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Follow the path that leads to understanding. Only then, will you illuminate the way for others. Once you open your mind and gain knowledge, truth, you’ll leave the darkness and enter into the light of wisdom. ~ Amaka Imani Nkosazana
In transformative leadership, nothing is more vital than the ability to lead with love. Over my years working as an executive in the banking industry, I frequently chose to bring this unusual concept forward with my peers and in my development of future leaders. To best understand the power associated with this conscious principle, you need look no further than yourself and your own deepest needs.
DESIRE FOR LOVE
What one human attribute do we seek most in our lives, from birth to death? Most would agree that it is the desire to find love, to share love and to enjoy the warmth of another’s love. Yet for so many walking on the planet, the satisfaction of this desire is out of reach because we feel unworthy of love, fearful of its hold, or estranged by a Puritan heritage (at least in Western cultures) that falsely unites sin with love. Unfortunately, many settle for relationships that do not reflect their true passions or most desired expressions of love.
The net effect of living without genuine love is a life of darkness--an environment where nothing nourishing can grow. By contrast, those who embrace love, compassion, and understanding find their lives blooming with fulfillment and abundance.
When you think about it, it is nonsensical to imagine that leading with something other than love could be an effective way to run a business in which employees deal directly with customers. Yet we talk around the subject, carefully ensuring that we do not leap into the netherworld of leading from the heart.
THE POWER OF LOVE
You need to look no further than your own life to see the power of love when exercised from a genuinely open heart. Think back on your own “Kodak moments” in which you felt loved or expressed deeply felt compassion for others. These compelling moments remain a part of our memory. At times, each of us longs for the uniquely warm and wonderful feelings associated with unconditional love.
Even though we all need love and support, curiously, in our professional lives, we think we need to be as independent as possible. Somewhere along the journey we learned that in order to be successful in the corporate world, we must be ruthlessly assertive--dare I say, aggressive--in order to achieve high performance, recognition, and upward promotion. We became accustomed to a survival-of-the-fittest mindset, where only the strong succeed in a harshly competitive world.
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Amid the intensity of the demands placed on us within the corporate milieu, we have nearly lost sight of the fact that we human beings are, by nature, connected with each other. In this truth lies an amazing opportunity for meaningful human encounters and outcomes. Yet for a majority of companies, these opportunities are currently unrealized--or at best, severely limited by our collective myopia.
Myths require busting in order to shift from unconscious to conscious. You can then infuse the higher vibration of love and compassion into your roles as leader.
MYTH #1: It takes too much time!
No, actually there is always enough time to choose to care for another. The additional minutes required to genuinely inquire how someone is doing, how their daughter is feeling, or how they are progressing on a project, come back to you tenfold in bridging the chasm between worker and boss.
Despite our natural urge to live in the future or in the past, all you really have is the present moment. Whether you opt to spend the modest amount of time necessary to show your support and interest is entirely your choice to make.
MYTH #2: Getting too close to my direct reports is problematic!
No it isn’t--not if you are consistent, fair, and equal in your access and care to all employees. Speaking from the heart allows you to be authentic and human with those with whom you work. This quality breaks down barriers to honest human connection by inviting others to do the same without fear of retaliation, chiding, or diminishment.
I have often stated to those I lead and serve that my role is multifaceted. I play everything from boss to coach to brother to father to rabbi, priest, psychologist and even friend. Meeting others where they are is an essential component of effective leadership. It demands that you know the other person beyond what their sales numbers show, their performance appraisals demonstrate, or what some may extol as their virtues or challenges.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do your associates value in their lives? Do you know about their family composition?
- When not working, what hobbies or special interests do your associates enjoy?
- How are they motivated? What are their passions?
- What aspirations do your associates have for their futures?
All these questions demand a level of consciousness and intentional connection to those you serve. If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, make it a point to find out.
MYTH #3: If I show that I care about my associates, I will be seen as weak!
