Opinion

Love – Why the word should be used in the business arena

5 min read

24 August 2018

You’ll have no doubt read the title and wondered why anyone would use the "L" word in conjuction with business. How can it be part of the demanding, harried world of the average manager, when the priority is to just get the business done, to the highest standard?

I tried and failed to describe the humanness in leadership without it mentioning love. Given that you’re reading this article, you probably love your work and want to keep growing as a leader. There’s another context for love here though – a deeply human exploration of leadership that is people-focused but continues to drive business.

We could use several other words instead – caring, genuine, authentic, ethical, respectful, considerate. You get the picture and I’m in no doubt that if I asked any leader, at whatever level of seniority, all would say these attributes are crucial human elements of leadership. Sadly, they are often missing in both leadership texts and leadership practice.

Intellectually, we reel them off and acknowledge their importance without really giving it another thought. But what if giving it thought is really the key to excellent leadership?

I mean love as a philosophical concept – an academic view rather than a romantic one. The one word that captures all attributes listed above – it’s about giving a damn. If we are to discuss business from the human view, we can’t not talk about love.

It doesn’t make any sense. Most managers who want to be seen as credible, wouldn’t use it EVER. I’m arguing that it MUST be used to understand the bedrock of leadership and how we can do business better.

Love is one of the most highly contemplated and argued concepts. Why do we find it so fascinating – and so frightening outside the confines of our personal relationships? I think in the Western world we have stopped seeing love as anything other than the romantic variety.

If we reduce love to this category only, inevitably it has no place at work. I also think we believe work has to be different – professional, credible careers have to be based on hard, measurable data, heavy workloads and tangible outcomes. We are required to behave without personal interruptions and distractions.

In our attempts to be seen as business-like, we have “over-professionalised” our behaviours to the detriment of the human factor. This may not be a problem if your only working relationships are with inanimate objects though.

One might argue – as Aristotle did – that the first point of love is that we love ourselves. In a business context, this makes sense. If we don’t have compassion and consideration for ourselves, we will never achieve the best version of ourselves. We’ll remain tired, stressed and burnt-out.

Leaders must create wellbeing in themselves as well as others. Aristotle argues the ability to love oneself is “noble and virtuous”. In other words, it allows us (as leaders) to reflect and act in ways which facilitate excellence, ensures consideration and equality and enables growth.

Ethically, we need to consider the varieties of love which are appropriate – and of course beneficial in the workplace. Love forms the foundation of meaningful relationships and enables human beings to care what happens to themselves, the people and the world around them.

Love forms the basis of mutually respectful relationships and represents. If we can translate this into the workplace, we can also expect more trust and accountability.

Without trusting relationships, collaborative working and individuals who behave responsibly and accountably, business is never the best it can be. We end up with teams who are disconnected. There will be a lack of loyalty to organisational values and a lack of confidence in growth potential.

You can spot a team where love is missing, whether you’re courageous enough to call it that or not.

Ethically, we have to care about love and love to care (and lead) if we are ever going to achieve the best from ourselves and our people at work. It is the act of love which makes business great.

Tracy Kite is author of Love to Lead (£14.99, Panoma Press). She has many years of experience in the design, delivery and implementation and evaluation of learning and leadership development programmes. Her work is focussed on achieving strategic and operational leadership excellence and a defined return on investment for organisations.