On the occasion of today, Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share five reasons I believe LOVE is the only way of thriving in business today.  Love and Business. Oxymoron?  No.  I was inspired by the Fast Company article and book “Love Is the Killer App” written by Tim Sanders (former Yahoo Chief Solutions Officer) ten years ago.

What do I mean about love in business? It’s true “agape” love. It is loving something or someone without any specific expectation of return. It is loving the work we do because it is an expression of our talents and we feel we must make, as Steve Jobs put it, “our dent in the Universe”. It is pursuing our work as if it were indeed our calling in life. It is loving our customers because we see the opportunity to serve others and make their lives better.  It is loving the people we work with (yes, even our bosses!) despite their flaws.  And yes, it’s hard. It requires looking into ourselves and transforming who we are as leaders. But it is achievable, and it requires us to have simple leadership practices that help us dump our fears, our insecurities, and our stories so what is left is just love. This love already exists within each of us.  We don’t need to go in search of it. We need to just eliminate the barriers to it within ourselves.

Here are five reasons Love is still the Killer App (even more true today that 10 years ago when the book came out) and a few leadership practices to practice to bring more love to your work and your life.

1)  Love Builds Trust – Trust is at a premium and must be earned in these times when trust in our institutions is at historic lows. With the advent of social media and the transparency it creates, it’s awfully hard to pretend. At the same time, as many categories are commoditized, potential consumers and partners make choices based on reputation and trust and the values that our brand represents. WHO we are is becoming increasing important, rather than just WHAT we have to offer (see link to Harvard Business Review blog).

Leadership Practices:

a) Get clear about what you want as your personal or organizational brand? What are the values you stand for that you deeply care about.

b) How do you make sure that you bring into alignment your actions with your articulation of your personal brand? Develop a practice of mindfulness where you bring greater awareness of who you are BEING in any given moment. With awareness you can then choose to bring yourself closer to your brand.

2)  Love Creates Loyalty – When we love our customers, clients and key stakeholders in a way that is truly focused on serving them, we have a different mindset we bring. We don’t see the world through the haze and fog of our own unmet needs. We are able to see more clearly the needs of others. This helps us find ways to meet their needs in a way that creates greater value for everyone. We give up on the “us vs. them” mentality and take on the “we” mentality and great solutions are born.

Leadership Practices

a) Ask yourself what kinds of customers or clients you would love to serve, then go declare this to the world. Look for these attributes in the existing clients you are serving.

b) Before meeting with clients, center yourself with a clear intent to listen to them without your own filters, not just what they are saying, but what they are feeling.

c) Ask yourself how serving these clients is linked to the expression of your own personal brand.

3)  Love Is Creative – When we are passionate and connected to a higher purpose in what we do and who we serve, we go the extra mile to meet their needs. We are more resilient in the face of failure because our personal success and failure is not what is at stake. There are many stories of famous inventions that indicate that brilliant ideas are born of the great resilience of their inventors. We are more collaborative and willing to give up personal agendas because there is something bigger, a common group mission is at stake.

Leadership Practices:

a) When you are faced with a failure, reframe the situation to remind yourself of the impact that is to be made, and the higher purpose that you’re striving toward.

b) In situations where we are collaborating with others, seek out what is the higher purpose that others are striving for and connect it with the mission of the group.

4)  Love Engages Us – When we love what we do and find a greater purpose in it, it deeply fulfills us. Human beings have two fundamental needs beyond our basic survival needs. These are the need for connection to others and our need for meaning and purpose. When we tap into these needs we are unstoppable. These needs are highly correlated to our engagement at work. And yet, if you look at the Gallup surveys on engagement, on average only 29% of employees are fully engaged in their work. Engagement is linked to productivity, creativity, and also health and wellbeing of employees.

Leadership Practices

a) First engage yourself. Discover what you love about the work you do and resolve to do more of what you love in your daily work.

b) Discover the people who you can connect with and serve in the workplace.

c) Listen to and observe the people you work with to discover their talents, strengths and unique motivators. What do they love about what they do? How can you help them bring more of their love and talents into their daily work?

5)  Love Creates Prosperity – Ironically, I have found that when we give up on having an “attachment” to a given outcome and focus on what we love, the returns come in abundance.  When I approach people with a desire to truly give of my time, talent and service, they feel it and I get in return their friendship, loyalty and trust, and yes their business. When I approach someone and I am myself insecure or steeped in worries or fears, then I am focused on me and not on them, and they feel it.  Steve Jobs didn’t set out to become a billionaire. He was in search of a computer for the masses.  Herb Kelleher (founder of  Southwest Airlines) is focused on democratizing the skies. Both are companies that lead their industries in value creation. Go figure!

Leadership Practices

a) Often it is our fears that hold us back from love. Ask yourself what fears or insecurities you have that hold you back from fully serving the people around you. Most of the time it is some variant of not feeling like we’re good enough ourselves.

b) Ask yourself how do I replace these limiting beliefs with empowering beliefs?

c) Take the time to record or journal how you feel when you serve others and the prosperity that come of that.

As we practice these practices, a curious thing happens. Our focus shifts from building trust, gaining loyalty, inspiring creativity, engaging ourselves and others, and creating prosperity. Our focus shifts to just loving, because that’s who we are and everything we do springs from the essence of who we are. It’s effortless and it’s a beautiful thing to experience in those moments we can get there.

Kouzes & Posner, best-selling authors of “The Leadership Challenge” in their final chapter cite the example of a retired U.S. Army General, John Stanford. They asked him how he developed great leaders. Here is his answer as quoted in their book:

The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done than other people…I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is“.

The authors concluding words: “Leadership is not an affair of the head. Leadership is an affair of the heart.”

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Henna Inam - Professional Photo - ColorThis article was written by Henna Inam, executive coach, speaker, and consultant.  She works with women to help them realize their potential to be authentic, transformational leaders. They create organizations that drive breakthroughs in innovation, growth, and engagement. Her corporate clients include Coca Cola, UPS, Nestle, J&J, and others who know female leadership talent is good for business. To accelerate your own growth connect with her here. Connect on Twitter @hennainam.