Defining Love in a Business Context

(Excerpt from newly published book LOVING Like a Leader, By Peter Jeff. Available on, $15 paperback, $8 e-Book.)

Heightened awareness.

That’s what love is in a business context, notes Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has conducted more than 25 years of research on positive emotions. In her book LOVE 2.0, Fredrickson notes that when humans are in love, they reach out for something beyond their own “cocoon of self- interest” and become more aware of others. They become more likely to focus on the needs, wants and concerns of others and to see things from another’s perspective.

“The best-kept secret
of successful leaders is love.

Small wonder that “the best-kept secret of successful leaders is love,” observe researchers James Kouzes and Barry Posner in their seminal book The Leadership Challenge based on more than two million interviews and surveys over the last 30 years with leaders all over the world. “Of all the things that sustain a leader over time, love is the most lasting,” add Kouzes and Posner.

When a leader is in love with the process of leading, he or she has “the fire to ignite other people, see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done,” noted John H. Stanford, a former Major General in the United States Army, cited in The Leadership Challenge.

Love in this business context spotlights the humanity of the individual to “experience another human being in his (or her) very uniqueness,” according to Viktor Frankl, the psychiatrist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. “By his love he (or she) is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person.”

Maybe that’s why philosopher Milton Mayeroff defines love as “the selfless promotion of the growth of others.” Author James Hunter defines love in a business context as “extending yourself to help others” in his book, World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle.

And one of the 30 definitions of love in the dictionary says love is the “affectionate concern for the well-being of others.” Psychologists tell us that love is a behavior more than simply a feeling, a behavior that champions others, a behavior that validates the dignity and worth of another human being, a behavior that compels you to hate the sin but love the sinner.

That’s why the last sentence in the bible of leadership development, The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner, summarize that:

“Leadership is not
an affair of the head.
Leadership is
an affair of the heart.”

       As an affair of the heart in helping others grow and development, love in a business context is what the bible calls “charity” and the Greeks called agape.  That focus on the soul of a person validates one’s humanity and fills the essence of his or her well-being. In loving others in a business context, a leader’s agape is:

More Meaningful
than obligatory (storge/family)

More Reinforcing
than self-serving (philia/friends)

More Sustaining
than erotic (eros/sexual partners)

More Persuasive
than playful (ludus/flirting)

More Flourishing
than fleeting (pragma/long-lasting marriages)

And love (agape) in a business context is more focused on growing the bottom line through the growth of others. To get ahead leaders first help others get ahead. With love.

LOVING Like a Leader

Designed as a handy reference tool on leadership principles and as an on-going, convenient professional development conversation starter for a leader and his or her staff,  LOVING Like a Leader is  comprised of 77 short stories called Leadership Mints. Sweetened with insights from 77-plus other books on leadership, these Leadership Mints define and leverage emotional intelligence in general and love in a business context in particular for greater productivity,   profitability and sustainability. Like a candy mint, these Leadership Mints are quickly accessed, easily digested and immediately reinvigorating.



1 thought on “Defining Love in a Business Context

  1. Wayman Britt

    Peter, I stumbled across your site this morning as I researching the meaning behind “The Spouting Whale Gets the Harpoon!” What prompted me to do research on this is that I used the quote to make a point in a meeting with other community leaders in Grand Rapids yesterday. It’s quite interesting that I would find your site. Glad to know you are still being the great guy I used to know. We should talk sometime soon. Wayman Britt


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