What’s love got to do with it?

What’s love got to do with it?

No, I’m not talking about that classic hit by Tina Turner. But it does appear that HBR and I agree on the answer to this profound question.

Let me rewind for a moment. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I use the word ‘love’ a lot. It peppers my conversation like chilli in a Mexican fajita.

Some would say I mention the word ‘love’ waaaay too much – certainly in a professional setting.

Sorry? Not sorry.

Let’s not get caught up in semantics – if the words ‘love’ and ‘business’ in the same sentence make you feel as uncomfortable as a Republican at a Democrat convention, replace the word ‘love’ with care, compassion, leading with heart, or kindness.

Now, here’s my point. I believe love is crucial for any leader to demonstrate if they are to truly unleash potential in those they lead, their organisations and (whilst I’m at it) themselves.

When love (and I mean the care and compassion and kindness kind of love, not the sexual kind) is absent in a working relationship between a leader and their teams, something phenomenally powerful is lost.

Opportunities are missed.

Effort and energy towards the collective cause is at best, limited. At worst, it’s marginal or missing altogether.

Leadership without love is a rote, soulless, mechanical affair. The work of teams stuck in a vacuum of ‘leadership love’ lack something significant.

And conversely? Well, wow.

When  a leader demonstrates love; embodies it, leads with their heart as well as their head – whether it be through intentionally expressing care for those they lead and other stakeholders, when they are truly listening,  or merely showing a genuine interest in people – it’s like the supercharged fire boost you see in a Marvel comic superhero movie.

My role as a leadership coach gives me a front row seat to what happens when care, heart, passion and vulnerability is present in leadership.

Love lifts engagement. Love connects people. Love ignites performance, like nothing else I’ve seen.

Love is not relegated to ‘soft’. You can demonstrate love in tough times. When managing someone who’s not cutting the mustard. When making people redundant. When making the tough calls.

Love, accountability and drive for results are not mutually exclusive.

[Tweet “Love, accountability and drive for results are not mutually exclusive.”]

I was starting to doubt my conviction. I was starting to think maybe I’m a bit soft in the head, in my belief that love plays a pivotal role in successful leadership.

Then THIS article came along.

This week, Duncan Coombe, who writes for Harvard Business Review, showed me I wasn’t a wishy-washy soppy old kitchen mop. In fact, he completely backs up the notion of love being an essential ingredient for successful leadership, saying –

“If you consider love to be a worthwhile pursuit in any aspect of your life then you have the opportunity to express love throughout your life, including at work. As a leader, as a colleague, as a provider of goods and services, commit to expressing love at work. In so doing, you will be aligning yourself to a philosophy that lies at the heart of all the teachings of a well-lived life.”

[Tweet “”Commit to expressing love at work” – @duncancoombe @HarvardBiz”]

So, if you think the concept of love has no place in organisations OR conversations about leadership, please, just read this article.

This week I REALLY want to hear from you. I REALLY want you to comment. What are your thoughts on this topic?  Disagree with me?  Please wade in!  Agree? Let me know why. Please leave your comments below.


  1. Pradeep Navalkar on August 19, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Good one, I like the way you have called out essential leadership qualities here.

  2. Maria Deutsch on August 8, 2016 at 12:10 am

    Kia ora Suzi,
    couldn’t agree more – one of my leadership heroes, Wilf Jarvis has this triangle of love, truth and power and I have used it to analyse many a situation as to what is the missing ingredient.
    We seem to be all agreed a leader needs to have a certain level of personal power, but love and even truth?? Well, Wilf has studied thousands of leaders and these three ingredients were the essentials for any leader.
    Wishing you a love filled day

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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