Just over a year ago, there was a special issue of People & Strategy
on Leading in Times of Uncertainty. In the article, Leadership as Connection: A Radical Approach
, I made both the conceptual argument and business case for leading as love, essentially stating that love makes a leader a leader. I am sure that there are more than a few of you who rolled your eyes and said: "What do I do with this? This is so far away from where my organization is. We have leaders that don’t talk to each other. How can we possibly lead as love? Why should we bother? What’s in it for us?”
This is not about creating an initiative or even using the word "love.” Just about every organization has stated that it wants engaged, committed employees. So what brings forth employee engagement? Engagement is really about our intrinsic human motivation to belong and being in positive, constructive relationships, responsive to each other as humans with care, understanding and respect. When we try to "get” people to do something through carrots or sticks (external motivators), we are treating them as objects to be used or obstacles to be moved. We are also fostering an addiction, yes addiction, to approval or praise.
So how do we create an environment that taps our hard-wired intrinsic motivation for belonging? When we foster a sense of purpose, contribution, growth and choice, people feel valued, supported and in control of their lives. Engagement is natural when we relate as human beings to human beings. Although unintended, our human resource management practices may require us to relate object to object rather than person to person. We lead people and manage work. Trying to "manage” (control) people results in disengagement. Perhaps a bit of an inconvenient truth for us.
You know from experience that targeting behaviors doesn’t always make a difference in our interactions. The human side of change is about getting to a way of being that then permeates our actions and practices. Change is an inside job so the only person we can really change is ourselves. Change requires a commitment and commitment requires a true (not coerced or conditioned) choice. And we can’t ask anyone to commit to something when we ourselves haven’t already done so.
Leading means being the "first one in.” There is no need to talk about it, no need to label it. Just commit to be it yourself. And, just what are we committing to? To see and interact with each and every person as a human being not a human resource. To be responsive from a mindset of care, understanding and respect.
Much of this may seem self-evident and simple. Yes, and because of our conditioning as to what is acceptable and important in organizations, it may not always be easy. Breakthroughs can require breakdown and discomfort. Mastery will take awareness, discernment and choice; practice and reflection. And, if you’re feeling brave, you may just share this post or your commitment with others.
Perhaps I’ve pushed a few buttons. And at the same time I’m preaching to the choir. Either way, given the state of our organizations, we have our work cut out for us if we are going to make a difference. At the end of the day, we’ve signed up to be leaders, champions of our humanness, to lead as love.Lucira Jane Nebelung is the founding principal of Leading as Love, bringing over 30 years of experience in coaching and consulting with executives and managers to improve organizational results and effectively implement change. She is a noted leader, architect and facilitator for key strategic initiatives resulting in employee engagement and optimal performance, customer retention and sustained growth and profitability. Lucira brings a valuable blend of both strategic wisdom and tactical experience. Read more about Lucira here.