Love, Leadership and Business
Love is still a deeply unfashionable expression to use in business. But I believe that it is the only thing that really leads to sustained business success.
I have delivered the “love” message to quite a few business audiences so far and the response varies from disbelieving sniggers to relieved acceptance. You won’t be surprised that sniggers still out number acceptance - at the moment.
First, lets be clear about what “love” is. We are talking about the love of an activity, a thing, a person or a place. We are not talking about romantic love, but the experience we all have when our feelings for something go far beyond the practical.
For example: there are all sorts of practical reasons why I like cycling - I like the fitness, the gadgets, the feeling of freedom and the countryside. But my feelings for cycling go way beyond these practical elements - this, the bit beyond the practical - is the “love” bit.
We also have to be careful to distinguish between this kind of love for something and addiction. To my mind the distinction is one of long term health. A loving relationship is always a healthy relationship. An addictive relationship is always unhealthy.
The jobs that will work for us are the jobs we love. The relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers that work are the ones with love involved. The best kind of marketing is word of mouth and the products customers talk about most, and most positively, are the ones they love.
Perhaps part of the reason that so many people are afraid of love in business is that it is not something we decide on. It is not something we control. It is not predictable. Love pounces or slips in unannounced and then changes all our plans.
As Steve Jobs says: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do”. What is the point of investing our time and energy in anything less?
Marketers know this, for years they have tried to synthesise “love” for products to get us to buy them. But of course, you cannot fake love for long.
So what makes a person or a business lovable?
In a word the answer is authenticity.
Unfortunately for marketers, authenticity does not make a product, a business or a person lovable to everyone - but it does make them lovable to enough people.
It is not easy to truly love anything we feel uncomfortable about or find hard to trust. It is not easy to love anything that is shifty, insincere or manipulative.
We respect those who are honest, transparent and open. But we might love those who also align with us passionately, in some way.
It is not predictable, or controllable, but if we work with passion and love ourselves, it is likely that our work will connect with others who feel the same way and some of them will love what we do.
When love enters the relationship, suddenly we are working on a whole new level. Suspicion and doubt are replaced by support and commitment. Searching and disappointment are replaced by loyalty and contribution.
However unfashionable it may be in business, love is the answer that we are all looking for. Look for the love in your work, your business, your colleagues, your products and services and you will also find success and fulfilment.