With Valentine’s Day coming up, we have love on our minds at ConantLeadership. Not the typical romantic love we feel for our partners, or the familial love we have for our relatives. Rather, we’ve been reflecting on the love we should all try to bring to our work. It’s not that we’re overly sentimental — it’s just we’ve observed that those who want to excel professionally, and lift their performance in an enduring way, do not get very far without caring deeply about what they do. Loving what you do makes you better at it. And, the chance to superbly execute work that matters to you is a privilege. You spend so many of your waking hours immersed in, thinking about, or preparing for the work that you do; if you hope to succeed, shouldn’t you bring a passion and drive to your work that befits the integral role it plays in your life? We think so.
“Work is love made visible.” “ Khalil Gibran
Maybe loving your work won’t guarantee exceptional performance, but every leader we’ve encountered who has achieved sustainably remarkable results has adored, obsessed over, and downright cherished their craft. If you want to be the best you need to bring a devotion that transcends the ordinary — and appropriately honors how much it means to you. Do you love your leadership work enough to let that commitment advance your performance spectacularly? Here are two key indicators you’ve got enough love to exceed your potential in an impactful way “ and the reasons why they boost performance:
1. You still want to do it even when it’s really, really hard.
It has been said again and again, in different variations — that “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While it’s a nice idea, we don’t think it’s exactly right. No matter what you venture to accomplish in life, you will have to work, not only when it’s fun and exciting (which it may often be), but even when it’s demanding and excruciating; anything worth doing is going to feel difficult sometimes. And that’s good. Adversity provides a litmus test for how deep your devotion runs.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” “ Steve Jobs
If you really love leading — you’ll care enough to persevere when the challenges seem insurmountable. When things get tough, that’s when your love helps you show up anyway. When it seems impossible, your love can pull you the extra mile. When you want to give up, the love won’t let you quit. Without a palpable zeal for what you do, you will never push yourself to the extent necessary to achieve breakthrough. But a profound an abiding affection for your work helps you withstand the ups and downs. You’ll endure setbacks and forge ever-forward because you genuinely want to. That’s how you become great. Love engenders gutsy fortitude — which leads to exemplary leadership that can yield tremendous results.
2. You are obsessed with getting better.
Effective leadership requires grit, tenacity, and most of all, lots of practice. Passionate leaders are happy to embrace the terrific effort necessary to become outstanding. When your work is beloved, leaning into it with ever-greater intensity is inevitable — you genuinely strive to be improving all the time. There exists an insatiable thirst for progress that comes from within and propels you forward.
Loving what you do makes you better at it.
One mantra that drives our work, and embodies this spirit, is “we can always do better.” This attitude is borne from a deep affection for the craft of leadership; it celebrates the limitless potential of what can be attained with love-fueled rigor and discipline. Just as you would put the work into a treasured relationship to ensure that it flourishes and grows stronger. Just as the devout marathoner laces up for a run in a torrential downpour, because her will to develop is stronger than her desire for comfort. So too do the highest-performing leaders caringly thrust themselves into the perpetual study of their craft. When you embrace your leadership with ardor, you will be unwaveringly driven to get better. You’ll find yourself consistently “lacing up in the rain” for your leadership, always chasing that next milestone, and reaching upwards. More often than not, this persistence alone can springboard you towards surpassing performance expectations in a meaningful way.
Do you exhibit these two behaviors of love for your leadership? If so, you’re likely on your way to achieving big things. To succeed in this work, you will need to be unmistakably competent; you’ve simply got to be really good to perform at a competitive level. To become great, you must love it enough. Frankly, if you don’t love the pressure, the sweat, and the grind, it just isn’t worth it “ and you’ll never reach a performance level high enough to make a lasting difference. Life is too short to be halfhearted about your work. And people deserve to be led by someone who is passionately entrenched in leading and deeply devoted to conjuring excellent results.