Love and Power: Setting meaningful direction

By Matthew

· 6 min

“I want you to look at all your work, and ask yourselves two questions.

Where is the love in this? And where is the power?”

LaTosha Brown, Founder of Black Voters Matter, at ComNet 2023

When I do work on storytelling, I talk a lot about openings. We like movies that start with jokes, stunts, peril. So why do we start our presentations with apologies, pre-ambles and agendas?

Now, I’ve now seen LaTosha Brown present, and her presence is at a different level. She strolls out onto the stage…and begins to sing. With a deep, powerful, emotive voice. It is truly electric.

But it’s how she finished her talk that stuck with me most. It was with an exhortation to everyone in the room to look at everything we do, big or small, with a search for love and power.

Love: Does this work derive from a love of people? From an understanding of what they really need? That genuinely tries to make their lives better?

Power: Is this going to make a real difference? Are we giving the power to people to make it happen?

The topics LaTosha Jackson works on are some of the most serious and divisive issues of our time.

The audience for this speech was a room full of communicators for good – whose goals are the health, unity and empowerment of communities.

Many of you will not work in these fields, or with these kinds of problems.

But does that mean these questions are irrelevant?

I don’t think so.

Strategic work of any kind that is worth doing, that is going to achieve anything of substance, whatever the field, demands an answer to both of these questions.

Meaningful visions

Being a strategic generalist, I get asked all kinds of questions. How should I evolve my product? What’s my brand architecture? And, of course, how do I get more money, without spending a lot of money?

But the question, really, is always – “Where are we going? How do we get there?”

The easy part of any kind of strategy is always finding the problems in the status quo. Every organisation comprises frictions, missed opportunities, failed endeavours, unfulfilled demands. Elevating these can enable decision-making, albeit of the whack-a-mole variety.

The harder part of strategy is the mystical art of projection. How do we know what we want to become?

There are plenty of deeply analytical ways of trying to create projections. But there is still no substitute for vision.

And vision generally comes from an optimistic and humane view of a world that could be better for having a better version of you in it.

As the hype-bubble around brand purpose ebbs, there’s a temptation to retrench from humane visions. And it’s certainly possible to create plans for the near future that are functional and materialistic. Just as it’s possible to create visions of the future that are inauthentic and overblown.

But a vision that sustains you over time and through tough barriers will need to be substantive, and energetic.

It will be need to derive from an enduring understanding of how to make people’s lives better.

It will need to contain a willingness to devolve influence away from the centre, to people with more diverse roles, and skills, and motivations, without losing its focus.

Love, and power.

Where is the love?

People find the anchor of their long-term vision in different places. I almost always find it in the same places – and both those places are about empathy.

The first is empathy for the aspirations of your people.

A strategic decision is an act of service to your current team, and to those who will join you along the way.

To make it, you need to understand what they really want, how their work can elevate them, how it can bring them together more closely as a group.

It requires a lot of listening, a lot of discussion, and a fair degree of intuition.

The second is empathy for the needs of your future audience.

A strategic decision is an act of service to a future customer, partner or user.

This can be even harder – because you are trying to empathise with a person who as yet has neither form, nor substance.

This requires imagination. The ability to imagine a future person who will look at what you’ve done, and say, ‘thank you’. A future person who won’t have to worry about the guilt or worry of taking on a new way of thinking, because you are one step ahead of them, and you are ready to take it off the table.

Giving power

It’s rare to meet a strategic thinker that doesn’t instinctively want to centralise, organise, and simplify in a way that controls decision-making.

It’s an instinct that’s fundamental to the strategic thinking process itself, and it’s notable that lots of the enthusiastic strategic thinkers, from Gordon Brown to Pep Guardiola, become notorious for their control freakery.

It has also, perhaps, been one of my own biggest derailers as a leader.

But hopefully, belatedly, my perspective on this is becoming more mature. And my practice increasingly recognises the importance of giving power.

The best strategies are built with a deep understanding of a diverse set of perspectives, leading to strong thinking and a much more profound understanding of the risks of failure. 

Yes, the process of taking clear decisions and synthesising them into a simple form tends to be a concentrated act – but a crucial part of the strategic process, without which it cannot be complete, is to democratise the application of those decisions. To give a sense of meaning, of autonomy, and of progress, to everyone on whom the effort of getting there relies.

Meaningful strategy starts with love, and is delivered with power.

This is the first of a three-part series – the next will be about communication.

If this piece prompted an interesting thought, get in touch!

Hook Strategy helps organisations to move forwards with shared strategic clarity. If you are an organisation seeking unified thinking, get in touch at or by calling +44 (0)7780 481717.

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