I remember the moment well.
We were near the end of the ten-week Creativity course, the time when everything learned in the first half of the class begins to make total sense. My students were beginning to see that everything they needed to be themselves, completely and authentically, was inside, and that the courage to express and share what was inside was fully available in every moment when they were connected to what is within.
At this moment, his eyes beamed. He’d just shared a huge, profound ‘AHA! moment’ with the class, and he was clearly so alive with the experience of his own clarity and recognition. You see he had to get it himself. Each student had to in their own way, on their own terms. This is the nature of being human. We have to have the experience of trusting ourselves deeply in order to bring forth what we long to and what those we work for want us to contribute.
“The people in my classes, including me, did not need to be controlled, managed, nor even taught. What we needed was to be encouraged, accepted, and loved just for who we were. We needed not to be governed by a set of rules that would tell us what we needed to learn and what we needed to express, but to be given time in a supportive space to explore who we were and what we wanted, with the assistance of others who had our best interests at heart. I believe that is true not only for my students, but for all of us, human and nonhuman alike. All we want, whether we are honeybees, salmon, trash-collecting ants, ponderosa pines, coyotes, human beings, or stars, is to love and be loved, to be accepted, cherished, and celebrated simply for being who we are. Is that so very difficult?” Derrick Jensen, A Language Older Than Words
We are living in interesting times, yes? So, how do we lead in these times?
As I considered what is crucial for leaders to embody in a time when everything is changing fast and when we are being called to connect with each other, human to human, and learning how to be more humane in the process, I realized, again, that we need to know we matter, than what lies within us is good and real and alive, and that everything we need to give what we are here to give is waiting inside of us to be shared with the world. And, that through this creativity that we are each so capable of sharing, we will find the new and exciting ideas and possibilities we need to solve our most vexing problems.
We, leaders, need to know this ourselves. And, we need to be able to be with those we lead in the same way one facilitates deep learning. The people we lead will be engaged, alive, creative, and motivated when they know they are ‘loved, accepted, cherished, and celebrated simply for being who’ they are.
How do we do this as leaders? We do it through love, by loving the people we lead, and by loving ourselves first and in the process.
Love is the most powerful force in the world and a love-based leader embodies love because love is what allows human beings to grow into the shape they’ve always meant to be.
When we do not judge a person, or in other words, accept them as they are, they can finally begin to reveal themselves and what they are truly capable of. When they reveal themselves, we can then powerfully receive them and respond to them and what they share.
Instead, when we judge, people feel it, know it, and shut down all of the vital ideas and insights they have inside. When we react out of fear and the need to control, manage, or judge, there is no way people can offer their best.
This is the difference between leading from love and leading from judgment. Judgment is really a form of control. Judgment in this context is dysfunctional in nature because it doesn’t help create functional relationships or resulting behaviors. Judgment is not objective but has its own agenda and its agenda is to keep others, or self, from feeling free to express freely, which is the same as creating freely.
First, we must receive them fully. Receive the person as they are and as they share, fully. Take them in fully — the same way we want to be received. Once they’ve offered what they have to offer, we can meet their ideas with discernment. We don’t reject them through judgment or control.
When we discern, we see with objectivity rather than judgment. Objective intelligence is functional, providing us with functional relationships and behaviors. When we discern others, we don’t try to shut down their expression before hearing it all or try to force it out in certain ways. Rather, as leaders, we create a container psychologically safe and solid enough for people to feel loved and accepted, and then to functionally express their thoughts, ideas, concepts, visions, etc.
With discernment begin to ‘play’ with the ideas and visions. By playing, we can see what’s there, see what might be viable, see where true possibility lies. Everything can be put out on the table. People get to feel creative, heard, and free to express the creative potential that bubbles inside of them.
If we judge, we never get to this wonderful place of possibility.
Andy Sontag writes, “Eminent experience designer Nathan Schedroff did research with over 300,000 people globally trying to understand, ‘What types of meaningful experiences do people value?’ He found what he calls ’15 Core Meanings’ including: accomplishment, beauty, freedom, oneness, wonder… and of course love. These are the things we live for, and thus what we should design for. The experiences that really matter to us are those that are meaningfully life-enhancing.”
As leaders, we are designers of containers in which people can be fully creative, in which they can emerge with everything they have to offer to the organization, community, city, family, the world.
Love-based leadership has many qualities. Here are three:
Love-based leadership holds the space for others to shine, to succeed, to become their whole, full, most expressed selves. Love loves seeing others discover and express their creativity and joy.
In love-based leadership, power is not a zero-sum commodity. True power comes from within. It is generative. It is infinite. It is life-affirming. It is love. It is in this way that love-based leadership shifts away from the need to be in control of others and to the willingness to learn to live our own power from within as leaders. When we do this, it is an invitation to others to do the same.
Becoming a love-based leader requires us to genuinely and sincerely desire to realize the real nature of love. But we don’t have to know this in order to begin. It is by entering into the intention to lead in this way that we learn. Love guides us to listen more deeply to the heart and realize the depth and vastness of the love within each of us.
As leaders, we must come to know how to trust in love, how to be a channel for this great force. Love is abundant in our world. We can learn to open to it, to let it fill our hearts, and to then offer it out into this world that is so thirsty for it.
This is what I do in all that I do as an educator, coach, and spiritual mentor. I hold a container of love so that clients, students, and organizations, can emerge, eyes shining, full of their own ideas and visions, full of the experience of being celebrated and needed. And in that, they also then trust in the power of love, which is truly the source of everything creative.