Leaders and aspiring Leaders,
About once every five years, I come across a book that makes a deep and lasting an impression on me. And that’s exactly what happened when I read “Love Works” by Joel Manby, president and CEO of Herschend Family Entertainment. Seriously. Whatever book you are currently reading, put it down. Start reading this book instead. How deep an impression did it make on me? You need look no further than the menu at the top of this page. I made “love” one of the four cornerstone categories of suits2boots.net. How do I really feel about it? You’ll see when you get to the final three paragraphs of this post.
I’d like to think that I’ve always been a practitioner of at least some of the principals in “Love Works”. So, I won’t say that Manby changed my leadership. He’s done something much more profound. He has wedged his foot in the mahogany boardroom door that I hope will forever change what happens inside. He attached a label to a leadership style and had the courage to publish an almost forbidden word in business…that word is love.
His book is all about leading with love. He’s not talking about squishy team hugs, emotional love, or romantic love. He’s talking about leading team members with principals that demonstrate dignity, respect, kindness, patience, accountability, and truthfulness. Like it or not, these principles feed the basic needs of us humans. We thrive in this environment.
In the rural part of Georgia I now call home, there is an abundance of examples of these principals in action. Think about growing or raising anything: cattle, goats, fruit trees, tomatoes, guard donkeys…whatever. Take raising chickens, or laying hens to be more specific. If a farmer provides a balanced diet, a constant source of fresh water, a clean shelter, and a safe environment to a hen, he is providing the respect, dignity, and love needed to produce healthy and abundant eggs. A lack of respect, dignity, and love would be to treat them harshly, to allow them to be threatened by predators, to provide an unsuitable shelter, inadequate food, and dirty water. When any of these stresses are present, egg production will slow or cease.
So, what does love look like in a business context? Well, Manby outlines seven principles in “Love Works” that underpin everything his company does and teaches, along with my interpretation of meaning:
- Be patient — Stay in control of your emotions when faced with tough situations.
- Be kind — Be a source of positive encouragement. When providing feedback, be respectful and protect team members’ dignity.
- Be trusting — Be confident that team members will deliver. And, let them know you have that confidence in them.
- Be unselfish — Put others first, and they will deliver your rewards.
- Be truthful — Always be honest and open in every situation. And, find colleagues that will always be truthful with you.
- Be forgiving — Remove emotion, provide second chances, and reinforce the confidence you have in team members.
- Be dedicated — Align corporate and personal values and then never stray from them.
If all this sounds a bit too fluffy, Manby consistently points out that love also means a strong culture of consistent accountability. In my mind, holding people accountable while demonstrating love is really no different than holding a child accountable for unacceptable actions. You still love the child, even though you hold him or her accountable for his or her decisions and actions. In fact, it’s only through the love of maintaining your child’s dignity, being respectful, and being patient that the correction gets internalized by your child and the behavior changes.
For the most part, everyone agrees that leading through fear, intimidation, and fist-pounding is the wrong way to lead, but we see examples of tyranny every day, don’t we? Most offenders miss an important connection. Think about it this way… if you don’t love your employees, how can you expect your customers to feel love? That would be like an abusive parent scratching their head, wondering why his or her child is abusive to the family pet. The extent that leaders demonstrate love to their team members is directly proportional to the way the team members will demonstrate love to their customers. Manby said it so well, “The enthusiasm of the guest experience can never rise any higher than the enthusiasm of your own employees.”
I want to thank Joel Manby for writing this book. I can’t tell you the number of times I quietly said, “Wow,” as I read in awe the examples depicted throughout the book. The humility and the humanity projected from these pages is truly inspiring. “Love Works” will travel with me always (in my iPad) and sits among my top five most-favorite leadership books.
More than anything, I want to thank Manby and the Herschend family for their courage and for giving us all the courage and permission to say “love” and leadership together without feeling like wimps or fear of being labeled “soft.” For the first time, we have a leadership moniker that truly aligns our professional and personal values and behaviors. Now we have permission to be the same loving, authentic person at work that we are at home. Manby and the Herschend family have strengthened the armor required for leaders to stand up, do the right thing, and lead companies in a direction that can only maximize the chance of success…with love.
Readers, starting today, we have a choice on how we intend to lead our business, our churches, our community groups, and our families. Really think about this…What if every business ran like Manby’s organization and all leaders would confidently include “love” as a business term?