Love and leadership, two areas in life I have been on a quest to understand well. ‘Love’ perhaps a little longer than leadership.
Today, 23 years into my professional life I have come to believe when done well the two are not mutually exclusive. Inspiring and impactful leadership is infused with love.
The job description of a leader is to influence others whilst inspiring them to live a vision and goals they set. Over the decades I have worked under various kinds of managers, those I remember favourably are those I worked ‘with’.
Individuals follow leaders when they ascribe to their values. Memorable leaders are those who create an environment in which their teams can thrive. Included in the list of respected leaders are teachers, such as my loving university professor and mentor, Dr. Wolfgang Deckers. Teaching was never a job to him, the care he had for us, the students, humanity and the world could not be ignored.
A prominent, now retired businessman, M.K. Malhotra who created and floated a telecommunications company from the ground up attributed his success to a contented and happy workforce, who looked forward to the start of the week versus lived for the weekend. He felt it his role to provide the “right environment and conducive tools to enable them to deliver their best.”
Also known as an ‘authoritative leader’, who leads by example towards a shared goal. Confidently they walk their talk, inspiring others to join them. To be effective a leader needs to adapt their style dependent upon the situation. Veering between laissez-faire and completely hands-off on the one end of the spectrum, to authoritative on the other with everything in between.
The world sadly lost one of its great leaders recently, Gerard Houllier, who amongst other roles managed my beloved Liverpool football club. There has been an outpouring of grief and messages remembering this man for not only being a boss, but for helping them define who they were as athletes and as human beings.
Steven Gerrard who played under him had this to say, “This is not a guy who would focus solely on football and what you gave to him in terms of the relationship player-to-manager. This was someone who, at my age, wanted to change me as a human being into an elite professional, who wanted me to be a better person, who wanted me to really understand the tactics and the game in a different way and become an even better player and build all the other stuff around the talent I had at that age. I’ll never forget that.”
The direct opposite is leading with fear, caring only for profits before potential. ‘Authoritarian’ or ‘autocratic’ leadership works a ‘command and control’ style. These kind of leaders tend to micro-manage leaving teams with little or no room to develop. Under such managerial scrutiny mistakes are frowned upon, at times a policy of zero tolerance applied leaving staff in constant fear of losing their jobs.
In 2016 Google conducted a study they named Project Aristotle to discover what the components of the best teams were. The study found that the more successful a team was, the more mistakes they made. They concluded that creating an environment of ‘psychological safety’ at work, a term coined by Harvard Professor Amy Edmonson, where employees felt comfortable to try and fail is one that creates the most efficient teams.
Prioritising the growth and development of team members, holding them and working with them towards a shared vision by creating the right environment to thrive I will from now on refer to as, ‘Lovership’ – a word a fellow coach, Rafaelle DiFrancisco came up with.
If the pandemic has highlighted anything it is that what the workforce requires is a show of humanity from their leaders, following the Lovership model. Love, according to the School of Life is patience, tolerance, generosity. If modern work environments and their leadership lives by these qualities imagine what could be achieved.