There's one characteristic the best leaders in the world have, but most people are uncomfortable talking about it: love


melinda gates

  • A common trait the world’s best leaders exhibit is love, says billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates. 
  • The same can be true of workplace managers who create loving environments and empathize with their staff, Gates told Business Insider US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell.
  • Gates described how she created a positive work environment during her time as a manager at Microsoft.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The world’s greatest leaders, from Marin Luther King Jr. to Nelson Mandela, all exhibited one trait that rarely gets talked about: love.

The best leaders can also empathize with others, which is an extension of love, billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates says.

“Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world. You don’t hear about it in policy discussions or political debates,” Gates wrote in her book, “The Moment of Lift.”

“Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Ghandi, Dorothy Day, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King Jr. all did hard-headed, tough-minded work for social justice, and they all put the emphasis on love. It’s a mark of our culture’s uneasiness with love that political candidates never talk about it as a qualification for holding public office.” 

Read more: How to solve a problem with no apparent solution, according to top problem solver Melinda Gates

Gates recently sat down with Business Insider US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell to discuss her book and solutions to the world’s biggest problems, like poverty and inequality. She said the same principles of leading with love can extend beyond politics and into the workplace.

Managers should express love and empathy for their employees, especially during difficult times in their personal lives. In doing so, workers feel more comfortable being themselves at work. Gates said while you should keep your personal problems at home, an organization that encourages everyone to feel comfortable with one another has the most success.

“When you reach out and connect with somebody over their humanity, that ultimately is love — whether you name it or not,” Gates told Business Insider.

Gates strove to create a positive work environment during her time as manager at Microsoft. Coming out of Duke University with a masters degree in business, Gates felt uncomfortable with Microsoft’s aggressive, competitive environment. While she contemplated leaving at first, Gates decided to stay and ended up attracting people from all over the company to join her team.

When coworkers asked how she attracted so many talented engineers, Gates said she remained true to herself, and that led to a more welcoming work environment where people eventually began requesting to join her team.

“In my view, love is one of the highest qualifications one can have,” Gates wrote in her book.

“As one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, says, ‘Only love can safely handle power. For me, love is the effort to help others flourish—and it often begins with lifting up a person’s self-image.”

Read Melinda Gates’ full interview with Business Insider, or watch below »


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