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February 19, 2024 | 3 Mins Read

Is There a Place for Love in Leadership?

February 19, 2024 | 3 Mins Read

Is There a Place for Love in Leadership?


In last week’s podcast, I welcomed back Roy Dockery, VP of Field Operations at Flock Safety for what was his fourth appearance on the podcast (making him the most repeated guest!). His insights were featured way back in episode 2, discussing the need for organizations to take ownership of the talent gap. Next in episode 147, with a fresh take on the same topic – this time with the hope leaders were more ready to listen. Again in episode 243, where he actually interviewed me about my 2023 predictions. And last week, where we had a conversation around his new book, The Art of Leading: Truth, Love and Empathy in Action.

After reading an early copy of the book, I asked Roy to speak to some of the points that stood out most to me. One of the biggest is the very first chapter of the book, where he talks about how love is imperative to impactful leadership. He says love is “a fundamental element that can empower you to excel in leadership and drive remarkable outcomes. I don’t disagree, especially if you read his explanation on why and how, but I did tell him I feel this is a bit of a “hot take.”

In services especially, there are a lot of leaders in place who might cringe, laugh, or roll their eyes at the statement that love is essential to good leadership. I think those reactions could stem from a number of things that I won’t delve into here, but I also think those reactions are what prompted me to state in my 2024 predictions that I believe this year we’ll see more and more “old-school” leaders ousted. My point in that prediction has nothing to do with age and everything to do with mentality – including the outdated beliefs that leaders who are caring, vulnerable and empathetic are “soft” and not as effective.

There’s a growing realization of course that those beliefs are, frankly, bullshit – supported by plenty of evidence on how characteristics like vulnerability and empathy actually improve leadership influence and create cultures where overall performance rises.

One point Roy made in his book that we discussed on the podcast, though, is one I hadn’t heard framed in this way before. This is the connection between love in leadership and equity in the workplace. He says, “Equity has become a popular term, but I truly believe that love is the only true path to equity. Tolerance and inclusion can easily become prisons for those in the outgroup because to be given access without true consideration is a cruel illusion.”

This was probably the statement from his book that will stay with me most – and it’s one I think we can’t reflect on too much or too often. We have so many discussions around increasing diversity, creating more inclusion, reaching equity – but are we considering how unlikely it is to really reach those goals without coming from a place of love? It’s such an important point.

Honesty, Accountability Factor In

For anyone reading along thinking, wow – this guy must be all peace/love/feelings, there’s more to the conversation than the importance of love. Roy also discusses how “love without accountability becomes enabling; honestly without tact, empathy or maturity is damaging” and gives some very specific examples of not only accountability but even harder conversations like termination, through a lens of love. While the book shares Roy’s conviction around the importance of characteristics like love, empathy, and authenticity in leaders, it’s also full of real-world examples of what these traits look like in practice, even under challenging circumstances.

So, to answer the question posed in the title of this article – is there a place for love in leadership? Yes, there is – and I believe leaders who don’t find their own authentic way to lean into that reality will struggle to connect with employees in the coming years in a way that will allow them to be successful, in their purpose or their ability to drive productivity.

Roy’s book is well worth checking out! It’s officially available the 20th, but you can pre-order on Amazon now.