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Leading with Love in a New World of Work

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Leading with Love in a New World of Work

May 03
16:48 2024

An important dynamic is beginning to emerge in this post-COVID era as we see Generation Z (Gen Z) enter the workforce with a much different expectation of work than previous generations. This represents a tremendous opportunity to shift away from the old “Command & Control” management style to a more humanistic leadership approach; resulting in higher levels of engagement, increased productivity and a deeper sense of personal fulfillment.

Who is Gen Z and what do they stand for?

According to US Census data, 68 million Americans born between 1997 and 2012 fall within the Gen Z cohort—representing 20% of the total US population and will soon make up 40% of its workforce. Pew Research reports that by 2026, Gen Z will comprise the greatest level of diversity in American history. For the first time ever, over 50% will identify as non-White with a higher percentage coming from immigrant parents than Millennials. Gen Z is also the first “Digitally Native” generation.

In a recent Deloitte research report, 32% of Gen Zs say that a good work-life balance is a top reason they work for their current employer. Other top reasons are learning and development opportunities (29%), high salary (24%), positive workplace culture (23%), and career advancement opportunities (23%).

In addition, the report found that 57% of Gen Zs who plan on switching careers say they’re not satisfied with their employer’s efforts to make a positive societal impact. 52% also say they’re not happy with their employers’ efforts to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Finally, 56% say their employers fail in their commitment to sustainability.

The new world of work is changing… on PURPOSE.

As stated in my book, The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder, the concept of purpose has been gaining a lot of traction recently. From spiritual teaching to scholarly research and changing demographic trends, there is solid evidence that connecting individuals to their higher purposes helps increase job satisfaction, productivity, longevity/loyalty, and outer directedness that benefits others.

Particularly now as we recover from the effects of COVID-19 — and face dire prognostications on climate change, geo-political instability, environmental sustainability and other life-threatening obstacles—the concept of purpose has risen much higher in our consciousness.

Human Sustainability

As reported by Richard Carufel for Agility PR Solutions, “The value of human capital is becoming more evident in brands and businesses around the world. As talent becomes a precious commodity, so too does organizations’ recognition of the need for prioritizing human sustainability—the degree to which a company creates value for people as human beings, leaving them with greater well-being, employability and equity, according to new research from Deloitte.”

“This firm’s new report, Thriving Beyond Boundaries: Human Performance in a Boundaryless World, the latest in its Global Human Capital Trends research series, identifies several trends that showcase how a combination of business and human outcomes plays a role in organizational success—and the analysis reveals that those making meaningful progress on these key issues are nearly twice as likely to achieve desired business and human outcomes.”

“As technology and cultural shifts reshape work and the workplace, it’s our human capabilities and outcomes that remain at the heart of growth and innovation,” said Dan Helfrich, chair and chief executive officer at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in a news release. “Leaders, many of whom are already aware of this, should now turn this understanding into actionable strategies. This latest Global Human Capital Trends research can serve as a roadmap for organizations to dismantle siloes and traditional constructs and move towards collaborating with their workforce to enhance human performance.”

“According to the firm, the underlying problem with employee relations now is the concept of human performance—the mutually reinforcing cycle of business and human outcomes. Instead of prioritizing business issues at the expense of human outcomes, this initiative would have companies taking a human sustainability approach to improve outcomes for workers, customers, and society more broadly.”

“While organizations grapple with a myriad of challenges, a fundamental shift they should embrace is putting humans back at the center of work—after all, it is humans, more than any physical assets, that drive business performance,” said Art Mazor, global human capital practice leader and principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP, in the release. “To achieve this, leaders should focus less on how much people benefit their organization and more on how much their organization benefits people.”

This research leads me to three important questions:

• What if we spent resources on helping our team members become more human, as opposed to treating our team members as merely resources?

• What if we could flip the script by turning the tired, old Work/Life “balance” paradigm (myth?) into a more humanistic and fulfilling Life/Work purpose?

• What if we could put the “Human” back in Human Resources?

Community vs. Culture – A new approach to Human Sustainability

In business, we almost always hear about the culture of an organization. On the surface, that doesn’t sound bad. But if we dig a bit deeper, wouldn’t it be better if we could work within a growth-nurturing Community vs. a freedom-stifling Culture? Here’s what I mean:

A Culture is a place where one feels merely a “part of.”

A Community is a place where one feels they “belong in.”

Notice I emphasized the word, feels? That’s because regardless of our industry or occupation, we are ALL in the people business. Given that, I would take it a step further and state we are actually in the feelings business. And this is a significant distinction when we talk about the importance of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB).

