Fall in love with everyone. That’s probably not the type of advice you get every day, especially not when you’re talking about leadership.
I don’t mean fall in love in a romantic way, but rather, in a human way.
What does falling in love mean on a deeply human level? Love is a completely selfless investment in someone else. It binds you to them because giving someone love means that you genuinely accept them, value them, and care for them. It means seeing the greatness and potential in someone and having an eager willingness and excitement to be a companion on their quest to achieving it. It means trusting them. It means being genuinely committed to their happiness and wellbeing. And it means being grateful that they are in your life.
I’ve often been accused of falling in love with everyone I meet. I used to think that it was a flaw, a vulnerability, to be so open to everyone. And, in complete disclosure, sometimes it’s come back to bite me. But overall, I have come to realize that love is the most powerful of the leadership tools. It makes every interaction, small or large, genuine and real.
One of the worst types of human experiences is feeling like you are unseen and unheard. That feeling of invisibility is disenfranchising and ultimately leaves people feeling resentful and even worse, powerless. When you practice everyday leadership that is motivated by love, you allow people to be seen and heard, and even if you can’t necessarily do anything more for them at that moment, holding people in that space and giving them that recognition is one of the most powerful things that you can do.
The love you give doesn’t necessarily need to be an everlasting love, or even reciprocated love. It can range from the love that you give the waiter who is serving your food or the IT person on the phone to your management style with your colleagues to the way you interact with your friends. But recognizing and being mindful of the way that people experience you is one of the most important lessons in emotional intelligence.
Giving love also means giving people the benefit of the doubt, recognizing that we are all just trying to get by, and when someone fails or falters, rather than chastising them, you can use a love approach to try and understand why and help lift them up instead of kick them when they are already down.
I could write about all of the studied and proven financial incentives to incorporate love into leadership – it encourages productivity, makes people more effective and committed to the cause, makes them feel believed in and invested in and therefore motivated to work hard, creates equality even in hierarchy. All of this is true, and if you need an economic argument, there’s a lot to back it up, but right now I am coming at this from a values and human-centered approach.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine how it would feel if you gave love to everyone in your life. And imagine if you felt loved by everyone who you worked with an interacted with in return. How would that change your human experience? How would it change theirs? And ultimately, what affect would instilling this type of universal sentiment have on the world? I know I am saying this at the risk of sounding idealistic at best and cheesy at worst, but everyone is looking for an authentic connection, and in this alienating age of money and technology where we have become increasingly engrossed with our bottom lines and smart phones instead of our present reality, don’t forget the value in saying “I see you, I hear you, I value you, I love you.” And fall in love with everyone!
Practicing leadership motivated by love: Let your guard down. Approach every person with excitement about their potential. See and believe in their greatness, even before they have had a chance to prove it to you. Recognize if you are being skeptical or making assumptions and put them out of your mind. Give them your attention and your heart during the time that you are with them, and focus on being present with them.
If going to a place of love seems abstract or inaccessible to you at the moment, think about approaching everyone with openness, curiosity, inclusiveness, gratitude and an investment in their success.
It is a valuable lesson, and it worth investing one’s time to master it.