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Love leadership: Realising the benefits of collaboration in the workplace

By Nick Wilson | |7 minute read

The way we relate to our colleagues – both our superiors and those more junior – has fundamentally changed over time. While the need for professionalism endures, employees expect greater transparency, authenticity, and compassion from their bosses. In return, bosses want a more productive, vibrant work culture.

Action is driven by one of two emotions: love or fear. Sustainable leadership rejects fear and harnesses passion, compassion, and effective collaboration, according to leadership author and speaker Margot Faraci.

“Fear leaders drive peaks and troughs in performance. But love leaders drive sustainable performance,” she explained.

When HR Leader sat down with Ms Faraci, we learnt all about her philosophy of “love leadership”. Fear is a bad fuel source, said Ms Faraci, and those who have yet to experience its shortcomings just haven’t hit rock bottom yet.

Let’s look at the benefits of love leadership, but first, let’s unpack the dichotomy between “people” and “performance” and consider whether a gain for one means a loss for the other.

Balancing people and performance

“One thing people always ask me,” said Ms Faraci, “is how do I balance people with performance? And what I would say is, your people are your performance.”

Psychological safety is integral to employee performance. Research suggests that employee burnout and stress can contribute to lower productivity, higher turnover, higher absenteeism, and higher medical costs, and can cost organisations dearly.

According to Ms Faraci, behind choosing the right people, the level of psychological safety in a team is the single best indicator of performance.

“It’s trust. It’s a willingness to take risks with each other. If you get people right and the culture right, then that is what drives your performance. Sustainably,” said Ms Faraci.

Fear leadership

There are two drivers of human action, said Ms Faraci; the first is love, and the second is fear.

“In my career, early on, I thought I needed my fear to do well. My fear drove me. I was quite anxious to perform … that led to a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of overworking and overscheduling,” said Ms Faraci.

“I didn’t want to let go of that fear because I thought if I didn’t have it, what was going to drive my performance?”

By age 40, Ms Faraci found herself clinically burnt out and exhausted. The experience left her looking at her drivers and wondering whether the fear that had served her up to that point had always been doomed to fail.

“I don’t care what anyone says, [fear] diminishes performance. You might get a spike on a certain day or in a certain period, but ultimately, you cannot create sustainable performance,” said Ms Faraci.

“If people aren’t willing to change what they’re doing or give up what’s no longer serving them, then I just say they probably haven’t been miserable enough yet.”

With the distance gained from her involuntary pause from fear-driven work, Ms Faraci found herself looking for a way to re-enter the corporate world – but this time, the motivation needed to be sustainable.

Love leadership

The kind of love proposed by Ms Faraci isn’t the romantic kind. Neither is it the kind of love reserved for friends or family. Instead, it’s the common emotional experience at the core – it’s a decision to act out of passion and humility rather than fear.

“What I found after reading a lot is that if everything only comes from fear and love, then in every moment when you’re choosing fear and you start to notice it, you’ve actually got a choice to choose love,” said Ms Faraci.

“If you think about how you feel when you’re in flow, doing what you think you’re put on the earth to do, that is a love response,” she added. “Love expands us. It creates safety, curiosity and new solutions.”

After experiencing firsthand the degenerative nature of fear as a fuel source, Ms Faraci had resolved to rely on love rather than fear: “Every time I felt that fear, I was going to go with love instead, which was a new habit.”

The idea is more than a subjective feeling: Ms Faraci has conducted a global survey on the use of love as a fuel source in business and found that her experience is universal.

The importance of humility

Humility is a crucial part of the love leadership equation. One of the most effective ways to build trust and psychological safety as a leader, said Ms Faraci, is asking your team to tell you when you’re wrong.

“As the leader, you’re making decisions all day. It becomes very burdensome,” she said. To ease the load, “you get your team together, as I have done a number of times, and say: ‘Listen, I’m thinking about this issue that I’ve got to solve for all of us.’

“‘Here’s how I’m thinking we’re going to solve it, but actually, I want you to tell me what’s wrong with that view, and we’re going to panel a better one.’”

Not only will that build trust through openness, but it will also allow you to arrive at a higher, better solution, said Ms Faraci.

“When I talk about all of this, I’m not for a second saying that we be insipid or flaky. This is not about being nice in inverted commas. That doesn’t help anyone. Being a pleaser doesn’t help anyone,” said Ms Faraci.

The benefits of love leadership are best realised while authority continues to be observed and respected. It is not about avoiding difficult decisions; it’s about opening yourself up to criticism in order to realise the benefits of open collaboration.

“There are going to be times when you just have to make a decision. You call it: ‘This is the mountain we’re going to climb, I’ve decided. Thanks, everyone, for your views. We’re going ahead anyway, and here’s why,’ and people will respect you for that as well,” said Ms Faraci.

“So being collaborative or not is going to depend on the capability of the leader, the maturity of the leader and also the situation. But certainly, there is more scope for that now than there ever has been. And this is great news for leaders who are taking on too much.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Margot Faraci, click below:



Benefits include any additional incentives that encourage working a little bit more to obtain outcomes, foster a feeling of teamwork, or increase satisfaction at work. Small incentives may have a big impact on motivation. The advantages build on financial rewards to promote your business as a desirable employer.


Employees experience burnout when their physical or emotional reserves are depleted. Usually, persistent tension or dissatisfaction causes this to happen. The workplace atmosphere might occasionally be the reason. Workplace stress, a lack of resources and support, and aggressive deadlines can all cause burnout.


Mentoring pairs up less experienced workers with more seasoned ones to provide coaching, training, and development. This can be done informally or formally, with meetings and quantified results.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.