Over the years, I've been documenting evidence that suggests that the best leaders motivate, engage, and inspire companies and cultures with (wait for it) ... love. There, I said it.

Sounds fluffy and off-putting; to clarify and ease the awkwardness in the room, I speak of actionable and practical "love" (a verb) that raises the employee experience to new heights.

This kind of actionable love is demonstrated in how employees are treated and cared for by human-centered leaders, which has been proven to improve performance and lead to business outcomes. 

Plenty of successful companies worldwide are known for exhibiting cultures of love that profit: Southwest Airlines, TDIndustries, Barry-Wehmiller, KIND, the Container Store, Nordstrom, and many others.

The question every leader needs to ask

To seriously elevate your impact and influence as a leader, you have to remember that leadership is about service and making those around you better -- this is how love manifests itself as a business value and transforms organizations.

To assess where you are against the high measure of a truly loving leader, there's one very powerful question you need to ask right now:

What am I doing every day to improve the life of an employee in the workplace?

That's what it comes down to. When you can exercise the leadership traits that result in trust and commitment and loyalty in your employees, when you can remove obstacles in their path and set them up for success, when you can give their work meaning and purpose, you will be loving them well. And, I guarantee it, you will never again be seen in the same light; it will only get better from here. 

If you're not buying into this often-misconstrued interpretation of love and see it as being too "soft" of a management approach, allow me to back it up by noting the leadership style of one of the toughest and most revered sports icons of all time -- the legendary head coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi. Here's what coach Lombardi once boldly stated:

I don't necessarily have to like my players and associates but as their leader I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization.

Your turn: How do you love your employees or co-workers? What are you doing to improve their lives?