Tension, Love and True Leadership

Empathy Kindness Respect


Key Point: One of the profound insights from our friend Jana before she passed away, as highlighted in my previous blog, was “tension hurts.” I just had an opportunity to participate in a deeply personal LEADERSHIP self-assessment. If I had to summarize at least one thing I learned from that process, it is exactly what Jana observed, “tension hurts…” Not the good tension that gets us ready before a “big game,” (you pick the metaphor for “game”). The negative tension that piles on, collects and starts to feel heavy and triggers anxiety… Eventually even anger. One antidote is to do what Jana suggests regarding her learning from cancer…

“I have let go. All those details, little problems are a waste of time. When stuff comes along that starts to clutter up my head, tense up my body, I say ‘whatever,’ let it go, and move on. Life is short, life is important, clutter is useless.”

Another antidote is NOT to let it go (when you can’t seem overlook it). Instead, candidly talk about the seemingly little things that have piled up. If you can’t let it go, it’s better to deal with it. But this takes courage, skill, directness and an openness to effectively talk about it. The giver has to be genuine and the receiver interested.

In either case (letting go or confronting)… Overcoming hurtful tension requires LOVE. Yup… There’s that word again. Is there a place for LOVE in leadership?

The following is from the controversial blogger, Umair Haque, in his recent HBR article, How and Why to Be a Leader (Not a Wannabe).

“True love, the real thing, big-L love — is every bit as much painful as it is pleasant. It transforms us. And that is the surest hallmark of a true leader. They have a thirst not merely for love — but to love; a thirst that cannot be slaked merely through accomplishments, prizes, or honors. It can only, only be slaked through transformation; and that is why true leaders must, despite the price, through the pain, into the heart of very heartbreak itself, lead… And yet… Love, finally, is all: All we have, when we face our final moments, and come to know that life, at last, must have been greater than us if we are to feel as if it has mattered… Even a perfect machine is just a machine… If we are to lead one another, we will need the heresy of love…”

Character Moves:

  1. If you want to lead, you have to learn to LOVE. Loving is being able to “let it go” AND accepting the unpleasantry of having to “confront it.” It takes exceptional self and “other” awareness in determining which action to take. Negative tension hurts. That principle guides the choice.
  2. A true leader is committed to transformation and growth. And that requires the teeter-totter balance between letting go or direct confrontation. Either way it is authentic and only works when it involves a true act of LOVE… Because you deeply care. And to me that is one defining characteristic of true leadership.

Tension doesn’t hurt in the Triangle,