The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

On loving in leadership

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features of the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” – Viktor Frankl in “Man’s Search for Meaning”

As Ed Batista points out, Frankl gave a powerful definition of leadership by putting love at its center.

It may also be a way to understand love in a broader sense than the one suggested by Hollywood.

It serves the idea that helping others realize their fullest potential will also contribute to the success of the organization. One may also assume that their fullest potential involves their ability to do the same with others leading to teams that thrive together.

There are two points of attention I’ve learned to see as useful reminders.

Love is to be distinguished from happiness or harmony. While it may lead to them, they will not be constantly present as they are not the objective of such love. It is helping others to realize their fullest potential. This also means that it isn’t about the self, it is about the other. There is no reward to be expected apart from seeing someone realize more and more of his potential.

Another person’s fullest potential is their potential. It pays to remain aware of the dynamics of projection. Helping others is neither the potential someone might project onto them nor is it about realizing that potential with a prescriptive path. Pushing someone into a role they are not yet mature enough to take up is for example projecting one’s hopes onto that person. Having an idea of what that person needs to work on or what agency that person needs to develop are ways to project one’s understanding of growth onto someone else. While this may happen out of appreciation and care for the person it misses out on seeing the other person through a lens of love. It’s that lens that enables one to see what potential is in that person. Without it, there is confusion between one’s desires for that person and what the other person is willing to want. In terms of relationship, it tells the difference between controlling, that is having power over, and enabling someone.

It makes love essential to this definition of leadership. And makes it a powerful and beautiful means of leadership.


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