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  • Amy Watkins

All You Need Is…Love?

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

In the month of February, the theme of love is rampant. On the retail front, we are surrounded by red and pink hearts, cupids with arrows and the nudge to carve out and celebrate a day just for love. This day of passion applies to many of us on the personal front as we proclaim our love for anyone close – a spouse, a significant other, as well as a family member or friend. Hallmark® has all of the bases covered.

Does love also apply professionally? How important is this emotion of love as it relates to leadership?


John Wooden, winning basketball coaching legend said, “Love is the most powerful thing there is.” In winning 10 NCAA titles, he applied what he repeatedly called the two most important elements of his success in coaching and in life: 1- love; and, 2- balance.

Is it really that simple? Over the years we’ve held several focus groups to find out what leaders really need in order to be high performing; and in particular, leaders within pre-rapid growth organizations. Here’s what we’ve learned is imperative:

Creativity and Risk-Taking – Leaders need to incubate new ideas and think in different ways to be able to avoid organizational and product maturation.  The love of, at least tolerance of risk is a key in order to execute on those new ideas.

Teamwork and Collaboration – Trust, the ability to manage conflict, commitment, and accountability are all required to drive the desired results. There’s also a recognition that no one person has to be the rock star on the team.   And, let’s get real, in order to make any of these work optimally, it helps to at least like each other.

Delegation and Developing Others – Letting go when we love certain projects or tasks is hard. We have to realize that holding on prevents us and the team member from growing to their best and brightest place.

Strategic Thinking and Agility – Nimbleness is not an option in a dynamic, rapid changing environment. The ability to think beyond day to day, get into the broader mindset and act quickly is tantamount.

Executive Presence – Showing up with the emotional intelligence to lead by example and being counted as someone worthy of following is embodied in this competency.

As we continue our work, these same areas keep surfacing. Even though the word “love” didn’t play out as a finalist, in our research the word has been used repeatedly within this realm: “I love my job.” “I love my team.” “I love knowing we did the right thing.”

John Wooden was a wise man and role model. He knew about the importance of love as a leader. He summed it up best, “Your players must know that you care for them more than just as athletes. Certainly, they understand that they are there because of their athletic ability – that’s why they’re there. That’s paying their way .… it’s up to you to make sure that they understand that you care for them as individuals.”

#Leadership

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