In his book, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, Kevin Roberts, CEO of the global advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, explains that fads attract, but without love, it’s a passing infatuation. He shows that the most successful organizations create fanatical loyalty that goes way beyond reason to highly charged emotional connections. Chapter titles include “All You Need is Love,” “Love is in the Air,” and “What the World Needs Now.”
Companies decimated by the pandemic especially need to feel the love to bounce back. That’s particularly true in the airline industry. Airline revenues collapsed while fixed costs stayed high. If you’re going to bet on an airline most likely to soar as travel resumes, put your money on Southwest Airlines. They were named the #1 U.S. airline in The Wall Street Journal’s annual ranking for 2020 based on key operational performance metrics. In his decades of research studying what differentiates great companies, Jim Collins has featured the company’s long track record of investment returns way beyond other companies — in their industry and most others.
So, what’s love got to do with it? Southwest Airlines has been giving its employees and customers L — love and leadership — since its founding in 1971. According to a documentary video we often use in our culture development planning sessions, Southwest Airlines is “the company that love built.” Southwest first started flying from Love Field in Dallas, their stock symbol is LUV, and their logo features a big red heart in the center. “We have always felt that a company is much stronger if bound by love rather than by fear,” explains Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO. The documentary outlines how “love becomes an action verb that clears a path for what really matters.” An employee hosting much of the video explains, “we transfer our love for what we do, and for each other, to the customer.”
Love is an extraordinarily powerful emotion driving behavior, if not life itself. Many ancient spiritual traditions and modern research, such as Near Death Experiences, point to love as the center of our being.
Managers aren’t comfortable with this powerful emotion in the workplace. The culture of too many organizations is like the bumper sticker “I am neither for nor against apathy.” Managers pay a big price for failing to engage hearts.
Leaders bring the love. Passion and love are affairs of the heart, not the head. We aren’t rational creatures. Humans use thinking and reason to solve problems and make plans. But it’s our hearts more than our heads that move us. Most “rational thinking” is justifying actions that start with our feelings. We often make decisions that “feel right,” then start looking for the “facts” to support them.
Leadership is centered on emotions. Highly effective leadership stirs our dreams, inspiration, excitement, desire, pride, care, and passion. Our love. The areas of our lives where we show the strongest leadership — including our communities, families, organizations, products, services, hobbies, and customers — are where we’re most in love.
Tim Sanders makes love a strategic cornerstone of a company’s operations in his book Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends. He wrote, “I don’t think there is anything higher than Love…. Love is so expansive. I had such a difficult time coming up with a definition for Love in my book, but the way I define Love is the selfless promotion of the growth of the other.”
Are you living life for the L of it — laughing, learning, leading, and loving?