Why We Must Learn to Lead with Love

Why We Must Learn to Lead with Love

Why We Must Learn to Lead with Love

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

Love is a verb. It’s an action. A conscious choice. Love is a practice, just as personal care, and meditations, or eating, and learning.

As a leader when you practice love for others, you reflect a commitment to practicing love. This commitment starts with the relationship you have with yourself.

That relationship can greatly be enhanced as you learn about other great leaders, and examples of love.

As you learn more from those great examples, you realized that loving others requires being able to love yourself first, and that the more you love others, the more you are practicing loving yourself.

“Love is circular. As you practice it with others, it returns to you, and as you practice it with yourself, you can extend it to others.”

An authentic leader’s ultimate aspiration is to love deeply those who choose to work with them, to collaborate with them, and to co-create with them.

Love is a unifying force that helps you overcome all kinds of obstacles. 

Many companies are facing economic challenges right now, and how they deal with everything can be an expression of love, or fear.

“Fear and love cannot co-exist. We are either expressing one or the other in all that we do.”

Leaders who practice love, are easy to emulate and work with. One of my lifetime heroes is Jesus. He embodied all the principles of outstanding leadership.

His famous words found in the NIV Bible, “Love your neighbor as yourself”, are often the most misunderstood words of all time.

The focus often seems to be on loving thy neighbor, but after more careful study of Jesus’ life and teachings, you can’t help but conclude that the formula expressed in his famous quote must include loving yourself.

The key reason why Jesus embodied such love, was because of his relationship with God. The source of Jesus’ love that extended outward to everyone he met, came from the relationship he had with God, the source of all love.

Weather you believe in God or not, is irrelevant to this discussion, the fact remains that all of us need to have a source of love for ourselves, to be able to extend that love for others. God is the most powerful source of love for many.

To make the point, please ask yourself one simple question:

Can I give what I don’t have?

No, you can’t. You can’t love others if you first don’t love yourself. You can’t lead others with love if you first don’t lead yourself with love.

The follow up question to ask yourself is:

What is the source of my self-love?

Loving yourself is the key to the 8th principle of an authentic leader, in my upcoming book “Emotionally Aware Leadership”. 

When it comes to tapping into the most abundant source of love, you simply can’t do better than the Creator of the universe.

Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we are often self-serving in life’s dealings. Yes, we are not always easy to talk to. Yes, we often say things that upset others. Yes, we are flawed in so many ways. Yet we are also capable of so much compassion, empathy, and love.

To embody love as a leader, we must open ourselves to grow through honest self-assessment.

No matter how brutal the self-honesty may be in revealing aspects of us, there is no excuse or good reason for not practicing self-love.

Sadly, there are a lot of people loathing and self-condemning themselves every day. This is the opposite of self-love, this is self-hate.

Stop. Breathe. Think. Accept that you are just an imperfect human and love yourself just as you are, but keep being committed to growing through your challenges, negativity, and traumas.

When you make this a practice, you’ll have more compassion, care, and love for those you lead, those you interact with, and those who also — much like you — are not perfect.

Only through the practice of self-love can you love others, and in the practice of love, we step into a leadership role that becomes a calling in life, and a source of fulfillment in our lives.

Leading with love is about people. Caring for people. Respecting people. Accepting people and being inclusive of all people. Doing all that we can to make people’s lives better, is leading with love.

The benefits of practicing leading with love are also evident in organizations that are highly engaged, have little to no churn, handle difficulties with a united front, and also enjoy outstanding success.

There is quantifiable ROI associated with leading with love. However, the greatest benefit is personal.

“Even with all the challenges that may come our way over the years, leading with love is truly the only way to experience a fulfilling life.”

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How to and Why Be Genuine as a Leader

How to and Why Be Genuine as a Leader

How to and Why Be Genuine as a Leader

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

There is a significant difference between leadership and management. Leaders inspire and work in an upside-down pyramid fashion, while managers are often seeking to be on the top of the pyramid with everyone else beneath.

Leaders create and move things forward, managers handle things. Leaders lead people, managers manage stuff.

“To be a genuine leader, you need to be directed by your personal values.”

If you desire to honor and esteem employees to become greater than when you met them, you’ll make decisions concerning those employees based on that personal value system.

On the other hand, if you value making as much money as possible or building the biggest company in the world, you’ll treat people in a way that promotes and furthers those values.

When it comes to personal values. The goal is to be genuine and pursue your core values. This way, you can surround yourself with people who believe in the same values and can stand alongside you as co-leaders.

Notice I said, “stand alongside you as co-leaders.” The reason for this is that too often leaders think their job is to have people follow them. This notion is more closely tied to being a manager vs. a leader.

There is power in unity and in developing a critical mass of like-minded individuals voluntarily working toward common goals and purpose.

“Genuine leaders know that the secret to designing a winning culture is to inspire leadership in others.”

Whatever you value will be reflected into what you do, how you treat people, and on the type of people you surround yourself with.

