How To Be A More Loving Leader

How To Be A More Loving Leader

We all appreciate the power of love. In fact, love is fundamental to the functioning and wellbeing of our society. But what about the role of love within a leadership context? To mark Valentine’s Day, six experts share their views on how leaders can show love at work:


1. Become more empathetic


“The challenge we all face in becoming more ‘loving’ leaders is fathoming how we can become more empathetic,” says Dominic Ashley-Timms, co-creator of the STAR Manager programme, co-founder of performance improvement consultancy Notion, and co-author of best-selling book The Answer Is a Question. He believes that we can overcome this challenge by asking questions – “not out of personal curiosity, but to stimulate another person’s thinking”. This enquiry-led approach can help even the most reclusive leaders engage with their teams more effectively.


2. Stop and listen


Listening is vital to being a more loving leader. “Listening builds trust, creates transparency and fosters loyalty,” says Mimi Nicklin, CEO and founder of global creative agency Freedm, empathy expert and bestselling author of Softening The Edge. “It ensures that leaders maintain real-time insight into the needs and opinions of their teams across levels and ranges of work and life experience.”

Nicklin believes that a leader’s ability to actively listen to their people’s context and viewpoint will allow for stronger communication and engagement across generations. “The critical success criterion is to ensure you don’t mistake hearing for listening,” she says. “As in any loving relationship, listening should be to gather insight and information while seeking to understand the perspective and viewpoint attached to what the speaker is sharing.”

3. Show your love in a positive way

We tend to think of love as a positive force, but it can be a negative influence as well. “There are many types of love and care, even at work,” says Anna Eliatamby, director of community interest company Healthy Leadership and co-author of the Decency Journey, a series of seven pocketbooks that aim to help people flourish in their careers and workplaces. “Positive love and care can mean that the leader and others are helpful and considerate to one and all. But if a leader feels the need to control, then they may say they are being caring but are, in fact, doing the opposite. And others will also be negative.”

4. Find time for silence

As a leader, when was the last time you looked in the mirror and considered how you are seen by others? What it is really like to work with you, or be managed by you? “It can be powerful to create some silence in your day and consider the leader reflected back at you,” suggests Rosie Nice, founder of MAGIC Coaching and author of The Magic Happens in the Silence, a guide to the art of reflective coaching.

“Be kind to yourself,” Nice advises. “Celebrate the behaviors you are proud of and be honest about the characteristics you’d like to develop. Evaluate what is most important to you, personally and professionally, create a vision of the person you want to see in your reflection and build a plan for how to get there.”

Nice believes that the power of reflection can also be used to help your teams develop. She recommends that leaders adopt a coaching approach to leadership whereby they ask questions to encourage their team to find their own solutions. “If an individual is facing a challenge, try holding up a metaphorical mirror and inviting them to reflect on what they see,” she suggests. “If you create space for people to think for themselves, helping them to analyse their situation and reflect on their own behavior, then a way forward will naturally emerge.”

5. Take care of yourself

It might seem obvious, but the best way to start loving your team is to love yourself. “Data suggests that proactively injecting a little self-care and downtime into your day – and encouraging your team to do the same – will help keep energy levels up,” suggests Jim Steele, a speaker, leadership facilitator, executive coach and author of Unashamedly Superhuman: Harness Your Inner Power and Achieve Your Greatest Professional and Personal Goals.

Steele recommends that leaders adopt a more caring approach to managing mental wellbeing. “Try injecting a couple of short ‘active recovery’ breaks into your daily schedule,” he suggests. “It could be a quick stretch, a brisk stroll or some mindful breathing, if that’s more your thing. If you sit at your desk for hours on end, try the 20-20-20 method. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.”

6. Lead from heart

There is no other way of putting it. Loving leadership means genuinely putting your heart into helping other people succeed. “When you care about your staff, they do better,” says Niraj Kapur, a LinkedIn Top Voice, LinkedIn trainer and author of Business Growth: Lessons Learned From Divorce, Dating and Falling In Love Again. “When you ask someone ‘how are you?’ you don’t accept ‘I’m fine.’ You ask again and really listen to what is said and the way it is said. If a staff member is having a bad day, you don’t fire off a critical email. You have a 1:1 chat. Bosses that lead from the heart push hard, yet care about wellbeing.”

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