Cultivate love in leadership?

What if love had its place in leadership practice? In any case, that is the conviction of the President of the ECB, Christine Lagarde, who does not believe in self-confidence without love for others.

“Management? It’s very much a matter of love. During an exchange last June with Dutch students, Christine Lagarde talks about her career. What enabled him to succeed? She lists the following points: work hard (it says oneself); to travel, to have an international experience; to master several languages; to be responsive to people; respect them; take a risk; give as much love as possible; to inspire others with confidence, instead of being vigilant to them … then after a moment of reflection and a smile: “Much of this has to do with love. You have to cultivate it … “

A matter of trust

Christine Lagarde is not the latest arrival, she is a woman gifted with leadership and obvious competence. To read the very critical and often malicious comments on social networks, his speech does not seem credible. Can we talk about love when we lead the European Central Bank, or when we simply lead a team? “Not us, but Christine Lagarde, yes,” replies a journalist cautiously echoes. His testimony, however, seems authentic and convincing: It is worth going into his perspective to perhaps adjust ours. Let’s take it as a pleasant topic on the eve of summer!

When Christine Lagarde speaks of love in leadership, it seems to me that we need to understand a benevolent and revealing generosity in others that is characteristic of a deeply human and free leadership.

The idea that Christine Lagarde develops is the following: no leadership without self-confidence. But trust is received first and foremost by people who love us: our parents, brothers, sisters, friends, partners or companions … All of them bring us the devotion we need to develop our trust. Once established, we can work on our skills, our expertise. Trust is a gem that needs to be nurtured so that the rest can keep up. The leader must therefore show his trust in the people around him.

The weaknesses of such a vision

This reasoning is valid, but it is not without fragility. First, it is difficult to separate love from the emotions attached to it. Putting emotions into leadership poses a risk: it takes enough to be human, but not too much, otherwise situations can escalate and escalate. No matter what function one performs, it is justice that one seeks at least. But affection is not the best advisor for a real attitude. So, in a critical situation, it is dangerous to use the criterion of love to make a decision: it can change our judgment.

Finally, every leader has two sides: he encourages team dynamics, but he also defends the common good, sometimes even against those closest to him. It is a trial to face people you love, whom you value, to – with a conscience – defend a common good. Limit of interpersonal friendship, preference for service of the common good.

Three forces

Towards a technocratic vision of leadership, Christine Lagarde brings a breath of fresh air. We understand by listening to him that the leader, man or woman, is a person who lives with his team demanding professional projects, who show freedom in their relationships and who – why not – love them on a daily basis. This living relationship is simply human, and we can reasonably consider that for 90% of his working time, the leader can remain in this generous dynamic: a friendship based on recognition and esteem, rather than an off-topic passionate love in a professional environment . Some professional cultures may be suitable for this, not all.

Second, to speak of love and trust in the working relationship is to affirm that the professional world is not a universe closed to technique and results, but open to all dimensions of our humanity. We value that love is generally located on the periphery of the professional, that it pertains to our privacy, and we place a close barrier between the two to maintain our intimacy. But leadership and management need real relationships that go beyond calculation and stereotypical professional attitudes. “I love my guys” told me a team leader without paternalism, and this formula expressed more a passionate commitment to the service of others, rather than a misplaced feeling.

Third, is benevolence – a word not always valued in business – not exactly a window open to friendship possible in a professional setting? Being benevolent actually means denying suspicion and getting out of relational neutrality in order to enter into a positive relationship of trust. It is not for nothing that Aristotle defines friendship as mutual benevolence, and Kant as mutual trust. A friendship based on mutual trust is the pinnacle of a professional relationship. When Christine Lagarde speaks of love in leadership, it seems to me that we need to understand a benevolent and revealing generosity in others that is characteristic of a deeply human and free leadership.


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