For the Love of Leadership

Feb 8, 2023

“Businesses want a location where they can start strong, put down roots and grow over time.”

-Joe Morris,
Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Allicance Publication

People are looking for the same thing. Is your business a place where people want to put down roots? Does it provide the kind of work culture that allows people to “start strong” and “grow over time”? What do you want people to feel and experience when they visit your company or arrive for the first day of work?

It takes years to build a positive and empowering work culture and, unfortunately, very little time to burn it to the ground.

When you’re focused on building culture in the workplace, it’s a bit like growing a garden. You have to tend to it daily, water the seedlings and prune back the dead growth. At work, this means treating people with care and respect, listening to their concerns, and taking interest in their triumphs and losses.

Care and respect are central to leadership. Are you giving your team the care and respect they need? Or are you spending most of your day putting out fires? If you’re putting out fires, you’re not tending to the garden.

Love’s Role at Work

When I talk about love at work, it’s not romantic love. It’s Agape love. Agape is a selfless and unconditional form of love (also care and respect) that is given freely to others. It’s the kind of love that allows us to be patient, tolerant, and empathetic with other people.

But before we can share Agape love with our team members, we need to first love ourselves. The ability to love ourselves is key to building strong, healthy relationships with others because our capacity to care and respect another is only as great as our capacity to care and respect ourselves.

Showing love for others is not a weakness. It takes courage to be kind and set high standards for relationships at work. Leaders who lead from the heart protect what they love or care about by setting and enforcing clear boundaries.

If the issue is underperformance, for example, loving or caring leaders take the time to get to the heart of the matter by leading with curiosity. They forgo the temptation of a quick fix and validate first. Leaders who lead from the heart have a willingness to correct and coach employees back to a positive rhythm, but they also make sure the employee knows what’s at stake if they don’t improve.Nothing is left to chance in these delicate situations.

Tough love that is delivered from the heart and motivated by a desire to do what’s best for an employee is different than correcting an employee with criticism or harsh words.. However, if an employee doesn’t want to change or improve, even a caring leader may hit a wall, in which case alternative actions may be needed.

In any case, clear communication is necessary. As Brené Brown says, “clear is kind.” In difficult situations, care enough to be the leader who is crystal clear in communicating their expectations, making known how performance will be measured, conveying what the rewards and consequences will be for everyone affected, and presenting what accountability will look like.

Leaders who love create a work environment where bold moves are possible, where risk is rewarded, and where innovation thrives. And more than ever before, people want to dare and dream, not ponder and plod.

New generations are demanding more of their leaders, challenging them to think of the bigger picture by factoring in the role people play in profit and growth, as well as loss and decline. Research shows that the more engaged you are with your team, the more engaged your team will be with you – up to 70% more, according to one study.

To transform your leadership, you must be prepared to lead from love and curiosity as opposed to fear and threat.


If your inner narrative is fear-based, your fearful aura will be felt by everyone in your vicinity, and you risk becoming a fearful and intimidating leader who leaves stagnation and toxicity in your wake. This can lead to mistrust in the workplace and can create a divide between you and your team. Eventually, you will find yourself in a chaotic situation and you will spend more time managing problems and problematic behavior than anything else.

In contrast, leading with love (confidence, composure and calm) creates a work culture that feels safe and reassuring; it’s a place where people feel supported, guided, and capable of delivering. In this work environment, there is a solid foundation for growth and success, and employees are, more often than not, happy, loyal and passionate about what they do for a company.

Moving from Fear to Love

In the framework of the workplace, love is a whole-body endeavor. Unprocessed emotions trigger bodily sensations. Without somatic awareness and intervention, the amygdala takes control and before long, we’re mired in a fear-based narrative.

The first step to moving from fear to love is noticing the physical sensations that go along with being triggered, such as shallow breathing, tension, rapid heartbeat, brain fog. Next, acknowledge the experience. Don’t fight it. Fighting the experience will only make it grow stronger. But if we acknowledge what we’re noticing with a sense of curiosity, and use somatic practices to calm our nervous system, we can avoid chaos.

Love Starts at a Personal Level

To love to lead is the secret ingredient for professional success, because pleasure and enjoyment are contagious. A leader who does not enjoy their job will not be able to pass along any joy or pleasure to their team or share with them any meaningful strategic vision.

Love-oriented leadership is a combination of self-love and love for fellow human beings. Leaders who want to lead from a place of inner peace and authenticity cannot bypass the heart. We’ve been told that we must rely on cognitive intelligence, but that’s not all. We must also tap into the body’s intelligence to be truly authentic leaders.

What’s the Point?

Unlike robots or machines, people have brains and feelings. These human elements allow us to take on a task and complete it well, or leave it until tomorrow or next week. An employee’s level of engagement has a direct effect on business success. Productivity and profits gained through engaged employees dramatically exceed that of disengaged employees.

Engagement derives from love. Leaders play a big role in employee engagement. To know if love is present within your team, try asking people, “Do you feel like I, as your leader, truly care about you?”