As I stated in my book, Diversity just gets us in the door, Inclusion gets us a seat at the table, Equity gives us an equal voice; however, without Belonging, we may not feel comfortable being truly vulnerable to give our very best for fear of potential recrimination by “rocking the boat.” When we belong to a community, we feel a much greater sense of trust, safety and security; fully free to BE our true, authentic selves and able to grow into our full potential.

How did we get here, and where do we go next?

Most of us who went to Business School learned about management, which is great on a fundamental level. At work, we tend to get promoted for being a great “doer.” However, when it came time to manage others, we had to learn how to do so on our own. Today, Gen Z team members don’t want to be managed and required; rather they want to be led and inspired.

Management skills and abilities provide a foundational competency for business success; however, managers have to learn how to become leaders their team wants to follow. But transformational growth comes when leaders become “living” legacy builders whom their team members want to emulate themselves when it’s their turn to lead.

Let’s break this down from the perspective of a team member as they progress in their career.

Team Members = Personal (“I need a job from you.”)

Managers = Transactional (“I must obey you.”)

Leaders = Relational (“I will follow you.”)

Legacy Builders = Transformational (“I want to emulate you.”)

This progression from Team Member to Manager to Leader to Legacy Builder can create a “ripple effect” that will develop communities of diversity and true belonging as opposed to merely cultures of uniformity and blind following. While it sounds simple, this is a revolutionary approach that will take time to take seed, establish roots and grow over time, so it is important we start now.

What’s LOVE got to do with it?

To grow a successful relationship with one’s team members, a purposeful leader’s approach must be rooted in LOVE. In the context of legacy-building leadership development, LOVE is an acronym which stands for Listen, Observe, Value and Empower. While these four vitally important human needs were cited by Abraham Maslow several years ago, we all understand the power of LOVE in building strong, healthy and trusting relationships in our lives. Why not at work?

To foster a sense of community, we must get comfortable bringing LOVE into the workplace. No, it’s not what you may be thinking. I’m talking about harnessing arguably the most important force in human history—the need to feel seen and heard, valued and empowered to grow into the very best version of ourselves.

Leaders can learn how to grow into “living” Legacy Builders by implementing some very basic and simple human characteristics to help them LOVE their team members and create communities of belonging:

L isten – Graciously. Means “Pleasantly kind, benevolent and curious.” Ask good questions and don’t just hear, but actively listen to the answers. Listen on a deeper, more empathetic level to not only what is said, but possibly what is not being said. You never know what may be going on in a team member’s personal life.

O bserve – Generously. Means investing a generous portion of one’s time, talents, resources and experiences to coach, mentor and encourage a team member in real-time. Don’t wait for the dreaded Annual Performance Review which nobody likes nor does very well.

V alue – Gratefully. Means “feeling or showing appreciation, expressing a sense of gratitude and thankfulness.” Value the whole person by providing rewards and recognition for current performances; while giving them opportunities to learn and grow in new areas. This creates a deep sense of self-worth among your team members for the important role they play on the team.

E mpower – Generatively. Means “providing the power or function of generating, originating or producing.” When someone feels empowered, it’s like the feeling we all had when we first learned to ride a bike. Such confidence boosting energy with a new-found sense of freedom and fulfillment!

When a team member feels truly loved, they will become highly engaged, provide more discretionary effort and feel a sense of ownership in the outcome, which leads to longer tenure, higher productivity and a deeper level of purpose fulfillment in their work.

The new world of work is changing… on purpose.

Let’s put the “Human” back in Human Resources . . . all we need is LOVE!


Mark A. Mears, Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker & Consultant


Mark A. Mears is a #1 Best-Selling author, keynote speaker, consultant, and visionary business leader. He has a significant track record of building stakeholder value—driving innovation and profitable growth among world-class, high-profile brands such as PepsiCo/Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, JCPenney, NBCUniversal, and The Cheesecake Factory.

Today, Mark serves as Founder and Chief Growth Officer for LEAF Growth Ventures, LLC—a consulting firm inspiring individuals, teams, and organizations to find purpose in fulfilling their true growth potential while making a positive, lasting difference in the world.

Mark has just released his best-selling book titled, The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder—now available on Amazon as an audiobook.

Mark is also a member of the Senior Leader Network within Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a global organization whose mission he shares: Elevating Humanity Through Business.

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Phone: 917-207-1039

Email: [email protected]


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