Therefore, it becomes critically important that you first define, then prioritize and finally ensure that you are leading according to what is most important to you. What is genuinely core to who you are as a human being.


You can do a self-assessment to see what is currently important and of value to you by simply listing your values on paper, identifying the patterns that emerge, and stating them to yourself as if you were defining yourself as a brand.

I go through this exercise yearly to check in with myself. What emerged for me over 10 years ago was that I am a visionary business strategist with high yield results in technology, who creates high performance cultures focused on leadership development.

Simply put, the secret to my career success is tied to a combination of good design in strategy and developing leaders.

Those who work and have worked with me know to use quantitative and qualitative analysis tools to identify hindering forces, driving forces, and develop well thought out plans of actions that are measurable, and tie to the entire enterprise via balanced score cards.

To accomplish all that, support systems need to be put in place to enable effective execution. This can only be done with an active leadership development program across the company.

“You can’t be a data driven company, without first being people-centric, just as you can’t grow as a business without co-leaders who want to personally grow.”

You can’t manage to go into new areas or expand your business without managing to expand the quality, effectiveness, and attitude of the people in the organization. 

People Drive Everything

Well-planned, and well-thought strategies, also go hand in hand with the development of leadership qualities of the people who can execute them.

People who are part of my team love to grow and expand as individuals. For me, this is also the secret to leading a truly happy life.

“A personal growth mindset is a leadership development centered mindset.”

To create values that contribute to the improvement of humanity as a whole; whichever values you hold true for yourself — they must be real and your own, not something you aspire to, but something that you genuinely breathe and live daily.

Leadership Development Starts with You

Once you have your core values clearly defined, you should develop a simple yet accurate leadership philosophy that clearly describes what kind of leader you are.

Some of your philosophies will be based on the experiences you’ve had, especially those experiences at the hands of a less-than-adequate leader, which have shown you what you don’t want to be.

You must reflect on it all, in order that your leadership philosophy will be a full expression of who you are. You will then come to a place of self-integrity, which will allow you to closely follow your values and philosophy on a day-to-day basis.

Leaders Are Born Not at Birth

A leader can be born out of any situation that challenges the individual to identify their own unique values.

Sometimes a leader is born out of a bad economy, after being fired, after failure, out of embarrassment, after a personal disaster, or out of the pure desire to make a difference in other people’s lives.

“This is a key principle to remember: the very misfortunes we experience may give birth to our own expression of extraordinary leadership”

If you have struggled in your life at some point, you can draw from that experience to give birth to the most authentic leader you can be.

I am personally a better human being because of my failures and misfortunes. I’ve learned to be authentic, care about people, and not play corporate political games.

This birth doesn’t lead to easy street, but to a life of discipline and highly rewarding hard work, which often translates into personal fulfillment.

No one leader can make a major difference in people’s lives alone. It takes a lot of people to make it all happen. You must look beyond the Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world to understand what will make organizations succeed today.

You must abandon the notion that the credit for any significant achievement is solely attributable to the person at the top. We have long worshiped the imperial leader at the cost of ignoring the countless other contributors to any worthwhile enterprise.

In our hearts, we know that the world is more complex than ever and that we need teams of talented leaders and co-leaders working together — to get important things done.

The most effective organizations are made up of people who are genuine and work collaboratively with a collective desire to co-create better outcomes for people.

“Leadership is all about serving people.”

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Design Thinking Applied to M&A Integration

Design Thinking Applied to M&A Integration

Design Thinking Applied to M&A Integration

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

Merging companies is complicated. However, if merging is done right, it might lead to competitive advantages. The reality is that many companies do it wrong, resulting in failure rates as high as 70% or more.

The failure rate increases due to insufficient integration design and planning or faulty integration planning.

Lack of leadership, poor organizational culture, and unprepared people lead to failed integration of mergers. Most of the failures point to a lack of design and alignment with people’s needs. This is where Design Thinking can be of tremendous value. Let’s first look at why many mergers fail

Reasons for Integration Failure

Post-merger integration plans typically require creating lengthy checklists, project plans, activities, and tasks basically focused on estimation upfront. Unfortunately, this is where integration goes wrong. The most common reasons for failure are:

  1. People struggle to work with long checklists since it is difficult to manage the details. Another difficulty in a lengthy checklist is that it is not made to manage delays, directional change, or scope creep.
  2. Secondly, there is inherent uncertainty, ambiguity, complications, and volatility related to the details of integrating two companies. The primary difficulty that can arise is that as the project progresses, the estimations can go wrong, and discovering new facets along the way can create more difficulty. Specifically, waterfall project management models might not be a good fit for M&A integrations.

After much research done in integration over the years, the listed points are concluded:

● Approaches based on templates and checklists can have constraints regarding memory retention and people’s ability to collaborate.

● Some activities require an agile approach rather than the waterfall model.

● Everything is about people. People integration is about relationships that require the application of emotional intelligence and design. Design Thinking focuses on solving complex problems by focusing on people’s needs first.

