Amira El-Gawly

Leading with Love

Amira El-Gawly

“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

James Baldwin

Today, we’re living in a divided world of “us” and “them,” of people who think/look like me and those who don’t. When things are going well, when we’re around people like us, it feels easier to love. When things aren’t going so well, or when we’re around people different than us, love gets harder.

To make matters even more complex, everyone is exhausted—your employees (and likely even you) are tired, putting on a brave face every day for work.

What if love is the most powerful way to unite your people, connect with your employees, re-energize them, remind them of their value and motivate them to greater performance?

Harry Stack Sullivan, an early 20th century psychiatrist, defined love as when “the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own satisfaction or security.”

So, what does leading with that definition of love look like at work?

  • Advocating for those without a voice.
  • Pursuing justice and equity.
  • Extending your talents to those around you.
  • Self-sacrifice.
  • Learning to love yourself.
  • Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • Making time for your team by blocking flex time on your calendar just for them.
  • Sending a text to your boss/coworkers telling them you appreciate them and checking in to see how they’re doing.
  • Remembering a personal matter affecting someone on your team, and following up.
  • Honestly and kindly redirecting a teammate toward a more productive approach.
  • Slowing down to allow others to catch up.
  • Listening to understand.
  • Avoiding gossip about teammates or employees.
  • Having the tough conversations that matter, that will change the status quo.
  • Showing appreciation for a colleague’s talents just because.
  • The list goes on…

Leaders who lead with fear may drive high performance, but it’s unsustainable and drives lower wellbeing. Leaders who are able to model love for themselves and others build trust and psychological safety that directly leads to higher employee engagement and sustainable high performance in teams.

Employees who are led by fear, operate from a position of concern for their safety and security. They’re distracted by their fear. On the flip side, employees who feel seen, heard and respected (all evidence of love) flourish individually and contribute passionately to your organization.

Which kind of leader do you want to be? Will you lead with love or fear? Take a few minutes and consider your own answers to these questions:

  1. How do you show up for your team, with love or fear?
  2. In what ways do you show vulnerability to your team, knowing that it’s a necessary step for self-improvement and in creating a safe space?
  3. What are you afraid of others at work knowing about you? Are you afraid of being exposed?
  4. In your meetings, how do you create a safe space for your people?
  5. How can you take your people from good to great, if you don’t see them fully? What can you start doing to understand them better?

Love isn’t soft, mushy or easy.

Love is the hardest, and most meaningful thing to which we can commit ourselves in the workplace.

Love is our most potent tool. It is needed now. Use it well.

HBR’s take on why leaders need to learn to love themselves.

Practice love as self compassion with this simple, but moving exercise from the Center for Compassionate Leadership.

A short meditation to practice love as compassion for others, especially those you may find difficult.

A beautiful one-minute clip of one of Manifesta’s inspirations Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of VaynerMedia. talking about love in the workplace.

Want to bring these concepts to life this month? Try one or more of these ideas:

  1. Send this issue to your team and ask them to share their own answers to one or more of the questions above in your next meeting. 
  2. Take the time to send a text or make a short unscheduled phone call to every member of your team over the coming weeks just to check in with them and see how they’re holding up.
  3. Invite the team to come up with a love in action team challenge for this month. You could do a “white elephant” of sorts, where you assign each person a coworker and they handwrite and mail them an appreciation letter. Or read them aloud in a staff meeting.
  4. If you report to someone, ask how you can better express care for them. So often leaders get left behind and aren’t taken care of either.
  5. Grab one of these thoughtful card games for teams from our online shop to help you get to know one another this year.

What ideas do you have for leading with love? Reply to this email and let us know. We’ll compile and share on our social media channels in the coming weeks.

leading with love

The content of this article has been sourced from

The most recent posts

Breakthrough Coaching Strategy: Favorite Future Self

I’m going back to my roots. Literally. I’ve been highlighting my hair for longer than I’ve had a driver’s license.  And this week, without much thought or realization of the significance, I asked my stylist to match the top half of my hair to the bottom half.  Under all that blonde, I’m apparently a natural brunette. ...

Read Field Note
Leading with Love

“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.” James Baldwin Today, we’re living in a divided world of “us” and “them,” of people who think/look like me and those who don’t. When things are going well, when we’re around people like us, it feels easier to ...

Read Field Note