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08 January, 2013

by Genevieve Boast

‘What is love?’ This is a question I am asked often in my line of work. In our society we tend to have a rather distorted, twisted view of love governed by largely by the media and our socialisation process as children - a  ‘fairy tale’ view of love that, if we stop and look beneath the surface of what it means, is more akin to feelings of ‘need’ and ‘codependency’ than anything else. With this romantic, dependent notion as the backdrop, we wonder how we could ever introduce the concept of ‘love’ into business, let alone lead from a place of love.

Genevieve  Boast
Genevieve Boast
My own learning of what ‘real love’ is took place early in my career when I was faced with a decision whether I was able to love myself enough to keep my integrity as a leader. At age 22, I found myself falling out of university into a job at a local logistics company. With little to no practical experience of leadership, my youthful tenacity and enthusiasm saw me promoted quickly up the ranks. A young businesswoman in a very masculine leadership culture, I found myself within the first year leading a team of 17 people (most of them older than myself), with responsibility for the tracking of expensive electronic equipment for a major multinational customer.

Towards the end of the year, while I was investigating discrepancies that had shown up, I realized that the company I was working for had lost / misplaced / misappropriated a large amount of the customer’s stock, an amount of almost a million pounds sterling.

After the initial wave of disbelief had subsided I ‘took stock’! I wandered round the warehouse double-checking and found myself looking at empty pallet spaces where the system said was full of product. I asked around in the warehouse to see if this was a genuine mistake and was told to 'mind my own business'. Concerned, I spoke with my line manager who could not have been more dismissive, shrugging it off as 'warehouse system issues'. I knew better and knew I was being fed excuses.

Given that I was responsible for the equipment tracking I knew deep in the bottom of my stomach that the ‘right thing to do’ was to report the truth to our customer (with whom I had a very deep, trusting and honest relationship). I also felt that in doing so, I would probably lose my job in the process. My reaction? I spent three days in pure fear. I was scared of losing everything—my job, my source of income, my reputation, my credibility, my career prospects... everything. My mind had a field day creating every dark story of career-related doom it could imagine. But I emerged from these three dark days knowing I really only had one choice if I was ever going to be able to live with myself again. I had to tell the truth and I did.

Without wanting to sound too biblical, on the morning of the fourth day, I walked into work very early and locked myself in the computer control room. I gulped, breathed deep and summoned the courage to pick up the phone and call our customer. I told him the truth of what I had discovered.

Our customer was very grateful and promised to protect me where he could although I remember feeling that there was no way he could help. There was only one person who could have found this out and reported it and that was me. My working life became hell from here on in because everyone at my company knew it was me but had no proof. I decided to do the only thing I could and leave. I had done the right thing and I knew it was time to move on no matter what that move into the unknown would bring me to.

After I had set up an interview and was organising myself to go, I called our customer and told him I was leaving. There was initially silence on the end of the phone, then: 'Don't move, we will call you back in half an hour.' Interested I waited. Half an hour later, the phone rang and it was a voice I didn’t immediately recognise. The voice said that he wanted to create a job for me within our customer’s business because he was so impressed by the way I had handled the relationship and decision in integrity. The role of ‘Stock Integrity Manager’! He offered me more money and a fabulous new role in their organization... a career move that has taken me on quite a journey since then and led me to where I find myself now, living my dreams and traveling the world as the Global Ambassador for Think Love, reminding people to get in touch with their deep values and ethics to live and lead from a place of love. Never could I have imagined the career or personal path of learning and exploration that has unfolded for me in the years that followed.

The story doesn’t end here. The voice on the end of the phone? Well, five years after hiring me, that voice turned out to be the man who has now become my life partner. One thing led to another. We connected on an authentic level beyond our working relationship and fell deeply in love. That three-day choice to be in my truth and integrity has changed my life forever.

In this early experience, I chose a path of true love of self as a way of operating within business. Loving myself enough to commit to living and leading from a place of integrity, honesty and expression of my values, no matter what the resulting consequences seemed to be at the time. In choosing this path again and again since and leaping off the cliff into the abyss, not knowing what will happen as a result, I have proved to myself and others that we can fly when we live by our truth and don’t follow the crowd.

When we choose to love ourselves enough to live by our ethics and integrity, we automatically create an environment around us where others feel safe to do the same. We first lead ourselves from a place of love and then others into this place for themselves. We create coherence with a deeper, more authentic and human way of doing business.

In that moment as well as many others since then I committed to only ever walking the path of my truth and loving myself enough to always ‘do the right thing’. This is a powerful choice that anyone can make and continue to make each and every day of their lives.

Genevieve Boast is a life adventurer, writer, storyteller and leadership coach. Her own leadership story has included experience in continuous improvement, corporate social responsibility and leadership development. She also works closely with Think Love, a global company that reminds people of the power of living lives based on love and truth. She comes originally from Colorado and now lives in England.

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