Leadership by Love

Three things will last forever -  faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love. You probably know those old words from the Bible. Powerful truth in every season of life, but especially this time of year when young happy people get married and the nature is in full bloom. 

If those three things will last forever they should also be comparable in leadership. And they really are.

Let’s start with faith. Faith and trust is the foundation in all human relations. Also in well led organizations. As a leader you need to show faith in the vision and the mission of your company. And that’s not something you can choose to do, or not to do. You are a carrier of faith, and you need to build a faith culture in good times if you want it to show in stormy weather. 

Leaders with faith will depend on their employees. They give them responsibilities and expect the best results. People seldom let them down. With good faith you can also tolerate failure, because you are confident that everyone is doing their best. Faith-leadership does not need to be suspicious. Sometimes people will call you naive, because you trust people to much. But in the end of the day you will go to bed as a happy man. Ingvar Kamrad, the founder of IKEA, was a faith leader. When he died no one talked about his fortune, only of his legacy as the leader walking the talk, giving trust, and pouring faith. IKEA is deeply rooted in the soil of a friendly, relational culture. And I heard some comparing the multibillion company – with 160 000 employees – with a small countryside church after the service. People laughing, hugging and drinking coffee. Here you can read about Ikea values: or se it on youtube

Hope. If faith is the platform from where you can build a castle of good culture, hope is the beautiful tower of goals and future and energy. Without hope we all parish, with hope we can walk on water. Hope-leadership is about energy, and it works in the same mysterious ways as a smile at the bus-stop. Try that, smile to someone and they will smile back. Give energy and you will receive.

The ageing GE-legend Jack Welsh was asked about his secret as a CEO for many years. He said that he had none. No special trick or method. I just, he said with his deep whiskey voice, I just walk in the room and energize people. 

That’s a gift. To be a source of power for people around. Many of us need our own energy to fill us up every morning. As a leader you need even more energy to give hope and support to others. Who wants to walk into battle behind a leader with heavy shoulders. Hope is a powerful tool in the leader’s arsenal. Like Bob the Builder always ask: Can we fix it? Yes we can! Or as in Barack Obamas famous speach in the same Yes-we-can-spirit. The new elected president was addressing a lot of problems, but he was also carrying a great hope with lots of energy. And in that point of time a whole world was prepared to follow him.

Love. Faith and hope. And then the greatest: Love! In a modern social media-era we more and more talk about a hate-culture. Or maybe it is a fear-culture. It looks like, if you want to be cool and relevant, you need to strike hard and fast. The time for reflection is gone. Nobody needs to think bad messages over. Tomorrow is gone. We just through them out. The language is tuff, full with toxic lies and accusations, far from love. 
In the cooperate world everyone is protecting themselves, covering their own mistakes, afraid to fail and loose position.

Love is not a top10 leaderships skill, and that maybe explains some of our global leadership problems. Big bosses for big companies can not love all their employees, that would be ridiculous. But as always they can be modelling a good example. Start with small things, in the nearest group of colleagues. 

All research shows that lack of feedback is the biggest problem in organizations and companies. We don’t’ care enough, and people feel that. A love-leadership is not soft and childish. Real love can sometimes be hard. Speaking out truth to people can be tuff business, but it is often the most effective kindest way of leadership.

We can have the most powerful vision and mission for our companies, without love we are just a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal, according to the same Bible-passage. And here is the rest of the formula for a good love-leadership:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 
Love never fails.

With these thoughts I wish you all a good summer, with a lot of time for reflection and recreation.

Daniel Grahn

 Board member EuroAcademy