As we at SixSEED Partners live our declaration of being part of creating a just and equitable culture where health is a right for all, we notice our own internal “no more” struggles that put us squarely in the tension between peaceful protest/establishing clear boundaries AND Showing Understanding/Compassion/Forgiveness. We’ve been listening to our clients as they encounter their own “no more” struggles and navigate difficult and emotional conversations about racism, antiracism and white privilege. It is our belief that especially now — an essential leadership competency is the ability to leverage the polarity of Power And Love.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” ― Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Power and Love Defined:
We view the tension of Power and Love as part of our SEEDS of “Leadership,” “Culture,” and “Well-Being”. We’re not alone. Several popular leadership and social change books have been written based on that quote. (See: Adam Kahane: “Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change,” 2009; and, Barry Oshry “Power and Love: A systems perspective: http://newstories.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Power-and-Love.pdf)
We articulate below what we define as Power and Love:
Power – Spaces and Processes for Differencing
A Leader generates trust by making it safe for individuals to stand in their strength and voice their unique differences – and serves to create a strong Culture / Well-Being.
Love – Spaces and Processes for Integrating
A Leader generates trust by promoting shared values for equity and fairness to connect and unify to accomplish common goals and shared objectives – and serves to create a strong Culture / Well-Being.
Racial and Health Inequity: Power AND Love Tension in Operation
Recently, SixSEED provided support to a senior leader who described himself as, the “new kid on the block.” A person of color who had joined a predominantly white tenured senior leadership team. He was struggling. In his new role, it seemed that compared to his colleagues, it was seldom if ever being asked about his perspectives. When he volunteered his perspectives, it seemed they were pretty quickly dismissed. Add what he described as a “hierarchy-of-influence” — his support function was less “professional” than those of his mostly white colleagues who were “at top of the pyramid.” Add to this — his staff were also mostly people of color and frustrated by the perspectives he was attempting to share – and he was caught in the middle. Political tensions rooted in racial and health inequity dynamics were adding fuel to the fire and all this “adding-up” was taking a toll. One question was, “where do you even start?”
Mapping the Tension
We know from Oshry’s work that Top, Middle, and Bottom stories in organizations involve not just the hierarchical relationship – there are also conditions. At different times, we can be a Top, Middle or Bottom — at different times and for different work processes. One place to start is by heightening awareness of the polarity of Power And Love as we move through these conditions as leaders. The attached Polarity Map for Power And Love includes Action Steps that offer possibilities to intervene in the processes of “holding space” to honor differences and Commonalities. These processes are less about “who’s right” or “who’s wrong” and more about the spaces themselves – the seeing differences and commonalities.
The Polarity Map on the following page summarizes elements from Oshry’s work. If you’d like your own editable polarity map to give yourself the systemic view of the tensions you are navigating, complete this contact form and indicate “requesting Power And Love polarity map.”
We’d like to hear how you’re navigating this tension. Additionally, if you have questions about how you, your team, or your organization might apply this method now, send us a message and we’ll contact you within 1 business day to help guide. and support you.