Love and Power

Power without love is reckless and abusive, and
love without power is sentimental and anemic
— Martin Luther King

In a recent post, I wrote about “bold and beautiful aspirations.”  Here’s mine. I want to reunite love and power in organizations.

See, my thing is about love. Not the Hallmark card kind but the stuff that fuels powerful action in the world. The love that inspires “right action” or authentic action.

Love is our drive to connect, to care about others’ needs and concerns. Power is the drive to fulfill our potential, achieve our goals, make a difference. Taken together, love and power are a potent pair. One without the other can make a real mess! (See Paul Tillich’s “Love, Power and Justice” for more on this.

Power with love as its partner is generative power. It’s “power to” and “power with” – not “power over.” It’s a power that takes into account both the needs of the whole and of the parts, not one at the expense of the other.

Love with power as its partner is generative love. It’s a love that doesn’t martyr itself for the sake of harmony but allows self realization and unity to come together. (Adam Kahane writes about this in the context of social change.)

Yes, I know – this conversation can take on a very philosophical or idealistic tone. But if you know me, you’ll remember that “pragmatist” is my middle name.

So let’s make this practical!

We start by noticing which drive is showing up in our own actions moment to moment. We all have both inside us. Each of us tends to favor one more than the other. As you become aware of which you tend to favor and how it shows up for you, look for places to introduce the less favored drive.

This simple practice (repeated over time) will help you begin to reconnect love and power. And that’s a beautiful thing!