What leaders need at work — and it starts with love

As a precursor to this post, can we first agree that Harvard Business Review is not some crunchy granola publication that wants you to be more self actualized by hugging and meditating?

No, Harvard Business Review is the well-respected publication that speaks to the pressing issues of business leaders who want to be more successful.

That’s important because I think the following will surprise some people — even more so when you consider the source.

Harvard Business Review recently ran a piece about what transformational leaders need to succeed.

Number #1 was to love and be loved:

First, and arguably most important, is the need to love and be loved. It sounds touchy-feely, but people who are not both receiving and giving love — and by love I mean focused concern and action directed at another exclusively for that person’s good — cannot be fully healthy, biologically and psychologically. We usually think of love as beyond the pale in the work-a-day world, but the transformational leader vividly understands that tough-minded caring is essential to leading and developing a powerful, fully expressed workforce.

Rounding out the list:

  • the need to grow
  • the need to contribute
  • the need for meaning

I have talked about the Relationship Masters Academy I’m taking — one of the most powerful ideas I’ve taken from that class is our fear of using the word “love” when we’re talking about work. We’ll call work relationships win-win or respectful, but we keep them at an arm’s reach, just a little chilly.

Why can’t we love and be loved at work? Are we afraid it will take away our competitive edge? That it makes us sissies? That we will get hurt if we’re laid off?

If Harvard Business Review says loving and being loved can actually help you become more successful, can that give you permission to have affection for your colleagues — not because they can do something for you, but just because you care about them as human beings?

Recently on my way to work, I heard a classic Dean Martin song, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” which I always thought was called “You’re Nobody Til Somebody Loves You.”

As I sang along — yes, I love Dean Martin enough to sing along in Penn Station — the meaning of the song finally hit me. If you aren’t loving and being loved, you aren’t really living. You’re nobody if you aren’t loving.

Maybe that includes at work, too?


Categories: career

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

4 replies

  1. Dear Colleen:
    I agree with this message, so much so that I wrote a book for educators advocating the same belief. It’s called “Teach and Reach for Classroom Miracles! Lessons on Teaching With Love” at wendybyard.com. Check it out and let me know what you think, if you’d like. My dream is that all students are taught with love, in a loving environment, in meaningful relationships with loving teachers. What would the future look like in such a world?


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