21 March 2023

Leading With Love

or You Can’t Succeed by Yourself

I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. ~ Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi & Forbes Power Women List #40

A technology executive at a Fortune 500 multi-national, Roger had always succeeded at intellectual pursuits. He worked hard in school, received the highest marks, and continued to earn advanced degrees. Upon entering the workforce, his career followed a similar upward trajectory.

Consistently identified as a high potential employee, Roger had been promoted every 2-3 years without fail. His determination and commitment helped him build a reputation as someone who got things done well, and on time. Then, at two levels down from the CEO, the promotions stopped.

Although no one worked harder or was smarter (in his own estimation), Roger relied too heavily on the technical aspects of his leadership. In his desire to perform and succeed, he neglected to pay attention to building the relationships needed to influence those around him. He needed to “show some love”.

Says Tim Sanders, author of Love is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends, “All of your knowledge won’t amount to much if you don’t have a network of people to share it with — and enough compassion for the people in that network to understand that your success is a direct result of their success.”

It can be sobering for leaders to realize that they have been investing in strategies and behaviors that no longer bring the rewards or recognition they desire. The next leadership frontier is often about winning the hearts and minds of the people around you.

I’ve had clients express a desire to influence people, without actually building relationships with people. It takes ‘too much time”, there are no clear process maps, and there is the possibility for ‘error’ in real time interactions.

In Reclaiming Conversation, Sherry Turkle relates the discomfort we have in communicating face-to-face, versus email. It is those real– sometimes messy–conversations that allow us to find common ground, to build trust, and to develop productive, sustainable relationships with our colleagues.

Roger did the work of “showing more love” in the workplace. He got curious about the people on his team, and built time into his calendar to interact with peers and the senior leadership team more frequently. He made an effort to share his knowledge and his network with others, and derived great and unexpected satisfaction from connecting at a deeper level. And that promotion? He got that too.

This month, and always, how can you fall in love with people a little bit more?

Written by Deb Busser


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