Leading from the Heart

Leading from the Heart: A Journey of Self-Love

Is it possible to achieve a healthy well-being while also being successful in your professional life? ‘Hustle culture’ has made us think that success and self-care can’t be mutually exclusive; we can only choose one and sacrifice the other. As a leader, your mental, emotional and physical health can sometimes be a secondary concern when you have to juggle your responsibilities at home and at work. However, research suggests that loving yourself can positively impact your happiness and success. So, why not try balancing your well-being and professional life to achieve optimal performance?

As leaders have the responsibility of helming the direction and progress of their team, their personal emotions can easily get in the way of their team’s professional development. Just like when a tire is punctured and the car stops moving, a burnt-out and unconfident leader directly affects the performance of their team. Leading is all about connecting with people and people have emotions. To tap into your team’s psychological well-being, a leader first has to start with loving themselves before sharing that love with others.

Leading with love begins with prioritising self-care. Once you’ve got that in the bag, show the same care and love towards your colleagues to build a high performing team. When your team trusts you as their leader, professional success will come naturally. There’s no need to sacrifice one or the other and we’ll show you how.

Practising self-love with these self-care tips

Unfortunately for many of us, self-love doesn’t come naturally. As leaders, it’s normal to doubt yourself at times and even suffer from imposter syndrome. However, when we’re caught up in a negative mindset, it can manifest into anger, anxiety and even excessive behaviours such as binge drinking and eating just to distract yourself from your doubts. Not only do these emotions affect your well-being, they directly affect the performance and psychological safety of your team.

When you learn to love yourself, you begin to find value in your capabilities and don’t require validation from anyone else. This instant boost of confidence can positively impact your mental and emotional health, which also benefits everyone around you. Love is required to be a good parent, spouse, friend and leader but it all starts with the individual. Self-love can be learnt by practising self-care habits so here are some tips to get you started on your journey of loving yourself.

Be compassionate to yourself

When we see our friends feeling down, we immediately tend to show concern, kindness and we comfort them. So, why don’t we do that for ourselves? Instead of resulting in self-criticism when you feel inadequate, use comforting words for self-encouragement. When you feel like you’ve failed, be mindful of your feelings instead of acting out by punishing yourself. If you ever catch yourself self-criticising, think of how you would treat your friend in your position. Practising self-compassion can regulate your stress levels, activate your growth mindset, and above all, teach you to love yourself.

PRO TIP: Avoid toxic positivity. This is a dysfunctional approach to managing your emotions without acknowledging your negative feelings. Take some time to let out your anger, sadness or frustration through journaling or talking to a trusted friend.


When we’re so caught up with chasing success, we sometimes forget to be grateful for all that we’ve achieved thus far. Be proud of the things you have done and tell yourself that you are grateful for the work you’ve put in. It can even be as simple as thanking yourself for maintaining a level head during a work crisis or thanking yourself for making a friend smile. Show yourself love even in tough times. While you may feel disappointed that you weren’t able to close a deal with a client, you can also thank yourself for working hard on the presentation.

Love yourself through actions

Sometimes, small acts of love can be more effective than just words. Just like how you may show appreciation to a friend by taking them out for dinner instead of just saying you appreciate them, do the same for yourself!

Treating yourself is a self-care habit you can incorporate into your daily life. For example, you can gift yourself a new watch after you’ve closed a huge deal or maybe just take a day off from work if you’ve had a stressful week. Self-love is also making time for new hobbies like painting and gardening to take your mind off stressors in your life.

How does love improve leadership?

Embodying happiness and love is a contagious effect that ripples to the people around you. Statistics reveal that only 23% of people believe that their leaders lead well but when you start feeling more positive about yourself, that energy will also radiate within your team. You can start by using the same self-love practices and lead with your heart in the workplace.

Letting the heart take the lead in a professional setting can be risky especially when numbers define your success but we can’t forget that the success of an organisation is because of its people.

When you start emotionally engaging your team with love, you build trust with your team members to make them motivated to reach their optimal performance. A team built on kindness and compassion creates a stronger bond and is more enthusiastic to work on new projects and collaborations. Handling conflicts in the workplace will also be much smoother as both leader and team learn to communicate openly with empathy and understanding.  Overall, a happy team will naturally be more productive, increasing the performance of the business.

“Leadership is about falling in love with the people you serve and the people falling in love with you.” ~ Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi

Challenges you may face when learning to lead with love

When leading with love, leaders are expected to show vulnerability, which can be very uncomfortable for many. As a leader, you may think you’re expected to put up a strong front and refrain from showing any emotions. While it is good to have a level head, especially when handling conflicts, teams don’t want an emotionally detached leader. They want a leader that they can relate to and work with through all the hardships and bumps. If you’re ever struggling at work, don’t be afraid to voice out for help and you may be surprised at how your team will be more willing to help you when they feel for you.

Another challenge in our post-pandemic world is building trust remotely. When meetings have moved online, leaders may struggle to know what their team members are feeling and thinking. How then do we show compassion and empathy when we can’t identify our team’s emotional needs? Part of developing leadership skills includes learning techniques to communicate effectively, improving listening skills and giving feedback to gain trust virtually.

INSIDER INFO: We teach you how to build trust in a virtual team through the 3-step approach of accepting, enquiring and acting in our Building Trust Remotely workshop.

How to lead with love in the workplace

Here are some ways you can use the self-love tips in the workplace to create high performing teams.

Show appreciation

Research at the University of Pennsylvania shows that an appreciation from leaders results in a 50% higher success rate of workers. Appreciating the work of employees inspires them to become more productive and take initiative with new ideas and projects. Moreover, public appreciation can also motivate other members to improve the overall productivity of the organisation.

Build genuine relationships

The chemistry between a leader and their team members impacts the overall performance of an organisation. Provide support to your team during their times of need. Your team members should feel comfortable reaching out to you when they’re struggling. Lend them a listening ear, understand what they are going through and provide them with helpful advice.

INSIDER INFO: Our EQ workshop for leaders covers the ground of building trust, improving listening skills and using emotional intelligence to lead with compassion and impact.

Be their mentor

At times, your team members may fall short of your expectations. Instead of criticising, you should mentor them with compassion to help them achieve a better performance. Ask your team why they are struggling with their work, make them comfortable and assure them you are here to help. Be honest with your team members and point out where they failed to provide quality work so they know what needs improvement. At the same time, offer them help in the form of training or guidance. Good mentoring can produce a high performing team with innovative ideas.

Accept the flaws of others including yourself

Leaders are allowed to be imperfect and a team would rather be led by someone who isn’t afraid of admitting their flaws. Hiding your mistakes and imperfections from your team can lead to a loss of trust. They don’t want a flawless leader, they want a leader that experiences the same struggles as them. Be honest about your mistakes and ask your team for feedback. Showing willingness to learn and grow builds a stronger trust and bond between leader and team.

Moreover, when you treat your employees with love, you encourage them to be their authentic selves. They won’t shy away from owning up to their mistakes when their leader has set an example for them. When all your team members start taking responsibility for their actions, it builds a more empathetic environment to collaborate in.

When humans are moved by empathy, it’s almost obvious that achieving optimal performance and a high performing team in the workplace is through leading with a loving and compassionate approach. Start with your self-love journey and then share that positive energy within your own team!



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5. Photo by Suvan Chowdhury on Pexels

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