and autonomy in their people, so that they can ride out on their own. The goal is not to encourage people to need you as a leader, but to be self motivated and fully responsible in themselves. The love gives feely of itself, and in doing so new and beautiful things grow and develop.

Self reflections questions

Who truly inspired your growth and development?

What is it about who they were or what they did that inspired you?

How did they encourage you to develop?

Can you show this to your people?

Embrace paradox

Loving leaders understand that the dualistic thinking of something or someone as entirely good or bad, can only take us so far. We must go further and embrace the paradoxical nature of our life and of our relationships.

Dualistic thinking is all about good or bad, hot and cold, light and dark. And too often we can apply overly simplistic and generic thinking towards our people and their circumstances. We see behaviour that we don’t like, so we can label and judge a person, thinking that we are in the right, when so often we may be misinformed, misunderstood or just plain wrong. A loving leader understands that there is always more going on underneath the surface in people’s lives than they show, and makes allowances for this.

Loving leaders know that to label people, circumstances or situations as good of bad exclusively, is very poor judgement, both from a business point of view and definitely as it pertains to people and relationships. Think about it now. Have you ever had a terrible situation that in the long term lead to growth, healing and wonderful things? In that case, might we have judged the thing or person too soon, as the real value has only been revealed over a longer period of time?

Loving leaders know that any judgements made need to be as informed as possible, and are comfortable that something can be both potentially wonderful and terrible at the same time. They look for the flaws in the brilliance and the value in the supposedly useless. This makes them in a business context very sharp, disruptive and flexible, as their humility keeps them always on the lookout for potential to be realised from unlikely places.

Self reflections questions

What situation or which person have you previously considered as either exclusively good or bad?

Can you see them in a different way?

Can you look for the good in supposedly “bad” people and events?

Would you like someone to categorise you as just good or bad?

Relationships are sacred

Loving leaders have the highest of standards for their relationships with their people.

Every sector, the public and private, as well as sport and charity is based on and lived through, people and our relationships. And a loving leader sees the huge importance that quality relationships play in any kind of work, project or goal worth achieving. Consider this- what is the limit on how good a relationship can be? There isn’t one! A loving leader knows this and invests and invests in their relationships, building trust, loyalty, fondness, respect and compassion between members tirelessly. When you treat people this well, suddenly they will open all doors for you, because you made them feel seen, heard and affirmed. You will have shown that you have their back, and so they will be comfortable to show you their true best. I have seen this countless times, and it is truly moving.

Think about all the amazing relationships that you have had in your life so far- friendships, partners, family, colleagues- and consider how much you have achieved together because of your relationships together. Loving leaders understand something important that can be so easily missed- we all belong together, right here and now, with each other. No exceptions, all are welcome. If you can embrace this belief, you will never feel lonely again, you will carry a sense of belonging for and with all, with you always.

Self reflections questions

Think of two of your best relationships in your life.

What makes them to special to you?

What actions take place regularly to make them so good?

How do they make you feel?

Think long term

Loving leaders think very long term- 50 years ahead at least, if not towards future generations, and this focus directs their decisions and subsequent actions.

I first learned to think very long term when I was a teacher. When I was teaching 5 year olds, I would remind myself that they would be 18 in 13 years, and they would probably still remember things that I had taught them and how I treated them. Apply that into a business context. Can you imagine hawk good one of your people would feel if you told them that you were actively planning for their development and growth thinking 20-50 years ahead? Can you imagine how valued and affirmed they would feel? What would that do for their confidence and how much effort they put in for you?

If you are a parent, then you are already a loving leader who thinks long term. You want your children to grow up and have long, healthy, happy lives. And you can treat your people at work exactly the same, and tell them so. This long term focus will help you to make the best considerations for both you and the business: for growth, for direction and for legacy. Can you imagine if three generations of people worked for your company or formed their own and united with yours? Can you imagine the positive value that could generate in the world? That kind of long term thinking is how loving leaders think.

Self reflections questions

What does long term mean to you- 5, 10, 20, 50 years?

How could you improve your approach if you thought of the impact your could have on the next three generations of people?

Choose your meaning

One of the most important choices that the loving leader embraces is the freedom to choose meaning. So much happens in our lives: the incredible, the terrible, the beautiful and the bizarre. And yet even these very words to describe life demonstrate a choice to judge what something means. If one of your people is going through something difficult, and you can help them to discover and find meaning in it and through it, this is your duty as a leader. There is nothing worse for a person than to feel undervalued, that they and what they do is meaningless and hope is something just for other people.

We can choose what something means for us in our lives, we can choose to pursue what is meaningful and reject what is a waste of time. And in doing so we must also remember that what has meaning to someone else, we must be careful with. If something is special to one of your people and is very meaningful to them, regardless of how how you feel about it, by honouring this, you honour them. And the wonderful thing is that others can help you to find your meaning as well. Meaning brings life truly alive- we feel joy, purpose, a sense of achievement and progress and a sense that we really do matter, if only because we decide that we do.

Loving leaders understand that they need to know what is meaningful for their people and to talk in their language. They are careful to protect the meaning and importance of what matters to their people in a way that is always affirmative and encouraging. Because this is one of the great privileges of leadership: you can help a person to discover purpose and find meaning in their life. And once you have experienced the sheer joy which that brings, and how much a person is cable of when they feel that they matter, you will never see a single person as meaningless ever again. Suddenly you will see it, we are all very special.

Self reflections questions

What does leadership mean to you?

How have you come to this meaning?

Would you like to improve and change its meaning?

What one thing could you do today to begin this process of focusing on what means the most to you?

Final thoughts

Can you use this framework of six loving beliefs to begin a transition towards being a more loving and less fearful leader? I hope so. It can begin today for you. Right now, with your decision to do so. Your people will feel safer, more affirmed, confident, capable and valued. There will be more laughter and smiles and less tension and panic. It is never too late to change, to develop and to grow yourself, your relationships and your meaning to yourself and to others.

Love and best wishes to you on your leadership journey,

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