New Book Advocates Leading With Love in the Workplace

Dr. Shaun A. Sullivan’s new book Head for Leading, Heart for Loving: Leveraging Influence, Compassion, and Relationships to Achieve Your Organizational Goals is a revolutionary work that asks us to think long and hard about how we, as leaders, operate in the workplace, as well as in other organizations and even our homes. It suggests that at the end of the day, if we lead with compassion and love and remember that relationships are all-important in getting us to where we want to go, not only will we have more success in achieving our goals, but we and our followers will all experience more sustainable happiness.Sullivan advocates for servant leadership, which is nothing new, but he goes beyond the general concept of servant leadership to delve into the science of how we feel when love fills our hearts, right down to the oxytocin that makes our brains respond. Beyond paying lip service to servant leadership, we have to feel it in our hearts. We need to have love and compassion for our coworkers and followers. We need to change how we think, realizing we are all part of a team, and reflecting that understanding in how we treat each other. Sullivan explains, “how a person thinks influences how they will act, and the attributes of these actions impact the type of leader they will be: moral or immoral, humble or arrogant, honest or dishonest, dutiful or undisciplined, pious or profane, peaceable or volatile, eloquent or coarse, educated or simplistic, wise or rash, and truthful or deceitful.”Beyond the workplace, Sullivan also asks us to consider how leading from love can change the world. He states, “only the power of unbounded love believed in and lived out toward all of humanity can defeat the forces of inter-human strife, and only this unbounded love can prevent the pending extermination of humanity by its own hand on this planet.”Sullivan also advocates the importance of mirroring others. As leaders, we want to create situations where our followers will follow our example. It’s no secret that a poor leader who mistreats followers ends up being hated by them-and not a few such leaders have lost their heads as a result. But the reverse is also true. Sullivan describes how reflective love works. When a leader is loving toward their followers, then the followers show love by following the leader. The leader then reflects the love back, praising them, which makes them want to follow the leader more and do more to please him-perhaps driven by the oxytocin that feels so good-and consequently, mutual goals are achieved through this reflective love.Of course, Sullivan is aware that he will have critics. He states, “Regrettably, a short review of our current corporate world readily reveals that employing a love and leadership modality is not at all common, and often not even considered viable. We can only conclude, then, that the reason for this view is that people do not understand love, how to love, and perhaps the very idea of love is even frightening to some.”I have to agree with Sullivan. British author G. K. Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Similarly, how many of us can say that we really have tried to use love in the workplace as a guiding principle or strategy to make the workplace both a happier and more productive environment for everyone? We have dismissed such ideas as utopian and unpractical, but that is largely because we have not taken time to truly understand what love is and how it can succeed. We need to move from superficial depictions of love through Facebook memes and romantic comedy films and instead come to understand just how powerful love is and that it is available for everyone to wield.In Head for Leading, Heart for Loving, Sullivan delves into how we can come to understand what love truly is, and then how to use it most effectively. He has created the H24L2 Model to walk readers through the process of applying love to their leadership. The model can be applied by anyone to improve their personal, family, social, and organizational lives. It presents macro-relational levels for improving organizational performance down to micro-relational and intrapersonal levels for improving the work/life balance. Sullivan provides many examples of how this model works.I greatly admire Sullivan’s vision in writing this book. I agree with him that it’s time such a love-based leadership model is tried. He believes to date that anyone who has tried to promote such a model has been dismissed as a pop culture writer, but he now presents it in an academic fashion, having done extensive, serious research into both love and leadership. With a PhD in organizational leadership and experience as a public speaker and leadership coach, Sullivan has had plenty of time to research and explore the topic of love-based leadership as well as apply it in business and organizational settings.I hope leaders everywhere will give consideration to Head for Leading, Heart for Loving. There is nothing to lose other than the few hours it will take to read this book. The benefits, however, will far outweigh any discomfort leaders might feel in changing their leadership philosophy. We’ve seen how current leadership strategies have often had detrimental effects upon the economy and the environment. It’s time to try a new way-one that until now has rarely been tried seriously.