Not true. To not care about those you serve and lead is cowardly. Leaders who break the corporate mold to demonstrate honest love and compassion toward employees exhibit enormous courage and strength of character. By attuning to a higher vibration, creating an environment of genuineness, and putting into motion the energetic flow of caring, the workplace transforms into a rich group of human beings moving toward a bigger aspiration. The associates feel this shift, which in turn is transmitted to the customers they serve.
MYTH #4: My customers come first!
Not quite. Organizations that seek to put the customers first are not wrong in their goal, but lopsided in missing the essential first step. Happy employees, who feel cared for, represented fairly by their leadership, and given top-notch support, are most inclined to carry that spirit of connection to their customers. World-class organizations recognize this essential dynamic in treating their internal customers--employees--with love and care.
Companies such as Accenture, Patagonia, USAA, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Costco all place a high priority on the well being of employees. Accenture, a consulting company, has promised to retrain most workers at risk of losing their jobs to automation. Costco, an industry-leading retailer, realizes the importance of their associates having holidays with their families and loved ones. Unlike their competitors, Costco closes during most traditional holidays.
These are the frontline associates who directly represent the companies to their customers. A multitude of corporations and companies in our world fail miserably in creating environments where their employees feel well cared for, supported, and understood. Ultimately, the corporate culture provides the system in which leaders lead; however, we as leaders can make individual choices from within the structure of the company where we work.
LEADING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
In my own experience, I have come to understand the significance of choosing to infuse love and compassion into my leadership style and practice. I have chosen to express my strong feelings in this regard in executive meetings.
While I took my peers by surprise at first, those individuals with whom I share leadership responsibility did not close themselves off to the concepts I presented. Rather, they have become interested in the relevant outcomes.
LOVE LEADER OUTCOMES
Caring is good for business. After I began employing the principles espoused in this book, the overall sales performance within my line of business significantly improved, customer satisfaction trended positively and associate engagement dramatically rose. Additionally, a number of successfully effective leaders emerged.
Leading nearly two hundred employees in the financial services industry has provided a rich laboratory in which to experiment. The weakness attributed to leading with the so-called “squishy” attributes of love, compassion, and understanding melts away in the face of significant positive outcomes.
FEAR vs. LOVE
We all live our lives on a continuum between fear and love. It is said that one cannot have love where there is fear. In this simple truth resides an important lesson for us as conscious leaders.
Over the years, my coaching with managers has evolved to help them discover what holds them back from realizing greater success. Different people define success differently. Some are looking for monetary fulfillment for them and their families. Others want to be recognized among their peers. Still others want to achieve promotions or enjoy the security of working on a team with a defined goal.
THE DINOSAUR IN THE LIVING ROOM
Opening a dialogue with those I lead uncovers the fears they defend against in their everyday lives. I do not pretend to be a psychologist, but I do show that I am a loving and compassionate coach. I am interested enough to support the associates in unraveling the fears that prevent them from realizing their dreams. We all have fears. For many of us, particularly men, exposing fears feels unsafe because it leaves us vulnerable and open.
The wounds that have created the fears--while in some cases minor--are nonetheless scary to expose, especially in a professional work environment.
MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
Take David, a very successful leader who had enjoyed great success year after year. As a young man of twenty-eight, David had built his success on an aggressive, directive style, setting stretch goals for his team and accepting nothing less than differentiated results. When I arrived to assume the role of market leader, David became my right-hand assistant, providing support and counsel in managing the business.
After working closely with him and coming to build strong relationships with the many associates and teams, I became aware of a hidden truth: David had not only aggressively managed his team, but had customarily done so by peremptorily issuing orders, creating harsh and toxic relationships with many associates. He was seen by many as a self-aggrandizing, “my way or the highway” manager.
In subsequent coaching sessions with David, after exposing the “dinosaur in the living room” critical reputation he had created, I decided to try to guide him toward some self-discovery. I wanted to get to the root of David’s misplaced leadership style.
