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Dec 13, 2022

Every so often, you’ll hear people say they ‘love’ their job.

(Although actually – this isn’t that common; research shows only 20% are ‘passionate’ about their jobs).

Every so often you might even hear employees say that they ‘love’ their colleagues or managers

(Platonically that is).

But what you probably won’t ever hear is managers pushing a new concept known as ‘love-based leadership’.

This is a great shame according to Yetunde Hofmann, a board-level executive leadership coach and mentor, global change, inclusion and diversity adviser, and author of Beyond Engagement.

She says not enough organizations demonstrate ‘love’ to their staff – despite it potentially being their secret engagement weapon. To counter this, she argues more should adopt a love-based leadership style.

So what is this?

To find out what she means, TLNT sat down for an exclusive chat with her:

Q: Explain your big idea around ‘love-based leadership’

A: “We all know that building a positive work environment is a top priority for many HR practitioners and leadership teams across the world. It offers a multitude of organizational benefits around employee productivity and collaboration. But with research from the Born This Way Foundation reporting that one-in-four young people have experienced unkindness in the workplace, it’s becoming clear that we need a step-change in how we approach management and leadership to ensure our working environments work for everyone. The answer, in my opinion, is through Love. Love is the key to building an organization where employees feel valued, respected and like they belong, bringing with it all the benefits to your productivity, people and bottom line.”

Q: You don’t often hear ‘love’ used much in organizations, so why do you think things should be couched this way now?

A: “A positive work environment is a place of acceptance and inclusion – where individuals can connect, grow and thrive on their own terms. But if you don’t accept another person for who they are then it is very difficult to be genuinely kind or compassionate towards them. Love is the unconditional acceptance of yourself and of others. It is the fruit of kindness that goes beyond just asking ‘how was your day?’ to a colleague, to recognising and respecting that each person in your team has a life outside of what you see from them over a Zoom call or in the office from 9-5. Teams that know and respect each other beyond being just co-workers are more connected and supportive. They consider how their actions will impact those around them, especially in terms of calling out harmful behaviors and championing the successes of their team.”

Q: How else does love based leadership create benefits?

A: “Building a love-based work environment that recognizes difference as an asset also has positive impacts on an organization’s internal processes. It means performance reviews are not simply a tick-box exercise for people managers to complete but are an intentional two-way conversation designed to focus on growth and building on an individual’s strengths. Doing so shows employees that their managers want them to succeed, both for their own personal gain and for the benefit of the team and the company. Examining policies through the lens of love also ensures that the individual needs of groups and employees are addressed. Potential biases in hiring processes, such as not having diverse shortlists, can be identified and actions taken to resolve the situation for the benefit of all employees. A workplace where everyone feels they can progress and are valued is one that will continue to attract and retain talent.”

Q: What do you say to people who think this might be hard to transition to?

A: “What I’m trying to express is that love-based organizations understand that they are serving something greater than themselves and act accordingly. In love-based environments, there isn’t one leader who claims all the credit, with their team waiting in the background as a supporting act. Instead, there is a collaborative culture which says the CEO’s role is just as important as those starting out in the company. In other words, everyone is working for the stakeholder, only in different ways. In love-based organizations employees understand how their roles support the organization’s overall strategy and they work together to achieve their goals, knowing that everyone, without exception, has something to contribute.”

Q: How do leaders start to transition to love-based leadership?

A: “It’s about recognizing and celebrating the different abilities within our teams. Environments that encourage discussion and are open to challenging conversations will, in my opinion, progress far quicker towards real inclusion than those who shy away from asking the tough questions and involving their employees. Love makes you curious and having a genuine desire to listen, enquire and act, whether that is through personal development sessions or via opinion and engagement surveys. Leaders that support their teams in this way enable their staff to operate at their very best and feel confident to bring innovation and new ideas to the table. Having diverse voices can lead to greater creativity and it lessens the chances of ‘group think’. Supported staff will bring their lived experiences into their insights and can highlight ways to improve the workplace for others which you may not have previously considered.”

Q: What about decision-making? Is this improved too?

A: “Love-based organizations ensure their behaviors reflect those of their people and the stakeholders they serve. Employees therefore spend less time second-guessing your motives and more time working together to build a competitive advantage for your company. If decisions are due to be made, teams led by love will be sure that they have been taken with a consideration and a respect for the people who will be impacted. Changes will also be communicated transparently, leaving no doubt that the organization’s leaders are working for the people rather than for their own personal gain.”

Q: What would your advice be to any organization thinking about this?

A: “Building your work environment with love provides an opportunity for kindness, collaboration, and innovation like no other. It is an organizational capability which creates a sense of belonging that could never be replicated by branded coffee cups and company merchandise. So, if you truly want to create kindness in your company, look to love for the answer. It’s what we need to make the world a much better place, today and in the future.”