What’s love got to do with it?

15 February 2021, 10:03 am
Speciality Bites by Paul Hargreaves

The word ‘love’ was rarely used in a business context until recent years. In fact, in some places using the word ‘love’ would have prompted phone calls to HR and potential disciplinary proceedings. Is it OK to love your people, your customers, your suppliers and all those stakeholders who are impacted through your business? Well, of course, my answer is “yes”.

The English language is lacking when it comes to ‘love’. We have the same word for loving fish and chips as we do for loving our children, our partners and the deeper love coming through compassion for others. The ancient Greeks had a better handle on love. They had four different words for love. The first ‘storge’ was used of a deep affection for children or potentially pets, a nurturing, caring, deep love for those on a different level to us. The word ‘philia’ is used for a friendship type of love – as CS Lewis describes it as side-to-side type of love coming through sharing a common task together.

‘Eros’ is, of course, better known to us as the third love and the one that western nations seems to be obsessed by, so much so, we seem to have lost the friendship type of love in many ways for fear of it being misinterpreted. True ‘eros’ love is, of course a beautiful thing, but so are the other three ‘loves’ including those deep friendships that are so nourishing.

Finally there is ‘agape’ which is the wider sense of love for those who aren’t our children, friends or partners; the altruistic love for those in the world that causes us to act. In previous generations this word was translated as ‘charity’, which for me, doesn’t really convey its meaning properly, but does give a right sense of looking out for others less fortunate than ourselves.

So, apart from family businesses, are these types are love acceptable and necessary in the business setting? Well certainly. Many great friendships are formed at work as we work alongside each other for a common goal. Having others’ backs and sharing burdens with those with whom we work are hallmarks of a successful company. Philia is an important characteristic for bosses who don’t see themselves as superior to those who work for them but carry a sense of being alongside. And businesses must also now carry the fourth altruistic, compassionate love as part of their purpose, as it is no longer acceptable for businesses to not be making a positive difference in the world for those less fortunate than themselves. And this call to action comes through agape.

As Tina Tuner sang, ‘What’s love got to do with it?’ In my view, absolutely everything, so show some love in and through your business this week.

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