“What are you fearful of, David?” My tone was caring and compassionate. Nonetheless, he looked back at me warily.
“What do you mean?” he shot back.
“Why do you feel the need to be so directive and aggressive with your associates?” I was truly curious.
Now David looked down, silently reflecting. I could almost see his spirit searching for something. Finally, he replied, “My father works two jobs. When we moved to the United States from Lebanon many years ago, my parents sacrificed so much for us. I need to prove my worth to them.”
I nodded, affirming his experience. Then I asked, again: “What makes you think that you must be so hard and demanding on your associates?”
His eyes welled up. “I am afraid I can’t live up to my father’s standards,” he said, his voice wavering slightly.
“Does your father demand this of you?” I asked.
“No,” he replied.
“Does your father love you?”
“So why are you fearful?” I asked once again.
After taking a long breath, David looked directly at me. “My father is a very strong, firm and commanding man who works harder than anyone I know,” he explained. “I want to be like him, but I’m afraid that I won’t be able to live up to him. I admire and respect him.”
Guiding David through this conversation led him to realize that the fear he carried with him was not as much about living up to his father’s expectations, but rather attached to his own fear of being “less than,” a feeling shared by so many of us living and working in this win-or-lose competitive world.
When he was able to separate his fears from the reality that his father loved him just as he was, David was able to expose the root of his misguided and inauthentic managerial style. The months that followed revealed that David had taken my coaching seriously. He learned to stop and listen to his associates rather than barking off orders as had been his style. Associates were asked for their input in decision making as well as in creative solutions to business challenges. His associates and the overall performance began to show measurable improvement. But most apparent was a visceral sense of positivism and cooperation that exuded from his associates.
FEAR OF AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Fear dismantles our ability to genuinely lead with love and compassion. Yet what a massive loss it is to live with one foot in trepidation and the other on safe ground. It prevents us from realizing a life of full expression and potential.
Fear tends to be associated with future events that swirl from within the mind, fueled by the false ego, creating scenarios that in all likelihood will not occur or if they do, the outcomes are far different from the imagined disasters supported by our fear. When we are fearful, the ability to express ourselves in loving ways is greatly reduced. Fear also prevents us from living truthfully from who we really are.
As in the case with David, when I help my associates recognize that the boogieman is not under the bed, but rather located within a fear-based future, we open the door to the possibility of living in the present tense.
When we stop the incessant chatter of a fear-based protective self, we give ourselves the opportunity to choose a different course of action: one that allows for the presence of love, compassion, and understanding.
Again, love and fear cannot live under the same roof. Choose to be a love leader.
©2015, 2019 by Michael Bianco-Splann. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission from Cnscious Leadership.
Published by Palmetto Publishing Group.
Conscious Leadership: 7 Principles that WILL Change Your Business and Change Your Life
by Michael Bianco-Splann
"When you operate as a conscious leader, present and engaged in lifting up those you lead and serve, you switch on your highest self, the human being you were designed to be. Remember this is not a dress rehearsal, but the real deal. Are you practicing to live your life or embracing your most powerful and luminescent self? The choice is yours to make. The real you can and will be more than what others say you are. Be courageous, be fulfilled and be the director of a joyful and meaningful life. Illuminate your ambitions to make a significant difference."
For more info, or to order this book, click here. Newly Revised (2019)
Another book by this Author: Dying to Live: A Tapestry of Reinvention
About the Author
Michael Bianco-Splann is a conscious leadership expert, inspirational speaker, and master certified corporate trainer with over 30 years of frontline executive experience. He offers a transformative approach to leadership—within Fortune 100 companies to small boutique enterprises—for those seeking a life that's true to one's passion and purpose. He is the author of Conscious Leadership: 7 Principles That Will Change Your Business and Change Your Life and Dying to Live: A Tapestry of Reinvention. Learn more at illuminateambitions.com.