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is an innovative way to perceive people’s needs and approach problems. It is people centric.

Solutions are based on evidence with information collected through rigorous research and conversations with people.

“A Design Thinking mindset is human-centered, solution-focused, and action-oriented. “

To bring innovations into the merger process, Design Thinking encourages questioning, assuming, the collaboration of employees, brainstorming, building prototypes, testing the newly created ideas, and getting continuous feedback. This cannot be accomplished in a checklist, or waterfall project management fashion. There is a better way.

Six Steps Process to Better Merger Integration

There are six steps to designing an effective post-merger integration making up for the shortcomings of the templatized approach and the agile principles for uncertainty. Here they are:

1. Alignment of Integration

Most integrations require prominent levels of mobilization and synchronization since they have many inter-functional dependent activities. People will fail to get into a high-velocity project without focusing on key areas. Alignment isn’t accomplished by force. That’s coercion.

“Alignment is achieved by design with people’s needs at the forefront of everything.”

It is important not to overlook the essential areas covered in this article, since they can have massive benefits.

2. Determine the Depth of Integration

Integration requires a principled-based approach through which the depth and speed needed for the sub-functional components can be decided. To determine depth, the Haspeslagh-Jemison model can be used.

It is known that different sized companies have different management practices. Entrepreneurial companies or start-ups are dependent on the founders. They are highly focused on revenue generation and employee integration. The functionalization level managers are limited since the plans and operations decisions are dependent on the founders. On the other hand, larger companies focus on profitability and stability. They focus on market share, as well as enabling operations that are stable and efficient.

When a larger company buys an entrepreneurial company, the operations and management systems need transformation. It takes good understanding, structure, and time to deal with the ramifications of this.

“Problems arise when the acquirer focuses on imposing a new order to the integrated organization without addressing the journey or impact it will have on people.”

These can have a devastating effect where the leaders become frustrated and exit. These issues are caused because an assumption has been made that all will comply, at the cost of eroding the very cultures that made the acquired company, worth acquiring. This is all due to a lack of empathy.

3. Organization Structure Design

Post M&A, defining a new structure and an operating model is required. There are acquisitions where the acquired organization is left alone, and its operating model is preserved. However, there are also acquisitions where the acquired organization is either merged or absorbed. In the later, money is wasted due to inefficiencies from not creating synergies from a new structure and operating model by combining both the companies’ people-centric values.

Sadly, the focus post acquisitions, from a cost synergies perspective is to look for employee redundancies. You will find 30,000 strategies on how to deal with employee redundancies. Many companies cherry-pick the employees who get to stay, but this cherry-picking is done according to the manager’s judgment’s, biases, likes, and dislikes. It is not done by carefully orchestrate design.

While companies spend lots of money on acquisitions, they keep redundancy decisions at mid-management operational levels. However, middle management lacks the strategic mindset to optimally drive synergies. They are measured on their abilities to focus more on check lists, and transactions, often with no regard of the impact on people.

4. Change Management

Mergers require change management and cultural Integration of the leadership, people, and cultural aspects of an organization. All this requires the right level of communication. Managing change requires various tools and frameworks. Tools such as the Kübler-Ross Change Curve with William Bridge’s Transition Model are highly recommended.

For communication, you have access to various approaches. However, the framework that should be used must have the following five components: audience, content, medium, timing, and roles.

“The key to Design Thinking is dialogue, active curiosity, testing and validating ideas, and all these require active transparent communication.”

5. Implementation

After going through all the processes, such as the M&A integration process, discussing and debating the depth of integration, organizational structures, and operating models, then you must address the resistances. These processes should then be put into a blueprint.

The blueprint will consist of elements of integration management, roles and responsibilities related to integration, risk management, escalation management, project governance, disputes, and more.

In addition, the blueprint will give deep insights of the process that needs to be followed at the time of exchange of ownership. Such as what is required to happen at first, and other milestones.

Milestones should show real-state consolidation, customer optimization, headcount redundancy plans, re-engagement, and management structure consolidation.

6. Functional Adjustments

This step is especially important for all activities that are multi-functional, multi-business unit or multi-geographical to address silo-thinking paradigms as well as situations where ramification of certain function are much bigger than others.

Integration planning is massive. Therefore, a core foundation should be designed carefully and with empathy according to the structure of the organization, operating plan and change management. Then the integration blueprint should be made ready.

After the integration blueprint discussed in the above step is ready, it is important to share it with departments, functions, and other business units for active input, adjustments, and calibration.

The integration process must be stress tested within the company’s functions. It is an important step considering multi-business, multi-functional, or multi-geographical activities. It is important because it addresses silo-thinking paradigms.

“Most M&A integration efforts often fail because of silo-thinking paradigms that focus on tasks, and checklists, instead of people.”


A lot of effort and steps go into integration. It can be concluded that if managers and members solely rely on only the checklists and task lists, things can quickly go wrong. 

With the processes mentioned above, a Design Thinking pattern can be created to help everyone involved think in a more people-centric way.

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