The practice of love in the context of leadership is both powerful and necessary. Steve Farber describes this clearly in his audio book Extreme Leadership: In Pursuit of the OS!M. What does it mean to love the people you lead? My definition for the acronym LOVE embodies the actions necessary to cultivate positive behaviors that lead to successful results:
- L – Listen
- O – Observe
- V – Value
- E – Experience
The word experience functions as both a noun an a transitive verb. Among the noun definitions is: direct observation of or participation in events as a basis of knowledge. The verb definition includes: to learn by experience. Both emphasize the need to engage in the activities and efforts of others. They imply action. The act of experiencing connotes an exertion of effort on the part of the leader to work on a level that the people they lead (or manage) will see them functioning at their level. This will help them gain confidence in the motives that drive their leader.
Trust is a key factor of success in every organization. As a leader you need to conduct yourself in a way that the people whom you lead will trust you. By the same token, you need to trust the people you lead to do what they say they will do. As you experience their work you will gain insight into what motivates them to do great things and they will trust you and discern your integrity.
Leaders who spend time with their people get to know their them on a deeper level. This goes both ways. In their book Practical Lessons in Leadership, the authors Art Petty and Rich Petro provide excellent insight into what attributes make a great leader. Among the most important is getting to know your team. You come to know what your people want. They start seeing you as someone who cares about their ideas and careers. They want to work for you and will give their best effort.
Noting that many managers do a lousy job of spending time with their associates, Petty and Petro point out the importance getting to know them:
Nothing is more important (after understanding your mission) than providing quality time to your associates in both group and one-on-one settings. Your willingness to meet with your team and to invest your time in listening to their ideas, issues and concerns is an important tool for building your leadership credibility. The perception that ‘you care’ is powerful and priceless (p. 80).
Your ability to experience ‘a day in the life of’ the people you lead will differ depending on the size of your organization. In large organizations the CEO cannot meet with and know every employee. However, with new technology and honest effort, leaders can communicate their concern and connect with everyone who works for them.
Take action to experience life on the floor or in the cubicles of the people in your organization. Gain a deep understanding of what they do and what motivates them. Your efforts to feel what your people feel will result in unity of purpose and energy in your organization.
This is the last post in the series The LOVE of leadership. Your comments, critiques and analysis are welcome. Please leave a comment with your take on the role love plays in leadership.
The Product Management Perspective: Product managers work closely with people from different parts (i.e. teams) of the organization. When you interact with other teams, make the effort to experience what they do and why they do it. Work diligently to understand how things look from their vantage point. And when you make decisions, keep in mind how the results will influence other people. Love the people you work with and inspire them to succeed.