Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Leadership: Power and Love

“What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Martin Luther King Jr.

This quote from MLK points to an interesting approach to leadership. In Adam Kahane's book, Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change, he describes the various roles of power and love in leadership styles and the importance of needing both power and love for effective leadership and social change. Within power there is "power to," which presents a viable force and "power over" which can be very destructive. Either power or love on it's own will not suffice for effective leadership. Kahane uses the example of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December 2009. At this world gathering he points out how the power from the government and business leaders did not mix well with the love and visioning approach of the civil society groups. The result was a disconnect between the two groups which resulted in neither side working effectively together towards a comprehensive agreement. 

In an age in which hundreds of leadership books and articles describe various leadership styles, it is refreshing to see the role of these simple attributes--power and love--and examine how they impact  leadership. This is particularly important as a way of understanding the drivers behind the negotiations on climate change and a myriad of other environmental issues that call upon us to cooperate and find common ground.

For a video segment describing the correlation between power and love, see Kahane's talk at: