Imagine a business world where the power of love was balanced with the love of power let alone being able to overcome it?
On Sunday morning I was nonchalantly reading through articles on the internet while intermittently sipping a good cup of tea – thinking “ah – yes, that hit the spot.”
Then, I read something that hit the spot in a completely different way! It stopped me in my tracks, my cup of tea, like my disbelief, was suspended in mid-air, and I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that said, “oh no, that is just shocking.”
There are many things going on in the world that folk might ‘judge’ as shocking however it was the ordinariness of this particular situation that caught me off guard.
The article wasn’t about poorly paid factory workers in unsafe conditions in a remote village in India, it wasn’t about animals being transported live in horrific conditions and it wasn’t about children working long hours for a paltry wage instead of being at school.
The article I read was about a highly successful organization from which I regularly buy products and you too, I’d hazard a guess. It was founded and is run by a man with what can only be described as,‘incredible vision.’
However, the experience for people working in that organization, according to the article, makes it sound like a cult. It appears that brilliantly educated talented and creative people have joined this organization in droves and quickly become encouraged, or brainwashed might be a better word, into throwing themselves and their personal values away. They allow themselves to be flogged into being better and better, and delivering more and more in return for small morsels of praise and the odd pay rise and promotion that temporarily relieves their depleted sense of self-worth.
These days, I hear many conversations asking why would bright young people join a terrorist organization? But many of the same people who are asking that question are themselves insidiously being manipulated within a corporate organization that regards them as human capital. They’re working for people who frankly don’t care about them at all. None of these leaders are bad people – they’re all good people who’ve become lost in the seductive world of power and control. But who would want to follow someone who has become lost, regardless of how confidently lost they are?
The trouble is that, when you’re in it you’re really in it and you can’t see it. The example that I read about this morning isn’t isolated – it’s commonplace and most of us accept it as, ‘just the way things are in the world of big business.’ We reframe it as “a learning experience” or “character-building” when in-fact, we’re in denial about the craziness of it all.
However even in the sleep of denial, you can feel that something isn’t right and the impact may be visible in your world. It looks like exhaustion, depression, anxiety, digestive problems, relationship breakdown, feeling as if you’re constantly on a treadmill or indefatigably climbing the side of a never-ending cliff. And more insidiously, the adrenaline-rush from all that fear is like living your life in a movie-thriller. For a while it’s energizing and exciting so that you think, “wow, this is great.”
But adrenaline is a chemical that courses through our veins in times of distress. It is incredibly useful in dangerous situations but constantly pouring into our bloodstream, it has devastating effects on our bodies. Adrenaline is addictive and contrary to popular belief – being an adrenaline-junkie is not something that deserves an endurance award, it is as insane as being an alcoholic or a drug-addict.
Now, there is a simple way out of this insanity, although that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
I’ve recently been on a trip to California and spent some time at Santa Cruz University. There, scrawled on a wall is a quote from Jimi Hendrix that goes;
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the earth will know peace.”
When I clocked that, it resonated with the same spot as the tea and the business story that shocked me this morning.
Imagine a business world where the power of love was balanced with the love of power let alone being able to overcome it? Imagine having a business vision that came from the heart and was about adding value for some group of people in the world. Indeed, often, that is how businesses start-out – there’s a heart-felt vision and other folk want to get onboard with it. Then, as the business becomes more powerful, that sense of power becomes addictive so that instead of financial success being the result, it becomes the driver and instead of the vision being led by a passion to create value for people it becomes a play for world domination. When that happens there’s no longer a visionary leader at the helm, instead there is a megalomaniac driving the truck of the business.
The balance between the love of power and the power of love is simply a choice.
So, here’s a question to ask about every corporate organization your work for or engage with;
“What is the balance between the love of power and the power of love in this company or organization?”
And now for the clincher – what are you doing to restore the balance? Because remember, businesses and organizations are made-up of human-beings with brilliant minds, hearts and souls, so here’s an even more profound question to ask yourself;
“What is the balance between the love of power and the power of love within me, today?”
After all, as Viktor Frankl reminded us, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning; the greatest power we all have is to choose our own way.
Claire Taylor is a Corporate Storyteller/Speaker, International Business Consultant, Trainer, Author and Co-founder of The Story Mill – a business that uses storytelling and advanced communication tools to propel businesses to even greater success by enhancing business relationships.