John Hope Bryant Interview with Aaron McCormack World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, social activist and former Chief Executive Officer of BT Conferencing, BT Group
May 13, 2011 In my business bestseller LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) I make the argument that the key of rising out of this current economic crisis is figuring out what you have to give in a world that seems to be obsessed with answering the question “what do I get”. This global crisis – or what I’ve been calling a global reset, is a crisis of ethics, a crisis of morals and a deep crisis of leadership.
The principles of LOVE LEADERSHIP sound simple enough – leading with love. But that can seem like an oversimplified solution to a complex problem. The love I’m talking about is NOT the fuzzy, snuggly “kumbaya” form of love. LL is tough love and goes against the grain in this high-paced, individualistic society. In essence, it gives us a different perspective – one of long-term value and investment in all areas whether they are emotional, physical, financial or otherwise.
I have also found that these are two primary things: love and fear. Experience has taught me that fear is the ultimate prosperity killer. It also puts limits on the resources around you.
In talking about it with business leader and social activist Aaron McCormack, we were able to delve in the specifics of LOVE LEADERSHIP, or what Aaron liked to call servant leadership.
Now understanding where a person’s been can give you insight into what they believe. Aaron hails from Northern Ireland, the son of a Protestant mother and a Catholic father. Aaron’s first passion was politics and he helped revolutionize the youth wing of the Alliance Party of Ireland as a student. The strength he saw in the Alliance Party, what attracted him to it, was the ability to see things from all sides… to consider different perspectives and different points of view before making policies and decisions. Aaron has taken this attribute and added it to his own philosophy and makes it a part of his own leadership skills and abilities. In talking about this Aaron said to me that at the end of the day, “it’s not important to win power and control. What is important is that what you believe comes true.”
As a CEO, Aaron committed to what he called, “cognitive diversity.” He explained that by surrounding himself by a diverse group of people is the first step towards getting a substantive discussion started. He continued by saying that we all understand diversity on a basic level. But using that diversity in an effective way, Aaron believes is creating an environment where people have the freedom to speak, dispute and disagree – this is the true value of building a diverse team.
To Aaron, it is important that he hears all views from his team before he makes a decision. In his view, many companies trumpet the value of “team” but few companies actually embrace it. To have a cognitively diverse team around you means that you have to value the opinions of your employees – validating their perspectives, even when you are in a rush. You have to continually and consistently take the time to listen – trying to understand things from their perspective.
Creating an environment where employees feel valued for their perspectives and opinions also means that an investment must be made in the employees – meaning that they need to receive professional development opportunities where they can learn and grow within the organization.
Leading with love and leading with servant leadership to some, might seem soft. But since taking over BT Conferencing, profits have soared, 300% and 500% respectively over four years, making BT Conferencing the #1 company in the world in videoconferencing services. Love Leadership’s core values and philosophy truly can deliver industry-beating results.
Implementing this belief is hard work and sometimes goes against the commonly held notion that great leadership is instinctual and that great decision makers only rely on their own compass. This is a true form of servant leadership and it takes a lot of work to foster this environment.
As LOVE LEADERSHIP is quick to point out, love is hard work. Love is not easy, it certainly isn’t lazy and leading with love principles is a constant and never ending struggle to do what is right. But the sacrifice is well worth it. Copies of LOVE LEADERSHIP can be purchased on its website.
Aaron McCormack is part business leader, part politician and part social activist. He hopes that this combination of experiences leads not only to interesting perspectives on issues, but more importantly an ability to help fix them. He can be followed on his blog athttp://www.aaronmccormack.com
John Hope Bryant is founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, bestselling author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), a Young Global Leader alumni, and a member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama