Personal Empowerment & Leadership Skills

Excerpt from the ‘Social Dimension’ of Gaia Education’s online course in ‘Design for Sustainability

“Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.”

— World Bank

  • Repressive power suppresses the life force in individuals, society and nature.
  • Creative power implies a gift of our individual wisdom and beauty to enhance the process of life.

“Hope is a verb, with its sleeves rolled up!” ­

-- David W. Orr

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love with out power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

- Martin Luther King Jr.

Here is a short video (90sec) of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking about the relationship between love and power.

Repressive Power versus Creative Power

  • There is not enough for everybody on this planet;
  • The world is made up of separate entities (the story of separation of self & world, and humanity & nature);
  • Misinterpreting Darwin’s theory of evolution as a struggle for survival in which only the fittest (rather than the most fitting) will win;
  • We excuse competitive behaviour as ‘human nature’ whereas modern science shows that our species evolved through cooperation;
  • Being sensible means doing things we do not wish to do; and
  • Defences are needed for us to survive in this hostile environment; others will take advantage of any weakness we show.
  • Our planet is, in essence, a place of abundance and plenty if wisely managed;
  • Life is continuously offering us the best opportunities for growth;
  • Viable solutions are those that satisfy the needs of all those involved, leading to win-win situations; Win-win solutions are always possible;
  • Viable solutions are necessarily based upon respect for the needs of all beings that live on our planet; and
  • Humans have the same basic needs all around the world (food, shelter, meaningful work, love, and respect) [… together we can co-create collaborative abundance to help everyone meet those needs.]

The Dynamic of Power

“To experience empowerment we must act on a sense of self worth, value and give voice to our own needs, and give equal validity to our own needs as to others. As we develop a sense of empowerment, we begin to discover that a conflict of needs actually can present us with a creative challenge to imagine solutions that can empower all parties involved.”- Judy Lightstone

The Drama Triangle (Source)
Here is a link to a TED talk (16min) by Adam Kahane on his excellent short book Power and Love — A Theory and Practice of Social Change (2009). It offers an excellent exploration of many global examples of the dynamics of power playing out in social change.
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Daniel Christian Wahl

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures