Adam Kahane’s book Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change (Berrett-Koehler, 2010) opens with a quote from one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speeches, his last presidential speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:
”Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economical change…
And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites – polar opposites – so that love is identified with the resignations of power and power with the the denial of love.
Now we have to get this thing right.
What we need to realize is that power with out love is reckless and abusive and love with out power is sentimental and anemic. It is precisely this collision of immoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our time.”
Adam Kahane was interviewed for an article in strategy & business, that starts out like this
This is a concept that business leaders need to understand, because in times of crisis (and afterward), the people of an enterprise are put under a great deal of stress. Many people in major corporations today are still wondering if they will lose their jobs. A system that follows only the impulses of compassion and solidarity (which Kahane calls love) will lose its competitiveness; a system that follows only the impulses of resolve and purposefulness (which he calls power) will sacrifice its people heedlessly and risk its capability for growth and recovery. A mix of power and love, however, becomes a stance that a leader can hold, and this stance may, in the end, be the single most important factor in enabling a leader to accomplish great things.
If you think about it, the essence of leadership is skilfully working this balance. It is what leaders do. It is the key to understanding how teams function.
But very few are actually aware that this Power & Love dynamic is present – let alone what their default operating mode is. It was definitely a big eyeopener for me.
It is clearly a concept that we need to work into our GROW leadership curriculum in the future.
Read the full interview here