Leading with love

Have you ever heard a quote saying that, “The first job of leadership is to love people. Leadership without love is manipulation” (Rick Warren). When I read this quote,...

Have you ever heard a quote saying that, “The first job of leadership is to love people. Leadership without love is manipulation” (Rick Warren). When I read this quote, something stumble upon my mind. I was so inspired. Yesss! I totally agree with that statement. As a human being, love is the basic need for us and resides at the first layer of Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. Based on this theory, we need love just like we crave for food and beseech of shelter. Without love, life is nothing and happiness is impossible.

So now, what is the relationship between love and leading others? To reiterate the question that may spark ideas and ignite motivation to everyone reading this, is that “How does love influence leadership?” To answer this question, it’s good to ponder on research findings of a psychological expert that has done a survey in one of a multinational companies. Ricciardi’s survey showed that the three factors of love – intimacy, passion and commitment – showed a strong positive correlation to leadership, but, he added that, “Intimacy dwarfs them all.” In other word, intimacy conquers the relationship. So, establishing intimacy may be as simple as taking a few extra minutes a day to notice new family photos on cubicle walls and pausing to ask about them; or remembering a special event and sending a simple handwritten note to your subordinates.

At the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018, Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman, Jack Ma said that leaders require not only Intellectual Quotient (IQ) and Emotional Quotient (EQ) but more importantly Love Quotient (LQ) in leading others. He contended that, “A machine does not have a heart, a machine does not have soul, and a machine does not have a belief, but human beings have the souls, belief and value; and we are creative.” Nurturing love in team is not a difficult task. It needs specific skills and the ‘want to lead with love’ must come from yourself.

According to Leadership Guru, John C. Maxwell, there are five qualities of ‘people focused leaders’ when leading others.

  1. Encourage Others – Encouraging will not only build trust, but give them confidence they need to succeed when times get tough.
  2. Appreciate Others – It is without doubt that human beg for appreciation. Showing appreciation to the people around you and communicating their value to the team will pay huge dividends in the future. It can take in the form of asking their opinions, giving credit for suggestions and providing encouragement.
  3. Forgive Others – Leaders must accept that nobody is perfect and it is a human nature to make mistake. Learn to let go, move forward and forgive your subordinated. However, accentuate to those who make mistakes that they must always learn to never repeat the same errors and slips.
  4. Listen to Others – Everyone wants to be heard. If you have to make a tough decision, especially one that those around you disagree with, it’s important to ensure everyone has an opportunity to express their opinion before moving on. It’s much easier to get buy-in from your team after everyone has been heard, regardless if they are fully agree or not.
  5. Understand Others – Almost 60 percent of all management problems are a result of misunderstanding and faulty communications. Taking the time to understand your people and improving your communication with them will help avoid feeling of disappointment and resentment when facing tense situations.

Before we would able to lead others with love, we have to lead ourselves first. According to Ernie Chan, leading self is the self-awareness and having the ability to choose our behavior, attitude and approach in dealing with any situation or reacting to any circumstances. Leaders must first understand their significant impact on others, and make the right choices to unleash the best potential from the people they touch. Those who lead life become exemplars to others. Don’t Live Your Life, Lead It! said James Wilson in Harvard Business Review.

In conclusion, to lead with love is not just about what you say or feel. It is about what you do to influence others around you to make a significant difference. People will meet you and mirror you. When you show love and demonstrate appreciation, it is reflected back to you. People will work harder and more effectively for that person they love.



Dr. Siti Sarah Omar

Faculty of Technology Management and Business

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)