Embracing love: The transformative power for leaders and citizens alike

Group of people on peak mountain climbing helping team work in a success concept. [Getty Images]

Citizens want to be loved. What does loving citizens look like?  It looks like a leader in tears upon encountering a poor student who has to forfeit a slot in a prestigious high school for lack of money. Love looks like a leader seething with righteous anger because of a contractor’s substandard works. Love looks like a senior officer resigning as a matter of principle when a scandal happens under their watch.  Love looks like a president who leads the nation in truth – even when the truth hurts him.

Some leaders distance themselves from love as if their positions and roles have nothing to do with it. They think of love as too sentimental for business. But Calvary was all other things but soft. It was divine love going against the rough of all roughs and coming out on top.  Others perceive love as too simple to apply in complex situations.  Such thinking  loses standing when we understand that to save the world – the most complicated of missions – God chose the love way.  All other assignments rank lower! If love saves the world then it is sure familiar with the complex.  Others think love as too sanitized to get into political messes.  This misses the point that the crucifixion was a mess staged to eliminate the power of God so that the power of religious leaders would remain safe.

Many leaders erect a fence around love and domicile it to the realm of religion. They present God’s love as irrelevant and unwelcome in secular spaces.  But if Jesus came to redeem sin, where sin is Jesus must be. The “big-five” sins are abundantly in the corporate in the form of corruption, oppression, deception, manipulation and pride.  Jesus is not only for the “informal” sector. Even corporate institutions need Jesus to fix their share of sin!

Many Kenyan politicians do not like the subject of freedom fighters. Why? It will predictably lead to the question “How far are you willing to go for your people?” Fact is that today’s crop is not in power to suffer. Far from it! They’re in it to laugh, I mean eat - not die!

Love is a low-lying fruit that many leaders choose to bypass. It is underrated. When made the centre of a community’s life, love becomes a creative hub.  The creative question is: How do we bring love to the people in their specific communities?  This question will never lose relevance and resultant strategies will never satiate the need for love. The Good News is that the stocks of love are inexhaustible. While Adam and Eve ate from a tree that killed them, love is the tree from which we all must eat to live and live well.

Some political leaders avoid the subject of love because they are afraid that love will judge them and reorganize their lives to a point of discomfort. They cannot look love in the eye because their ways make them guilty.  They cannot look love in the eye because they fear love with demand a lot.  They cannot look love in the eye because they fear a power transfer, with more power to the people! They feel love is too powerful and they fear being taken over.  They feel naked under the lenses of love. Love is understood by many as an enemy of power, as if to love is to become powerless. This conceals the truth that love is the greatest power.

Love has revolutionary power.  When people love one thing and come together for it, not even death scares them.  Martyrdom is accepted even before it comes. Ammunition-wise, Kenya’s freedom fighters were no match for the British. But their love for country and passion for freedom were overpowering.  The battle was won at the heart level, not the armory level. Love has creative power in that it is always an eye-opener and connectedly, a mind-opener. Solutions to challenges of our nation should not start with outward solutions but by locating the people and recording their “heart-beat.” The resultant “cardio” intelligence informs policy.  The heart of the leader must locate the heart of the people in pursuit of harmony.  Heart-based policies are hard to beat.  The legacy of love-based leaders endures and their memory never loses inspiration. Lip level players are pretentious and their legacies do not endure. 

Love gives people an identity. Such an identity is anchored on the one loving them.  When God is the source of love, people freely access the largeness of God by saying, “I’m a child of God.”  Spiritual identity will always supersede national identify.  People are likely to give more loyalty to their God than to their country.  It is possible to tap into this transcendent allegiance when government poses as an agent of God’s mission.

Many leaders interact with those they lead only for ceremonial purposes. They do not live among them. Part reason is that they fear the poor may be too demanding to the extent that they too are impoverished.  A leader who is afraid of sharing their wealth with the needy is poor already.  The presence of selfishness evidences the presence of poverty.  A mean leader will never be a loving leader. A mean leader sees needy people as an inconvenience and not an opportunity.  The presence of love even in the absence of things is a sign of great wealth.  But is public leadership not -at its core- service to the people? Where there is service, love preceded it. Service and love are inseparable.  

A leader who runs away from love is therefore unfit for public service.  A leader must befriend love so as to engage the hearts of the people.  A love-driven leader is bound to be way more effective and thus more endeared than a love-avoiding leader. Ceremonial love betrays itself. It is lip service - a non-living skit. Synthetic love self-destructs and it is just a matter o time before such leaders are exposed for who they truly are.

When people love their country, paying taxes is a noble thing. When people doubt their country, paying taxes is a resisted thing. When people feel loved, they will even voluntarily propose more taxation!  People are not taxed to force a love for country. Also a love for country cannot be imagined – it either exists or not.  When policy makers move with an imagined love, it is just a matter of time before the waxed wings begin to come apart.