Love in organizations

Research project
Henri Slob

How can it be that the subject of so much speech, writing and song is very little incorporated in (research into) organization and leadership theories? We are speaking about love. This layered concept is seen by many as a core ingredient of a meaningful and dignified life. Moreover, love has been called the engine on the way to happiness as the goal of life. That is why we are doing research into ‘Love in organizations’. Our junior researcher Henri Slob leads this research project.

First and foremost, with this research project we want to understand love by reading primary sources from theology, philosophy and psychology. A rich pool of conceptualizations will follow from our reading. Thus, we will gain a better understanding of the term love before we construct a working definition that fits the organizational context. Besides enriching our understanding of love, we identify neighboring concepts such as empathy and compassion and distinguish between the latter concepts and love.

In the second part of our project, we search for CEOs’, managers’ and employees’ understanding of love. This way, we identify how the concept is already operationalized in practice. In order to accomplish this, we perform case studies at companies and organizations we expect to be organized and led in a loving way. In the process, we pay attention to points of possible improvement because with big aspirations, like leading with love, room for improvement will obviously always be present. Our case study research results in a practical framework for organizations that is already presented in a book and journal.

The scientific foundation for our framework is found in the stewardship theory of management which assumes people are capable of letting the communal interest prevail over self-interest, the self-determination theory which is built upon the basic psychological needs autonomy, competence development and relatedness, and the contingency approach (one size does not fit all).

Finally, we apply our insights into love by developing the Augustine leadership scale. This leadership scale is centered around love (caritas) and prioritizes the community, instead of the individual or the leader. The Augustine leader strives for satisfactory success (satisfactory profit) and deals empathically with the members of the community.

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