Social change expert Adam Kahane suggests that to master complex challenges, leaders need to learn to act and empathize simultaneously.
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 without love,” said King, “is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
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.
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