Real Leaders

Why Leading With Love in the Workplace Matters

Business people walking down the office corridor and communicating

Wondering how to become a better leader and encourage more emotional engagement in your workplace? The secret is in convincing your brain to let your heart take the lead.

You’ve had to take care of yourself and your family throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but your responsibilities go far beyond your four walls at home. As a business leader, you must also help your team and business navigate this shifting, uncertain landscape. It’s a huge challenge — especially when you can’t connect with employees in person.

If you’ve experienced the roller coaster of emotions, the fear, and the insecurity that have resulted from this, you’re not alone. It’s hard not to slide into negativity or mental paralysis. But at this moment, you only have to answer one question: A year from now, how will you evaluate your leadership response? It’s a serious question.

For me, I’ll know that love was my guiding compass. I’ve chosen to love my team, support my clients and friends, and give my family 100% commitment. It can be tough to stay optimistic, but it’s the best way to make it through these uncertain and unsteady times.

Thankfully, that hard work translates directly to business success. Recent McKinsey & Company research findings revealed four times the job engagement among workers whose organizations have shown supportive, pragmatic coronavirus responses. That’s tangible evidence that leaders who lead with love are onto something that can make a world of difference.

Bumps in the Road to Leading With Love in the Workplace

Although leading with love in the workplace is fundamental at our company, it can be a foreign practice at other businesses. Why? For some leaders, the learning curve is relatively steep. They’re adapting and changing so much already that adding another task to the mix seems daunting.

And vulnerability? It can be challenging to show. Plenty of people adopt a “strong” persona during tough times, perpetuating the illusion that they’re invincible. Ironically, employees want to see more than strength; they want to know that leadership shares their fears and insecurities.

On top of everything, executives and managers actively searching for ways to be a better leader find it challenging to figure out how to make deep connections over Zoom or on the phone. If you’re worried that distance is the ultimate barrier to connection, fear not — I’ve cried with team members and clients on UberConference lines, sharing the hardest times in their lives while building trust. These experiences have only strengthened our bonds and increased our trust.

The Advantages of Emotional Engagement in the Workplace

Making compassion and commitment part of everything you do creates a ripple effect: Team members become motivated to go the extra mile. Regardless of what happens, they know that you’ll get through any challenges together — and that no one will be left behind.

When emotional engagement in the workplace is consistent, it becomes part of your cultural fabric. Everyone speaks the same language. Team members know their guiding compass and can use it to guide their decisions. They’re kinder and more eager to collaborate because you were willing to establish core values built on openness, empathy, and vulnerability.

How to Be a Better Leader Through Love

The biggest challenge facing leaders today isn’t the pandemic; it’s knowing how to lead people through it. If you’re eager to try something different and see your team on a more human level, try these five techniques:

1. Make a genuine effort to understand your team.

You’ve likely worked on your listening skills a lot since COVID-19 began. Don’t stop now. Take time to hear and understand what your employees are experiencing. Then, give honest feedback to facilitate positive momentum for them and the company. Spend time talking about your employees’ concerns and problems (including those that are personal). That way, you can brainstorm creative solutions together.

2. Accept that we all have flaws.

No one is perfect — including you. Spend less time hiding who you are and more time showing your true self. At the same time, accept others for who they are with grace instead of trying to fix their flaws. No one on your team should feel like they can’t contribute because they’re worried about being wrong. Instead, leaders who lead with love empower people to act authentically.

3. Be brave enough to have tough, vulnerable conversations.

Leading with love in the workplace doesn’t mean you can’t be upfront with people or that you have to let constructive feedback fall by the wayside. You can continue to create a safe space while remaining in charge of your company, pod, squad, or department. Just remember to approach everything from a caring standpoint. Being brave enough to have tough, vulnerable conversations is about giving constructive feedback and coming from a place of understanding the situation or any challenges being faced — and working to reach solutions together.

4. Show appreciation without expecting anything in return.

According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, workers enjoy a 50% higher success rate when their leaders show gratitude. This makes perfect sense: If you reward (verbally or financially) the good things that staff members do, they’ll do it again. Additionally, other team players will emulate the practice.

5. Be a coach, not a critic.

Now is the time to be a thoughtful mentor. Coaching will produce more innovation, and innovation is what your business needs to remain competitive in a shaky economy. Mentorship has another positive side effect: The most talented superstars in your organization will embrace leading with love in the workplace as they embark on their professional journeys for years to come.

Everyone wins when you embrace a love-first leadership style. Engagement soars. Collaboration grows. Turnover plummets. It’s not too late to ride the wave of this fantastic ripple effect — you simply have to put your heart front and center.

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