When I talk about the concept of ‘Leading from Love’, I notice that the word ‘love’ often causes some uneasiness in others and also in me. Especially in work environments I have been conscious of the fact that talking about ‘love’ as a source for leadership development is a bit awkward. I have been asking myself why this is the case.
Bell Hooks’ fascinating book ‘All about Love’ provided me with so many answers to this question. She states that “It is hard to speak of love as we are not sure what we mean when we talk of love or how to express love. While we live in a world where most people are followers of religious faiths or spiritual movements that proclaim the transformative power of love, many people feel that they do not have a clue as to how to love.” And “How-to classes exist for every dimension of life. Yet schools for love do not exist.”
In the ancient Greek language six different words circulated for different kinds of ‘love’, but in our culture the word ‘love’ is reduced to a highly individualistic, mystical phenomenon belonging to our private lives.
Bell Hooks states that “The word love is most often defined as a noun, yet all the more astute theorists of love acknowledge that we would all love better if we used it as a verb. To love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love. A choice to nurture growth.”
So what does choosing to love involve?
Here I found Hooks’ breathtakingly simple statement: “The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other.”
And then “When we choose to love we choose to move against fear – against alienation and separation.”
Then to love is not only this romantic feeling towards one or a few people in our private lives, but “An active force that leads us into greater communion with the world. Loving practice is not aimed at simply giving an individual greater life satisfaction; it is celebrated/put at the center as the primary way to end domination and oppression. This important politicization of love is often absent from today’s writing.”
“Since so many of us are imprisoned by fear we can move toward a love ethic only by the process of conversion. Signs that this conversion is taking place abound in our culture. Masses of people are reevaluating the values that undergird our lives and make choices that affirm the interconnectedness with others.”
And then she gets really practical; the how-to of love:
“Embracing a love ethic means that we utilize all the dimensions of love – care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect and knowledge – in our everyday lives. We can successfully do this by cultivating awareness. Being aware enables us to critically examine our actions to see what is needed so that we can give care, be responsible, show respect and indicate a willingness to learn.”
And now we are in the realm of Leading from Love; co-creating safe spaces wherever we are to develop knowledge and awareness of what are the essential elements for adopting a love ethic and the ensuing values that shape and inform our behavior and our language at work.
THIS is what we mean when we talk about love in the workplace.
This is not mysterious, irrational or awkward; it is about “how we can collectively regain our faith in the transformative power of love by cultivating courage, and the strength to stand up for what we believe in” to create the future we want.
We design and host programs to facilitate work ethics from love. Contact us for a conversation!