What It Takes to Change the World

Back in 2016, I published a blogpost called Love and Creative Disruption where I did my best to describe the two forces that in my decades of experience in the field of transformation make great coaching (and by proxy great leadership) great.

Here’s a summary statement:

The two things that the truly great coaches and leaders I’ve known and worked with over the years have going for them are an unconditional love and care for the people they work with and a willingness to be a disruptive force in their lives.

We are creatures of habit and inertia, so without disruption, change is unlikely. That disruption may initially take the form of an external event, like a promotion or firing at work, a health challenge, or a world event. It might be prompted by something you read or something you witness. It can also come unprompted from the inside – something new coming to mind that makes sense or nonsense of how the world looked to you only a moment before.

Whatever form it takes, disruption will always involve the derailing of a habitual train of thought. And the most disruptive forces in the world are love and truth. Click To Tweet

Truth is disruptive because it is undeniable and inarguable, though we may spend our lives denying it and arguing with it nonetheless. As Winston Churchill reputedly said, “Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

While it often seems like what is put forward as truth would more accurately be classified as “strongly held belief” or even “personal opinion said loudly and repeatedly with a tone that implies anyone who disagrees with it is an idiot”, some things are just impersonally true, even if the words people use to describe them may vary wildly.

No “flat earther” has ever fallen off the edge of the planet; no “gravity denier” has ever floated off into space. All people think, although the content and quality of that thinking can vary wildly from person to person and moment to moment. Whatever it is that spins the planets, beats our hearts, and turns acorns into oak trees will continue to do so irrespective of our preferences and beliefs. As Gandhi said, “Truth is God.”

Truth can be a tricky thing to talk about, because it tends to get really personal really quickly and become unhelpfully divisive instead of creatively disruptive.

So while what I’m about to say isn’t intended to be “Truth” with a capital “T”, it points to something that is:

Love and disruption are NOT two tools that transformational leaders use; they are the essence of who transformational leaders are. Click To Tweet

Any leader worth their salt knows when someone needs a hug and when they need a loving, compassionate kick up the backside. But truly great leaders have, at some level, woken up to the love that they are made of. And love itself is the most disruptive force in the universe.

Here’s how the poet Khalil Gibran wrote about it:

When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden. 

For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth. 

Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast. 

All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart. 

But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
I make no claims to know how best to change the world, but I do know what it will take:

  • An openness to look beyond our personal opinions to recognize our shared humanity
  • A willingness to be disrupted and disruptive
  • A reawakening of the love that can never be lost or withheld because it’s always already there inside us

With all my love (and all the love that you are),