Business Love

Who ever created the dividing love between the business and the personal?

I get it, of course – the two realms aren’t the same – but I’m not sure we can completely maintain hard and fast distinctions on every level.

Because in our families, our communities, our companies, and everywhere else in the world, we’re rubbing shoulders with…people.

If people in the business realm exist to be used – if they are a means to profitable ends – then, of course, we can limit our caring. And, let’s face it – we work and do business to make money. When I network and present and consult and write and connect others, long-term and short-term business goals and strategies are woven throughout all of it. I’m not in the least embarrassed to admit it. Ultimately, whatever else I may earn in the business realm, I have to earn revenue primarily.

Or, to put it another way, it’s not about the Klout – it’s about the Ka-ching.

But this other, more personal drive keeps weaving itself in, dis-allowing me to treat people as business objects. And I see this drive in many others as well. When we interact face-to-face, there is a caring that goes beyond some anticipated short-term revenue gain.

It’s that pesky, inconvenient, hard-to-suppress, human, real, and amazing thing called love. You know – caring about others on a personal level that goes beyond today’s subscriber numbers and tomorrow’s paycheck.

I’m not talking about the whirl of romantic emotions or the carnal pleasure-seeking of one-night stands, or mere emotional sentimentalism. Love is an instinct to care about others – never fully pure, of course, but there nonetheless. Something we’re taught to suppress in that realm called “work”.

In the midst of our transition from a nation of farms and smaller businesses to the depersonalized landscape of huge companies where people are cogs in a great machine, we have tended to lose the connection of love and business. We’ve drawn a line between the realms, perhaps because it is so easy to be hurt in the world where getting ahead and winning are Job 1.

But now we are re-entering an era of entrepreneurship, where, as Mike Henry, Sr. put it in a phone call yesterday with Lisa Petrilli and me, we each have a factory on our desks. And lo and behold, love seems to be sneaking back into business.

Because we are what we always were – people. Maybe the machine robbed us of something important in our work. Maybe some of this dehumanization was a defense mechanism that we can and should outgrow.

Maybe – just maybe – love and business can be woven together.

I don’t fully understand how it all works, but I’m determined to explore it. Who’s with me?

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Heart Leadership

We often think and talk about leadership in terms of characteristics, skills, behaviors, and traits (both innate and cultivated). And that is a major part of leadership (want a list of 50 traits to work on? Here you go!)

But underneath all that, and actually underlying much of what is in that list, is something else. The heart of a leader.

The best leader is seeking the greater good. The best leader puts others first. That’s not a matter of mushy Hallmark sentimentalism, or unrealistic romanticism. But it is, at core, an expression of love.

Leadership – true and enduring leadership – is an act of love.

I would argue that passivity, and drifting with the tide, is an outgrowth of nothing other than selfishness or fear. Taking a situation in hand and helping others reach higher and accomplish more is a risk. It’s hard. It’s pro-active self-denial, and it sometimes requires what has come to be called “tough love.”

It’s giving of yourself, and that is the essence of love, is it not?

I love my children. It is my responsibility to lead them, however imperfectly (I’ve got a looooong way to go on that list of 50 traits!). And that has meant, at times, some very non-sentimental moments and extended periods of agony of heart. Even when the older ones were given a timeline and a blueprint for their future departure from the nest, they always knew I was heart-committed to them, and that I wanted them to become the best that they could be.

Now, a family is not equivalent to a business, and sons are not the same as employees. But leadership is leadership. A mere functionary who exercises authority from an assigned position of leadership may hope for some level of compliance. People may “follow” for a season.

But a leader-from-the-heart gains a following that goes beyond external compliance. We want to follow, not simply because we see an admirable  example, but we feel a genuine commitment to us and respond to it. And I’m not sure any further words on my part can do this justice, because it’s “better felt than tell’t!”

We’re going to be talking about Leadership and Love this week during our weekly Tuesday night #LeadershipChat discussion on Twitter (8 pm ET). Please join us; and before you do, I recommend you also read the perspectives of my co-moderator Lisa Petrilli (Three Truths about Leading with Love) in preparation.

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