The sixth energetic law of leadership is that of Love and Power. This law, simply stated, is: “The amount of power you have, as a leader, is exactly proportional to the amount of love you can hold. The less your capacity to express and allow love, the less your capacity to express and allow power.”
In order to understand this law, it is important to distinguish between Power and Force. Power is the capacity of a leader to have a particular, transformative impact as they do whatever they do. Force is distinct from Power. You do not need to be forceful to be powerful. You may have had the experience of being around people that spoke with a whisper, but moved an entire room as they did so.
Let’s look at an example to see how this law operates.
Cindy is a leader with a team of ten people. One of those people is Chad. Cindy has enrolled her team in creating a transformational result — a result outside of the scope of what is predictable for themselves, or their company. As Cindy’s team works on the project at hand, and begin to come closer to the point at which they are fully in the unknown, Cindy notices a couple things happening with Chad.
First, Chad is becoming more and more argumentative in meetings. When they are laying out the path forward, Chad has been negative and, rather than contribute more ideas to the approach, has instead taken to criticizing and batting down the ideas offered by others.
Cindy identifies this behaviour as problematic, and, knowing that the team is striving towards something new and unknown, attempts to be powerful by addressing the behaviour.
Cindy’s first approach is to make light-hearted jokes about Chad being a negative nelly, and reminds everyone in the room that the point of brainstorming is to explore all options, regardless of whether they make sense or not. When that doesn’t work, Cindy calls Chad in, and tells him that he needs to start being more positive because he’s having a negative impact on the team. This is an edgy conversation for Cindy to have, but she goes ahead and has it, because she’s committed to being powerful in her role as leader.
Chad tries to show up differently at first, but over time, nothing changes. After a couple of months, Cindy calls him in again, and tells Chad that she’s going to fire him, because his attitude is really poor, and he needs to face the consequences of his actions. Cindy follows up by saying that she doesn’t like doing this, but it’s time Chad had someone really show up for him powerfully.
Now, let’s look at this same example through the lens of what’s going on for Chad, and finally, how this law is operating.
Chad is confronted by the project his team is working on. He’s committed to doing good work, and he really hates producing poor quality work. Chad was raised by parents that were committed to excellence and wanted to imbue their son with a strong work ethic, and so they were often very vigilant about the quality of Chad’s work.
From this upbringing, Chad learned that it’s wrong to produce work that is anything short of excellent, and consequently, has made a habit in life of only taking on things he knows he can do exquisitely. For the most part, Chad is reliable to produce high-quality work, though, at times, this can border on perfectionism and result in delays to deadlines.
Chad’s joined Cindy’s project team, because he was enrolled in the way she talked about what they were creating. The opportunity to create something beyond the realm of what they had created at the company before, and the possibility of creating their own breakthroughs as they did so sounded awesome to Chad.
Chad joins the project, and things are going well until they start to push into the unknown. This triggers all of Chad’s childhood upbringing, and the strategies he’s created to compensate for it. Without a clear path forward, Chad’s confronted by the fact that he, and his team, may well produce a result that is far from exquisite. For the first time in a very long time, Chad is forced to confront the possibility of failure and his internal story about his value.
Below the surface of his awareness, Chad is scared. Unconsciously, he tries to pull the team back towards the path of what is known, by shooting down suggestions that would have them step further off the beaten path. Chad isn’t doing this to be a jerk. He’s doing this because it is all that he knows inside the patterns he’s created to stay safe.
Cindy is oblivious to all of this. Internally Cindy sees Chad showing up the same way she judges herself for. She despises pessimism and conflict, and judges herself each time she notices this tendency in her own space. From her judgment (and the third energetic law) Cindy closes her heart to these tendencies. Rather than being able to connect with Chad, and really determine what is happening below the surface, she meets Chad with the same forcefulness and lack of love she brings to herself. She attempts to stamp out the behaviour, first through indirect passive-aggression, and later, by forcefully calling the behaviour out.
Cindy is attempting to be powerful, but all that Chad experiences is force. Chad is left feeling made wrong for behaviours that he feels are in the best interest of the team. Cindy is left frustrated with Chad because he appears to be deliberately sabotaging her attempts at leadership.
In all of this, Cindy is left powerless. Without the ability to love herself, or Chad, in the midst of his fear, Cindy has no options available other than the same application of force she applies internally. She is unable to make any real difference with Chad, and in the end, simply ends up firing him. She talks about being powerful, but all that she’s really done is continued the same application of force that everyone else does for Chad.
Cindy’s forcefulness can make Chad, or anyone else, do what is required in the moment, but it won’t create any real shift. Cindy’s power is hampered precisely to the extent that she relies on force. She relies on force to compensate for her inability to bring love to the situation.
The more love you can bring, the more power you wield.