Leading from love: an ongoing research project
“….the edgiest word to use at the moment isn’t f**k, piss or shit. It’s love. That’s what really makes people’s buttocks clench. It’s about being vulnerable. It’s counterintuitive, but it ultimately makes you stronger. And that’s a very hard thing to grasp.”
Not my words. The actor, Steve Coogan’s. But they really resonate.
I am increasingly interested in love. As we go about the business of creating and encouraging change, what might happen if we put love at the heart of our practice. When many organisations have some pretty shocking and dehumanizing management practices, how can we counter those? In leadership and in organisational development, we often ask ‘what’s the difference that could make the difference?’ Could love – whatever that might look like – be the difference? Personally, I know that it can and does and I want to explore this more widely for organisations and leadership.
(and it feels even more important these days – not just in our organisations but way beyond. That’s why I run (free) Acts of Love for Tough Times – online workshops exploring the various ways that different forms of love might be a resource to us for the time ahead). Next ones 19 Dec 4pm-6pm, UK. And 20 Dec 8am-10am UK. Drop me an email if you’re interested.)
One of things I noticed when I first starting talking about love is how many people didn’t like using the word. It felt as though they wanted to steer me onto safer ground. ‘You don’t mean love, though, do you? You mean compassion or empathy, don’t you’. No, I don’t, actually, I mean love. ‘Well it’s about engagement, I guess’. No, it’s about love, I guess.
Why does it feel so uncomfortable?
Do you find it uncomfortable to talk about love? I used to. But not now. When I introduce myself to groups or, if a coaching client asks what approach underpins my work, I might say something about the principles of self managed learning or the important of including intentional practice. But I also often say something like ‘but I am increasingly finding it all comes down to love’. I usually notice a reaction of surprise. And then usually a curiosity, and a softening … and people often tell me that they find it surprising, but also human. And many people are interested in talking about it more.
Research and a research report
Having already completed a series of in depth interviews, the first stage of the research project was a survey of 75 leaders over the summer of 2018. Leaders from across all sectors. 55% either Director or at Board level. 34% from organisations with over 5000 people. I asked how important was leading from love and how comfortable they felt about the idea. I asked about what it could look like in practice and what could be possible if there was more of it.
The findings are fascinating and the write-up of the research won the Roffey Park Research Competition in 2019. I recently updated that report for Roffey Park, and you can download the 2023 version on this page.
- And on my blog page, you’ll find plenty more posts exploring different aspects of love in organisations.
- I also curate a monthly Newsletter – love, leadership, great reads, events I’m running or speaking at, inspiration and you can subscribe to that here.
- And there’s a monthly-ish podcast with some really interesting folks over on the Podcast page.
What next in 2023 and beyond?
I’ll continue researching, writing and speaking (and the best way to learn about those events is via my Newsletter). But I have 2 free events coming up in December – one of which still has spaces and the link is here. This is Acts of Love for Tough Times – exploring the ways that various forms of love can nourish and support us through the times ahead.
I’m also writing a book proposal – so maybe that will developing to something too.
I’m looking forward to seeing what I learn, and sharing that with you. And please do forward this link and the research report to anyone else who might be interested.