“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

In Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s book The Little Prince, the fox tells the prince it is only with your heart that you can see clearly as the eye often misses what is really important. I shared this valuable insight from this beautiful children’s book with HeadBoxers at our Monday kick-off to get us all thinking about the value of love-based leadership. Operating with your heart, with humility, compassion, empathy and selflessness are attributes of all the CEOs who have led great companies. In “Good to Great”, Jim Collins shares anecdotes about one such CEO, Colman Mockler who helped Gillette make the transition to becoming a great company from 1980-1995. One of Colman’s executives said about him:

When Colman died and we all went to the funeral, I looked around and realised how much love was in the room. This was a man who spent nearly all his waking hours with people who loved him, who loved what they were doing and who loved one another – at work, at home, in his charitable work, wherever”. We don’t often associate the word love with great leadership but as Collins says “for no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life…the people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with.

In the third and final instalment of my interview with Yetunde Hofmann, I discuss my own experience of love and the actions senior leaders can take to actively establish the presence of love in an organisation.

Can you talk about your own personal experience of love?

I’m very lucky because that adage – the greatest thing is to have loved and to be loved in return – is true. I feel I’ve experienced love in all my relationships – all my employment relationships. I feel I’ve got friends that love me. My wife loves me. My kids love me. My mum and dad love me. My brother loves me. My sister loves me. I feel that a lot of people at HeadBox love working here. I think there is lots more we can do of course.  I feel really lucky. I feel that I’ve experienced the positive feelings that being loved and loving someone can bring – because it’s a two-way thing – you get as much joy out of being loved as you do as loving someone.

One of the biggest measurements of knowing someone loves you is when you can be completely yourself, and in being yourself you know that people around you who laugh with you, hang out with you, do stuff with you – they just love you for being you. That’s a very good feeling.

How do you demonstrate love?

I ask myself – have there been moments when I’ve put myself out there for other people? Have I been selfless? Have I been kind? Have I shown care for those people around me? In terms of what I’ve said and what I’ve done, have I shown that I valued the people around me because I respect them? Because I care for them? 

When you think about it, you demonstrate acts of love in everything you do. In every way, much more than you think – because you may not have started from a place where you say how do you define love but when you start to define it and you think about what love means to you, you realise that you, I, may do a lot of things during the day that demonstrates love. 

Does the presence of love have an impact on an organisation’s behaviour in the community and in society?

It really could. When I set up HeadBox, my wife was very much involved with me for a short period of time early on,  from the inception and one of the things that she influenced in those very early days was our social mission. She wanted  HeadBox to put a stake in the ground around homelessness. It is so shocking that in London there’s so much homelessness – when you come out of a tube, you’re stepping over someone who doesn’t have a roof over their head and we at HeadBox are in the business of space. 

We are making money from providing space to corporations who want really cool spaces and want to be able to find them and to book them really easily at that moment and at that time. So our social mission should also be about helping to provide space to people who don’t have it. When we first started out, we were not able to do that, but now we’ve set up a partnership with St. Mungo’s and already I feel the power of thinking about homelessness and what can HeadBox do to help rid the UK and every city that HeadBox sets up in, of homelessness. That call to arms that our social mission is driving is very empowering and at the heart of it is love.

The actions senior leaders can take to actively establish the presence of Love

It starts with defining love. Then the definition would fit into values and behaviours that come from and feed into our idea of love. This is the first thing that could be done. We could then measure our values and behaviours against that – and think do we have enough love based values and behaviours in our organisation.  I think many of our values and behaviours in HeadBox are love based but maybe we could do more.  Then I think about our behaviours – what are those behaviours that can really demonstrate those love based, loved infused values and how well can those behaviours be demonstrated? Not only the behaviours but also the contexts the different contexts in which those love based behaviours can be demonstrated. 

After this, you could then think, how could we then measure its impact? And how would that flow through? We as an organisation could have a love-based index – is there one that we could sign up to and share? And what would it say about us as an organisation When you think about what the younger generation is wanting from the organisations they work for this could be very powerful. But ultimately, it could be powerful for us regardless of the generations of employees because we all want to work in an environment where we can do something every day that is bigger than ourselves. We all want to be doing something that engenders that feeling. And when you talk about love, the very first thing I think about is about creating and doing and feeling a sense of something just greater than me. And there is something very powerful about that.  It engenders a sense of purpose and there is something great about that – not just good – something great about it.

What are the implications for the future of work?
The future of work should keep demanding a more loving approach in business. As humans when we start to lose touch with those powerful values and behaviours I have talked about and the way that those values and behaviours make us feel, then that can be seen as the antithesis to technology and to AI. That’s why at HeadBox we talk about what differentiates us as “Human-kind Event Tech”. The future of work for us in our industry is about combining technology and AI with a human touch and outstanding customer service. We want to deliver both.
We’ll be welcoming Yetunde to a virtual event in the coming weeks to share her insights into love-based leadership. In the meantime, you can revisit part 1, part 2 of the series and all the other content we’ve been creating around our topic areas of Support, Collaborate, Learn and Health & Self here.

Beyond Engagement – The Value of Love-Based Leadership in Organisations by Yetunde Hofmann is released on 12th May 2020 and you can pre-order it here.

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