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Leadership and Love: Putting Love on the Post-it Note

August 12, 2019
By: 
Dr. Cheryl Heykoop, with Teara Fraser
A photo of post-it notes in the shape of a heart

Exploring Love in Leadership 

In leadership, we rarely talk about the word love. In fact, it’s long since been considered taboo, perhaps even raising questions about our integrity and legitimacy as leaders. Yet, love is finding its place in leadership amidst the complex, uncertain times in which we live; perhaps at a time where we may need it most.

In 2018, Forbes published a blog reinforcing the importance of leading with love and the World Economic Forum, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, suggested LQ – the IQ of love, is needed in leadership today. Yet, love in leadership is not only important in business, it’s key to navigating the complex, uncertain world we find ourselves in. For, Indigenous author Monique Gray Smith, love is a key part to Canada’s journey of reconciliation. Further, award-winning poet Cleo Wade argues that love is essential in today’s world, where “when we lead with love we give strength and care to ourselves and others in a way that can transform any situation (2018, p. 97).”

In her book, Dare to Lead, Brené Brown, also speaks to love in leadership, referencing love as a leadership value that people may hold. And now, in the MA Leadership Program, we are exploring love in leadership and why it’s important today.

Recently, an Associate Faculty Member and MA Leadership Graduate, Teara Fraser, shared her insights about love and leadership and we feel blessed to share it with you. In conversation we explored the questions: Why is love a core value in her own leadership and why love is at the heart of her newest company Iskwew Air, Canada’s first Indigenous and woman-owned air company. Here’s some of what Teara shared:

When I was a student in the MA Leadership program, I was given a post-it note and asked to write the gift I was bringing to the cohort. I wanted to write LOVE because that’s the gift I bring wherever I am. But I thought to myself, I’m in this MA program with leaders from organizations, companies, and government and LOVE doesn’t belong here. I didn’t feel LOVE belonged. And so, I wrote something else.

I’ve thought about this experience many times since and have become unapologetic about bringing LOVE into my leadership. What else is there that matters more than LOVE?

When I started Iskwew Air, I intentionally chose to have love as a core value for my company. For me, a business is fuelled by connections, and the vision of Iskwew is about connecting people to each other and the land.  That’s about LOVE, and bringing our good hearts to things that matter.

At the Iskwew Air launch, I brought LOVE into the room with giant LOVE balls and buttons. The incredible PR firm I was working with came in and offered some good advice. They said: “We need to see someone who is a strong, savvy business leader, and LOVE doesn’t belong in that image.” This time rather than putting LOVE away, LOVE prevailed. This was my opportunity to write love on the post-it note! And so LOVE is here to stay.

Clearly, many questions remain about what love and leadership is and how we lead with love. Yet, this is the opportunity for us as leaders to define and shape. And so in closing, I invite you to consider: As a leader, how do you bring love into your leadership? What could you do differently if love was at the center? Like Teara, what can you do to put love on your post-it note? How can you lead with love?

More Information

For more on Iskwew Air and the amazing work of Teara Fraser check out this video.

Here is a recent blog by Cheryl Rose on love and leadership featuring the School of Leadership’s Cheryl Heykoop and Associate Faculty member Alexia McKinnon.

 

References:

Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts. New York, NY: Penguin Random House.

Wade, C. (2018). Heart talk: Poetic wisdom for a better life. New York, NY: Artia Publishing Books.