We tend to think we have a choice between love and power. We need more of both.
Adam Kahane’s book Power and Love was a revelation to me when I read it years ago. Kahane highlights that effective social change relies on both power and love. We fall short if we rely only on our idealist tendencies to focus only on love or its many other related manifestations, compassion, empathy, generosity and more. Power is always in the room and must always be engaged, if only to be acknowledged. Importantly, denying our own power weakens advocacy.
We are deeply engrained to see power and love as alternatives. From the fickleness of childhood memory, a parent is either harsh or loving. We fail to appreciate that the harshness might have been out of love, an attempt to protect and preserve. There will always be bad and abusive parents, but the many are those who express their love both in tenderness and in a fierce form of protection.
In a world of digital separation, we need more power AND more love if we are to create the change we desire. We cannot increase autonomy without increasing both support for individuals to grow capability and increasing accountability. Both sides of that support can be scary: acknowledging how much you need to grow to succeed and owning your own power to do so.
The standard metaphors of power all invoke distance and uncaring. We need new models that acknowledge we can exercise our power for the love of others, for their betterment and for their realisation of potential. Power need not be extractive. It can be generative and compassionate. For it to do so will take more power and more love.
Trickle down of power, wealth and prosperity is failing us with greater inequality, greater division and a slide to populist autocracy. Reality is that’s not how power, wealth and equality have ever been created. Each have risen from the bottom up by those who embrace more love of their fellows and more exercise of their personal power. If we follow them, perhaps we have a chance to turn the tide.