3 reasons the greatest leaders are the best lovers

One thing all great leaders need to be good at is loving, and we’re not talking man-eaters and Casanovas. We’re all effectively ‘in a relationship’ with the people we work with both inside and outside of our organisation, even if the status changes to ‘it’s complicated’ when times get tough. So, when it comes to running a successful business, what’s love got to do with it?...

1. Love Your Clients. Your clients and your customers need love. That means you have to do a few simple things:
 
Communicate: don't be a stranger – speak to them regularly so they know you care about them and they know what you can do for them. But it's not all about you – understand the challenges they are facing and be clear how you can provide solutions that will make their lives easier.
 
Be honest (but tactful): find a nice way to let them know their bum does indeed look big in this. If you never tell them it looks bad or is a stupid idea they will blame you in the end.
 
Give them nice things: don't give them products or services that you could have picked up from the gas station forecourt – make sure what you do for them is of a quality that befits the deep love that you feel.  
 
Shared interests and shared values: it's very hard to succeed merely by loving the money your customers or clients pay you, notes entrepreneurial love guru Seth Godin in his latest blog on the importance of customer loving and quality of service. It's not always a natural reflex to love your clients. But many social businesses inherently care for their customers because they share their values – this helps builds trust, which builds success for both parties in the relationship. 
 
2. Love Your Staff. And if you don’t love them, like in any relationship, you should probably leave them. Current leadership wisdom says you should listen to and trust your employees. Take two of the strongest leaders the world has seen, Julius Caesar and Margaret Thatcher. Were they good lovers? Both saw their winning streaks falter when their love for those around them dwindled, crucially when they stopped listening. Caesar ignored advice, which led to his death, and Margaret Thatcher stopped listening to colleagues and fell into a political crisis. Clearly not something to take lightly, listening is a skill the best leaders craft, they are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners.  
 
Closely related to an ability to listen is the ability to trust. Employee autonomy, created by leaders who trust, is another buzzword bandied about the halls of leadership thought. From the Silicon Valley start-up scene we hear tales of good leaders that are also good lovers, leaders that afford their employees independence and encourage them to have fun. It’s part of the formula that allowed a 16-person team to scale to support 30 million users and a $1 billion valuation according to Instagram’s founder Mike Krieger. There's another example of an Australian software company that gave its employees one day every four months to do as they pleased, and they came up with products and bug fixes that helped the company grow. But beware – too much love will stifle productivity. Giving people responsibility and lattitude without clearly defining the results expected and how progress will be measured will mean no one really knows how anyone is doing. Love your staff, but not blindly, there is a balance to be struck
 
3. Love Yourself. Nelson Mandela once said, “It is better to lead from behind and put others in front” – advice that savvy leaders have long heeded to empower and inspire loyalty in those working around them. But a flaw that holds back many at the top is a dangerous incapacity for self-love. On one level, that means leaders need to know when to rein it in, take a holiday or 'get laid' in the words of our spunky columnist Liam Black. Too much self love will get you nowhere, as Narcissus has shown us popping his clogs after a fatal addiction to his own reflection. But a bit of self-loving – including 'me time' and time for family and friends – will keep that spring in your step and empower you to empower others. 
 
On a deeper level, leaders need to take time to really get to understand themselves. The self drives our ambitions and aspirations, and if you don’t 'get' yourself, you’re on a fast track to decisions that lead to failure, according to Warren Bennis, one of the foremost authorities on leadership in the world. You'll confuse experience with self-awareness, brush over the true causes of problems, and repeat the same mistakes.
 
Great leaders understand themselves and have chosen to do something they are truly passionate about. Whether it's world domination à la Hitler or emancipation à la Ghandi, powerful leaders throughout history have harnessed their desire to reach their goals.
 
And the greatest inspire others with that passion, like Captain Buzz Smith, head of a firefighting team in Hollywood and the anti-hero of a humorous blog on boring leadership in the Harvard Business Review. Buzz may not have been able to inspire his firefighters to switch TV channels outside work, but on the job (no double entendre intended) they would do anything for Capt. Smith. Not because they love him — but because his deep belief in his mission makes them also believe in that mission.
 
 
The Pioneers Post Business School content is delivered in partnership with Inspire2Enterprise. I2E provide a unique, free-to-access social enterprise support, information and advice service – from start-up through to initial growth and beyond. Call them on 0844 9800 760 or visit www.inspire2enterprise.org to find out more.