Generating ideas, connections, and action

Standing for Love

I was at the closing session at the International Leadership Association (ILA) when the speaker who took the stage told us she had just heard there had been a mass shooting. Phones lit up as together we all learned the horrifying news that 11 people had been killed at the Tree of Life Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. We stood in stunned silence honoring the lives of those who had died, and as an expression of deep sympathy for their families and neighbors, and for all of those reliving the loss of hate killings in their communities. I speak for all of us at LLC in expressing our love and support to the familes of those lost in Pittsburgh, the synagogue and the city, and to the families of Maurice Stallard and Vicki Jones, two African American who were killed by a white man in Kentuck who first attempted to barge into a Black Church.


I was filled with sadness, outrage, and overwhelmed by the tidal wave of attacks on people of color, immigrants, religious minorities, women, and LGBTQIA communities occuring against a back drop of hateful language that incites and condones these actions. I am fired up with anger about everything I am against. Over the last couple of day, I have been reflecting about what it means to be in a perpetual fighting posture defined by what I am against. Clearly I am against hate, and I don’t want the haters to be the ones defining where my energy is going, to the extent that I am losing touch what it means to be for love.

So I have been thinking about love and how to rekindle it as a centering force alongside the other emotions, and as one that keeps me connected to my values. There was a session at ILA that started with the title “Wild Love.”  Although I was in a different session, I heard stories about this session, and as I understand it through others’ telling, one panelist talked about being in Afghanastan in the military on one of the most dangerous jobs there was, driving the tanks designed to detonate landmines. His trainer told him the thing that would keep him and his crew safe was love. After all of the technical training, he was shocked that this was the thing that mattered most and he set out to create love, taking time to learn each other’s stories and invest in relationships. Out of caring, they checked and doubled checked each other’s gear and kept each other safe. What struck me most about this story is that I tend to think of love as a personal value to bring to leadership (and no doubt it is), and that it is not just personal work.


When we talk about the inner work of leadership, it is often my inclination to think of it as individual work. And yet the attack on the synagogue reminded me that we do have a tradition of healing and nurturing love as collective work and in community. It’s not surprising that churches and other places of worship where this collective work is nurtured have been targets of hate groups. We can cultivate love as a collective endeavor in our places of worship, neighborhoods, and yes, leadership programs. I have always said we are stronger and smarter together. I also believe we can be more loving together, and in times like this I am finding the need to be in this kind of relationship with others. Ironically, I missed the Wild Love session because I was in a session on how we measure the progress and contributions of leadership programs. While we had good conversations about seeing concrete results, the past few days have reminded me that we will not make progress without hope and love, the intangibles that may be an even better predictor of our path and progress towards justice.


It would be great to hear from leadership programs about how you foster love as a leadership value, and how you value love (and observe it) as a critical part of you leadership development work.