Love Or Fear – The Foundation Of Your Leadership

love vs fear at work

This article is the first in a series that examines love vs fear at work from several HR & people related angles.

Part 1 deals with the idea itself, and begins the discussion on the applications for self-leadership.

Love or fear. At first glance it seems like a strange topic to be discussing from a professional perspective. Some people may even bristle at the idea.

It has everything to do with work.

Love or fear is the primary filter that governs our lives as human beings. We do not stop being human when we come to work everyday.

As individuals, love or fear is the basis of how we treat ourselves and others. From a work perspective, it is the foundation of your culture and ultimately how you engage with your people.

Love or fear is also the basis of your character. Character is a choice we make – consciously or unconsciously. Which will you choose?

The Idea – Love vs Fear

All human beings experience emotion. These emotions at their very core come from a place of either love or fear. They shape the defining elements of everyone’s life.

At the root of every negative emotion is fear. If you are angry, jealous, worried, upset, distrustful, anxious, hurt, blaming, shameful, insecure, distrustful etc. – you are coming from a place of fear. Living in what many authors, psychologists and spiritual philosophers would call the ego. The “me”. The ego is of our own construction and leads us to believe it is our self-identity – what we do, what we have, what others think of us and our perceived power over others. All based on external factors – and therefore always at risk of not being in control over what others think about us. Your lesser self.

When I use the word love it is not in the romantic sense of the word. Some of have defined love as the absence of fear. It is too big to define in a word or phase. It is being connected with your highest self. People like Simon Sinek would call it your “why” – your purpose. Not coming from your ego. In harmony with something greater than yourself.

One of my personal aspirations has always been to what I have themed “bridging the gap between the self-help and business sections of the bookstore”. Authors like Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. David Hawkins and Deepak Chopra have been a constant inspiration. One of my favorite authors has also been Anthony De Mello.  Here is how he summed up love vs fear at the end of his book entitled Awareness.

What kind of feeling comes upon you when you’re in touch with nature, or when you are absorbed in work that you love? Or when you are really conversing with someone whose company you enjoy? Compare those feelings with the feelings you have when you win an argument, or when you become popular, or when everybody is applauding you? The latter feelings I call worldly feelings, the former feelings I call soul feelings. Lots of people gain the world and lose their soul. Anthony De Mello, S.J.

Thoughts Are Energy

The new discoveries in quantum physics are astounding and there is so much we have yet to understand.

All physical reality is made up of vibrations of energy though particles – this is not new.  We are still trying to uncover the mystery of particle physics at the most sub-atomic levels like the CERN project in Switzerland.

Recent discoveries in quantum physics have scientifically proven that thoughts are vibrations of energy as well. One popular study was conducted by Dr. Masaru Emoto in his in his New York Times bestseller, The Hidden Messages in Water.  In this study he was able to show how thoughts, words and feelings on molecules of water can change their composition and formation into ice crystals. Dr. Emoto discovered that crystals formed in frozen water reveal changes when specific, concentrated thoughts are directed toward them. He found that water from clear springs and water that has been exposed to loving words shows brilliant, complex, and colorful snowflake patterns. In contrast, polluted water, or water exposed to negative thoughts, forms incomplete, asymmetrical patterns with dull colors.

Considering humans and our planet are largely composed of water – the implications are profound. They are from a work perspective as well.

Love and Fear Is Our Biology and Sociology

Dr. Jelena Radulovic, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine discovered in experiments using mice that love and fear produces the same hormone – oxytocin. After something socially stressful happens to a person oxytocin goes to work on your brain enhancing your memory of the event. She also discovered that oxytocin also increases your level of fear after a socially stressful episode. That is why people can still emotionally relive negative experiences from childhood.

“Social stress is the dominant stress now. We don’t really have that much physical stress anymore.” Dr. Radulovic

The key here is the idea of social stress as the dominant stressor in our lives today. We do not need to be fearful of dinosaurs eating us anymore – but our biology is the same.

Our sociology is the same as well. We still live in tribes.

Your family is a tribe. Your different social groups are tribes. Your company is a tribe. Your department is a tribe. Project teams are a tribe. The colleagues you associate with most are a tribe. Each have their own dynamic, energy and set of rules for social interactions. What is the key for being successful in a tribe? Fitting in and being accepted by others members of the tribe. Or put in another way – the greatest punishment is fear of being cast out of the tribe.

Think of the opportunities in gaining productivity, innovation and engagement in your company if people were not as focused on the social stressor of fitting into their tribes at work a.k.a. “politics”.


You Choose Your Thoughts

The famous ancient philosopher Lao Tzu sums it up perfectly:

“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny”. Lao Tzu

Researchers have conducted many studies as to how many thoughts a person has in a day.  The numbers range between 12,000 to 70,000 thoughts per day. According to some researchers, as many as 98% of them are exactly the same as we had the day before – and 80% of those thoughts are negative.

Your thoughts are a either a conscious or unconscious choice. These thoughts are vibrations of energy that come from love or fear at their most fundamental level. Others may influence your thoughts – if you let them – but they do not control them.

We are each ultimately responsible for our thoughts. It’s a choice we make everyday whether we know it or not.

The Reality – There Is Both Love And Fear

Love and fear are opposite – but they are never separate. That is paradox of everyone’s life – yin and yang – light and darkness – the cycle of life and death.  One can not exist without the other. It is how the universe works.

I am not suggesting that life is simply a choice of love over fear and everything will be perfect. Life is complex. There is both love and fear in our daily reality and human existence.

Rather, it is about being conscious about your thoughts and where you spend the majority of your time.  Try a simple experiment today. Given we know that we have mostly the same thoughts everyday, and most of them come from fear, catch yourself in a fear based thought and ask – what am I afraid of? Someone upset you at work – what am I afraid of? Loss of power, loss of status, not being accepted by the tribe? Can I make a different choice?

If I take the focus off of “me” and my ego – could I operate at a higher level? How can I direct my thought energy in a different way? I am projecting from my higher self or my lesser self? How can I operate from my soul?

Don’t judge yourself, just be aware of your thoughts. Play in the space of observation. It’s an amazing thing catching yourself in the moment.

We create our own realities in our minds.

So What Does This Have To Do With Work?

Everything. In comes down to performance at both an individual and organizational level.

Can you perform at high levels from fear? Of course you can. Is it sustainable over time? No.

As a leader – and we all are leaders whether you manage people or not – what do you want, which will you choose? Which will you allow to control you?

Again Lao Tzu sums it up perfectly:

“To lead people, walk beside them … As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, We did it ourselves!” Lao Tzu

I look forward to continuing this discussion on how love and fear manifests in your HR and people practices at work. Stay tuned for more.

On a personal level – make a conscious decision to choose love over fear today.

Do not gain the world and lose your soul.

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Martin Tanguay

Paul, Andrea, I loved this article. Great opportunity as we read to stop and self-reflect along the way. I must say I felt good at the end of the article as I truly feel now that my perspective has shifted from Fear to Love in the last 5-8 years. Thanks again for sharing this very insightful information.

    Fantastic and thank you so much Martin for your comments! Keep choosing love over fear and spreading the message.

I Love this article. Everything about it.

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