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All You Need is Love: Seven Simple acts for Heart-Led Leadership

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Lennon and McCartney wrote the famous Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love” at the height of the Vietnam war. A live and international television satellite production called “One World” played this song for the first time on June 25, 1967. The primary composer, Lennon, delivered a message that you can resolve everything with love, which is also true for leadership challenges. 

A leader who keeps this mantra and leads with both the heart and mind can overcome many of the challenges in the complex world we live in today. Such a leader is approachable, communicates with compassion and gratitude, coaches and empowers their teams, and builds a caring culture. The employees who are loved extend the love to the customers. Empowered employees make it possible to scale the organization. The pandemic reminds all of us how important it is to have a leader during crises affecting the whole population. Remember that individuals often experience personal troubles, and a caring leader can make a difference in their lives.

We are talking about “companionate love” that Barsade, Sigal G., and Olivia A. O’Neill defined in their paper, “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” Companionate love is about having deep affection and compassion for one another. It is about caring and having empathy. Their study found companionate love at work positively affected the employees’ well-being. They had more job satisfaction, reduced absenteeism, and burnout.  

Here are seven important ways to incorporate love in your leadership journey.  

  1. Show Gratitude
    All of us like to hear affirmation that what we do matters. Communication that comes from your heart is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. Don’t wait for the performance review to say so when someone is doing exceptionally well at their job. Praise them openly. Find opportunities to connect informally and identify reasons to show gratitude. Educate individuals on how their jobs relate to the organization’s success, creating a sense of belonging. A team feels connected when they feel this belonging, which leads to better collaboration among them. Make gratitude an essential tenet of your life.
  2. Create Psychological Safety
    How engaged and empowered are your teams? They should feel that they are in a safe psychological space and are secure in taking calculated risks and failing. Each of them must know it is ok to bring up tough conversations expecting to have honest discussions about them. Every team member must show an attitude of helping each other and is comfortable bringing their entire self to work. A leader who provides this psychological safety sets up her team for success, growth, and happiness.
  3. Respect Personal Time
    This past week I came across a few examples of leaders scheduling team meetings at 5 pm on Fridays and Sundays. Unless you have the buy-in from the team members for these schedules, it can build resentment and lead to attrition. Respect personal time boundaries. Each of us is unique. Some of your team members may be at a stage in life where they want to spend a lot of time working. Others may have small children requiring attention and need to define boundaries for when they work. Some like to spend time outside work in pursuits that help them stay whole. Whatever the reason, it is essential to know that your team members have a life outside work and respect that boundary.If your flexible work hours make it necessary to send emails outside of regular hours for your teams, use the power of technology. Write your email when you want to, but schedule it to be sent when the team members are working.
  4. Be Approachable
    Teams deserve leaders who are available for many reasons—setting the direction, clarifying doubts, removing obstacles, and helping support a holistic life. Making yourself available starts with becoming approachable and accessible. Approachability has to do with the ease with which anyone in the organization can communicate with you. Is your email open to all? Do you invite input from everyone? Do you ask questions to understand multiple perspectives? Do you initiate conversations? Accessibility involves having an open-door policy and exercising “Management By Wandering Around (MBWA).”
  5. Coach and Empower
    How well do you know your team members? Each of them has unique aspirations. Championing these is your responsibility as a leader. Coaching is one way to help them. Empowering them to realize their own potential is another. When you see something that is not aligned with your original thinking, don’t discredit it. Develop a habit of asking, “Can you tell me more?” which is an excellent way to show you care. Listen actively to the answers, and act on them. There will be times when you see an unacceptable performance. Use them as teaching moments and help your team members become better.
  6. Build a Culture of Compassion
    Your organization has a culture—shared beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. Make caring part of this culture. If you show your teams that you care and express your love, compassion, and concern, you will develop a culture of kindness. When you show you care, your team members will learn to care for each other. When hiring, look not only for job competency but also attitude since every member you hire contributes to the team culture and philosophy. Reflect this caring in the kind of perks you provide. For example, a parent might appreciate having a daycare on premise instead of a well-equipped gym with a personal trainer.
  7. Celebrate Special Occasions
    Special occasions are perfect for showing your teams that you care. Send greetings on important holidays and celebrate special moments such as achieving a business target. Hold holiday parties to which you invite spouses and show how much you appreciate their support to your team members. Send care packages to families who might be going through hard times due to illness. There are many opportunities to demonstrate your care.

Conclusion

Leading with your heart is putting people first while still caring about the business excellence of growth, revenue, and profits. Every heart-led action helps with the bottom line. When you take care of your team, the effect multiplies to include your team’s results, business, customers, and stakeholders.


Written by Shantha Mohan Ph.D.
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Shantha Mohan Ph.D.
Shantha Mohan Ph.D. is an Executive In Residence at the Integrated Innovation Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, she was a global software engineering leader and entrepreneur, co-founding Retail Solutions Inc., a retail analytics company. Shantha also has over 20 years of experience focused on mission-critical systems to support semiconductor and other high-value-added manufacturing. She is the author of Roots and Wings - Inspiring stories of Indian Women in Engineering and is a co-author of Demystifying AI for The Enterprise - A Playbook for Business Value and Digital Transformation. Her book, Leadership Lessons with The Beatles, was published by Taylor & Francis in May 2022.


Shantha Mohan Ph.D. is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.