First published on globalleadership.org
“Love is power.” – Rumi, 13th Century
Recently I was working with a client and they said to me, “Jason, the more I grow as a leader the more I realize love is at the center of what I do.” Now, this guy isn’t some ordinary guy (as if those existed). This guy is the CEO of a $3B+ company with offices around the country.
“That’s right,” I said. “You’re in the love business.”
I’m not talking about prostitution, hallmark cards or flowers.
What I mean is this: if you manage, inspire, work with or serve people in any way as part of your job, then love is at the core of your success.
What Love Is Not
The reason a lot of leaders buck at this (or misunderstand it) is because of the way people tend to mishandle love in business.
Love is not being likable. Love is not being nice. Love is not being romantic. Love is not being soft. Love is not avoiding conflict. Love is not telling people what they want to hear.
At Novus Global we define love as “Fierce Advocacy.”
Love in the workplace is “Fierce Advocacy.”
I love my clients. I really do. I’d love them even if I wasn’t getting paid to coach them. But the fact that I get to coach people I love is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Because of that, this next story is going to sound a little weird: recently a client told me, “Jason, if my wife walked in on one of our sessions, she might think you’re abusing me.”
I laughed and asked him why, and he said, “Because no one in my life talks to me the way you do, including her!”
The reason for that is because I get paid to tell my clients what no one else will. I get paid to do or say anything I can to serve them, even if it doesn’t sound “nice” or “encouraging.” The reason my clients keep coming back isn’t because I’m tough—it’s because they know my toughness is coming from a place of fierce advocacy for them about the things they say they care about.
I can “get away” with saying anything to my clients because they trust my words are fueled by a white-hot passion for their success.
FOR vs FROM
Our Managing Partner, Dan Leffelaar, and I were recently in Cancun with coaches from all over the world to wrestle with the intersection of leadership and coaching frameworks. We had lots of spirited discussions. (We coaches are a weird breed). There were several times where we had a few tense conversations with some of the other coaches. After one such conversation, one of the coaches approached Dan and said, “You know, even though you and Jason don’t shy away from a good fight, I’ve noticed something about you two.”
“What’s that?” Dan asked.
“I can tell that you’re for the people here.”
That was music to my ears.
Too many times in our meetings and relationships we think about what we want from people.
“I need this by Friday.”
“Can you talk to the developer about that?”
“Make sure you take care of it.”
These are all statements about wanting something from someone. But how many times do we sit and reflect about what we want for them?
How to Grow The Skill of Being “For”
Recently I’ve been taking 15 minutes every week to reflect on what I want FOR the people on my team. What I want FOR my clients. What I want FOR my family and friends.
The people who are frustrating me.
The people who are new and hungry to grow.
The people who are rock stars and doing fine without me.
This simple idea of being FOR people has changed how I see people, how I lead them and how I respond to them. When I have tough conversations, it helps me stay rooted in love for the person, even if the conversation doesn’t go the way either of us want it to.
When getting on a sales call, don’t ask what you want FROM a potential client. Instead, focus on what you want FOR them.
This principle is not original to me. In fact, Jeff Henderson, one of my favorite leaders and thinkers, recently released a book, Know What You’re FOR: A Growth Strategy for Work, An Even Better Strategy for Life. The book is packed full of examples and questions—frankly better questions for you to process than the ones I’m about to ask you below. Jeff and his community of leaders inspire me. I highly recommend you pick up his book to explore this idea deeper with your team or organization.
Two Questions to Become a More Loving Leader
Question 1: Who Could You Love More Powerfully?
Recently, I was meeting with a group of incredibly successful leaders at an estate in Beverly Hills. While we were talking, I confessed that sometimes it feels like I love my clients better than I love my own family. That realization made me increase my intentionality toward my family and closest friends.
And it also led me to ask my clients the following question: who are the people in our world who we forget to love powerfully?
This second question can be even more powerful.
Question 2: Who Do You Lead but Not Love?
Who is frustrating you on your team right now? Maybe it’s your boss, a colleague or someone who reports to you. Maybe it’s a vendor or a client. Ask yourself, what do you want for them? Notice how asking that question changes your energy towards them and opens up creative potential solutions to your frustration you didn’t see before.
This is—to quote Huey Lewis and The News—the power of love. Being for others actually unleashes energy and creativity that lies latent in the human spirit, on teams and in companies and communities.
The client I mentioned at the beginning—the one who is discovering he and his team are in the love business?
He recently spoke to a group of colleagues who are at the top of their game in a cutthroat industry in one of the most influential cities in the world. He was allowed to talk about any subject he wanted. When he asked me what I thought he should speak about, I encouraged him to pick the most powerful subject he could think of.
He chose “Love.”