I vividly recall how he never used his positional power for personal gain. He simply made everyone feel like an equal.
He was also the most approachable boss I've ever known; he had an open-door policy and famously allowed team members to make important decisions when the stakes were high. Why? Because he knew that, being in the front lines and having access to critical information, we knew more than he did about certain aspects of the business and our customers.
Such a rarity for someone in upper management. But there's one thing that was even more impressively rare and that clearly stood out above anything I had experienced up to that point.
A leadership love that led to results
We often view any notion of leadership and love through the spiritual teachings of historical and religious figures like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr.
But another unlikely icon from the past--legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi--didn't mince words in defining how he led with love. He said:
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.
This is how my former boss led. And this concept of love in the leadership-at-work sense is not a feeling; it's expressed as an "action verb." It's love that shows up in meeting the needs of others to get results, clearing obstacles from people's paths, and empowering others to succeed and grow as workers and human beings. It has intrinsic value for both leader and employee. Ultimately, it's this kind of love that defines some of the best CEOs on the planet.
Growing your leadership love for business outcomes
So what does that look like, practically speaking? In the end, the best of leaders demonstrate love by being open to input from others, even those below them on the org. chart.
They seek to understand others to quickly problem solve to an agreed solution.
They value their workers as employees and human beings. Love is demonstrated by believing in and trusting in their people--their strengths, abilities, potential, and commitment to the job--before they have to earn it.
These leaders love those around them by maintaining a high view of them--showing them respect and listening receptively to their needs in a nonjudgmental way.
These leaders demonstrate love by providing for learning and growth, and developing potential and career paths for others.
They demonstrate love by envisioning the future and consistently clarifying goals and expectations to get to the vision.
Because of their selfless and loving nature, they share power and decision making, and push authority down to empower others and make them better.
Finally, leaders who love for competitive advantage don't do it just to profit or to "win" but because they genuinely care for other human beings, which becomes a profitable endeavor in itself in the end. This is the power they hold in their hands that others cannot match.
They relate well to others at all levels and promote a sense of belonging and connection for all team members.
Truth is, in this social economy, we're creating more leaders unafraid of expressing love--calling it for what it is in the context of providing great leadership.
Is it time more companies embrace love as a leadership strategy to leverage business outcomes? Perhaps so, but this will require a monumental shift in our thinking from the faulty perception that love is too squishy and not fit for a professional setting.