Commentary - Leadership:

What Love's Got To Do With It . . . by Lisa Earle McLeod
We want our customers to love us. We want our employees to love their jobs. But bring up the word "love" in the context of leadership, and people get uncomfortable. They start to fear they'll be forced to hold hands with staff and sway to the strains of Kumbaya.
The truth is, love has been the cornerstone of every successful venture since the dawn of time. From the American Revolution to Apple, the great ones are always fueled by love, by people who love what they do and who love the people they do it with. Love is actually a very effective and efficient--and much overlooked--business tool. It delivers just about the best return on investment you can get. Because when you show up with your heart, your mind works at a far greater capacity than when you leave your heart at home.
Our reluctance to embrace love as a business strategy is rooted in three common misperceptions:

Myth No. 1: Feelings aren't professional. Emotions are at the root of every human endeavor. Whether at work, at home or at the Friday night bar scene, emotions drive the action. The idea that feelings are somehow unprofessional is a myth perpetuated by people uncomfortable with their own emotions and petrified by the thought of having to deal with someone else's.
We've all encountered the Darth Vader boss in the Cubicle of Darkness at some time or other, so we all know how negative emotions can suck the life out of an organization. There comes a point when we have to get past our discomfort and openly admit that success or failure is determined by how people feel. Emotions lead to thoughts, thoughts lead to words, and words lead to action. It's not a leader's job to minimize feelings. It's a leader's job to create systems that ignite positive ones.

Myth No. 2: Love is too mushy to measure. Of course, you can't insert a heart meter into everyone at your office, but to be frank, the gauge of love isn't really how much the employees love the boss anyway; it's how effectively the boss loves them. Leaders who love make a practice of setting crystal clear expectations. They give consistent and accurate feedback. They provide people with the tools they need to get their jobs done. They're like great parents. They set up their teams for success.
It's about taking responsibility for creating the conditions that will bring out the best in others. Ask any working-class kid whose folks scrimped and saved to put him through college, and he'll tell you that love is a completely measurable entity. It's not what you say; it's what you actually do. You don't even have to be emotionally or physically demonstrative to be a loving leader. The true measure of love in leadership is how well your team understands the work that needs to be done and the significance of their role in the big picture.

Myth No. 3: Love means no accountability. The final and perhaps most fatal misperception about love at work is that loving your people means letting them off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, making the decision to love your people and your organization doesn't mean lowering your standards for them; if anything, it means raising them.
Love is all about mutual accountability. When you love someone, you expect them to give you their very best. And when they don't, you care enough about them to let them know how they can improve in the future.
The bottom line is this: Love is not for softies. Infusing love into your organization is just as challenging as infusing it into your home or anywhere else, and you don't really master the art of love until you stop thinking of it as a noun and start practicing it as an active verb. It isn't something you should be trying to get from your customers or your staff. It is a strategy you need to apply to your own actions.

Organizing your business around the discipline of love is no easy feat, but the payoff is very measurable and real. So let discomfort be damned. The real secret of lasting success is taking a good, long look in the mirror and deciding that your people and your organization deserve a leader who has the courage to stand up and love them.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the founder and principal of McLeod & More, which specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book is The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small.