I remember early in my career, I heard a business speaker talk about ‘love’; he said that a leader’s purpose, their contribution, their significance in an organization is to perpetuate ‘love’.
I recall at the time being perplexed. What could ‘love’ have to do with ‘work’? I saw them as two very different, unrelated life experiences. Now I see that quite differently.
Sigmund Freud is quoted as saying “Love and work are the cornerstones of humanness.” And, what is the role of the leader, if not to elevate humanness!
You see, I do believe that a leader’s role is to lead with love. Not love, as I thought of it in my early years at work, not erotic love best left for outside the workplace, but affectionate love or philia, as the Ancient Greeks called it. Aristotle said, philia is a “dispassionate virtuous love” that involves the feelings of loyalty among friends, camaraderie among team mates, and the sense of sacrifice for your pack.
That kind of love is pretty useful in today’s workplace!
The Greeks also understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. This form of self-love is not the unhealthy kind we might describe as vanity, self-obsession, or narcissism. Instead, philautia is self-love in its healthiest form.
Philauatia is akin to the Buddhist philosophy of “self-compassion”; the deep understanding that it is only once you have the strength to love yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin, that you will be able to provide love to others. As Aristotle put it, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s (woman’s) feelings for himself (herself).” That’s why, if you meet someone who is angry or cruel toward you, that is a glimpse into how that person feels about, and treats, themselves. Likewise, the more kind, caring, and compassionate you are to yourself, the more you will be that way to others.
You cannot share what you do not have. If you do not love yourself, you cannot love anyone else. The only way to truly be happy is to find unconditional love for yourself.
Only once you learn to love and understand yourself, will you be ready to search for the highest and most radical type of love according to the Greeks; agape, or selfless unconditional love.
This third type of love is not the sentimental outpouring that often passes as love in our society. Agape is what some call spiritual love. It is an unconditional love, bigger than ourselves. It is compassion without boundaries, it is empathy without limits.
It is what the Buddhists describe as “mettā” or “universal loving kindness.” It is the purest form of love that is free from desires and expectations. It is about loving others regardless of their flaws and shortcomings.
Agape is the kind of love that accepts, forgives and believes … for the greater good. It is the love that brings out the best in our common humanity.
This last type of love is the one that can be most difficult to wrap your head around, when it comes to your thinking about a leader’s contribution at work.
But, what, I wonder, is a leader’s role…a leader’s gift…if not to accept, forgive, and believe in the greater good. In fact, is that not the role for us all?
Deri Latimer is an expert in positive possibilities for people! A TEDx Speaker, Author, and Organizational consultant, Deri works with organizations who want to create happy and healthy workplaces for increased positivity, productivity and prosperity!