PHOTO BY TIM MARSHALL
The belief that our ability to influence others requires positions and domination may be an easy conclusion, but some of the most inspirational leaders, such as Gandhi, MLK, and many others, did not possess the highest political or military positions in their societies. However, they were able to exert great influence over many generations to come, while some who did occupied official powerful positions, such as Hitler, were infamously opposite.
I believe love is an often neglected aspect of leadership. It is where each of us can impact those around us, regardless the relative positions we are in. You can be leading others and inspire them from exactly where you are, no more, and no less.
The love I’m talking about is not a feeling that happens to us, nor is it an ideal that we project onto another person; it is a state of being when we leave our ego behind and recognize ourselves in other humans and other creatures. Buddhist teaching puts this truth in the poetic fashion: the relinquishing of a false sense of self, and the acceptance of what is as shared by all humans and creatures – it is called the enlightenment. Love is enlightenment. It is power on the most personal level.
Love is not something we find. It is something we create. For each and every one of us, the experience of love is different, but we all recognize its effects on those around us. It’s about our willingness to let go of our sense of self, and enter into the experience of others. People only allow themselves to open up to our leadership when they know how much we care about them. This is the difference between true leadership and domination. Any domination achieved through force and fear is always temporary and unstable. Leadership through love is durable and empowering.
Many of us, myself included, have searched for the meaning of our existence in philosophy. However, to look for love the same fashion as we look for meaning is ultimately a futile endeavor. This is because love is not out there in the world of ideas; it can only be found in real interpersonal relations. I believe love is our potential capacity to transform lives around us. Its power outlives the effects of prestige and expertise, because it is not tied to our egotistic yearning for recognition and acceptance from the outside world. We tap into the power of love when we help someone, when we decide to care, and when we choose to make a difference in someone’s life. Power of love reveals itself in these little acts of tiny revolutions. It is the greatest thing because everyone of us can partake in loving others.