"War, huh, yeah, What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, uhh..." Edwin Starr, 1970
Perhaps, like me, you are old enough to remember this song. Perhaps you are even older, and remember World War II. Perhaps, you are younger and remember other wars: the Vietnam War, the War in Afghanistan, and so many others. And perhaps, like me, this week you are watching in shock, horror and disbelief as Ukraine was invaded by Vladimir Putin's Russian army. And throughout this week, as I've watched and listened to news broadcasts of families huddled in bomb shelters, countless refugees fleeing under deplorable conditions, women and children being separated from their husbands, brothers and fathers, civilians being targeted and killed and soldiers on both sides dying, the sound of Edwin Starr's song, and it's lyrics, have been playing constantly in the back of my head...because no matter how anyone looks at it, war is not good for anything. Or anyone. Anywhere.
What is war? Well, it's many things, and I'm sure if you Googled it, that you'd find many definitions, but when it comes right down to it, from the Kind Leadership perspective, war is the ultimate outcome of the combination of failures of kindness and leadership.
War is the ultimate failure of kindness, because as defined in The Kind Leader, kindness is "an action (or set of actions) connecting a person's internal feelings of empathy and compassion to others that is undertaken with the purpose of generating a positive outcome and effect for another." Killing people, destroying property, razing cities and countries, devastating economies and harming the natural environment is the polar opposite of generating a positive effect. And those who lose loved ones, their homes and are displaced by acts of war will carry these negative effects with them forever.
War is also the ultimate failure of leadership, because leaders who start wars give those who follow them both a model for violence and unkindness, and permission to act in ways that create fear and divide, not trust and connection. Leaders who start wars are often focused on themselves, their own gains, and the 'ends'...not the means. And, in the current system, when one leader starts a war, it's likely that the other leader will have to respond with violence as well.
So what can be done? How can we prevent war in the future? It won't be easy. But we need to do it. And the way to do it? Change the system. Instead of teaching leaders that "kindness is weakness", we need to teach leaders how to practice Kind Leadership: How to model acting, speaking and thinking kindly. How not to focus on the 'ends' (money, the need to expand and grow without bounds and regard for others), but on the 'means'...treating all people with respect and kindness and inclusion. This will break the unkind 'cycle of fear' that creates escalation after escalation and leads, in the end, to war. Kind Leadership can replace that vicious cycle of fear with a virtuous cycle that creates trust and connection instead.
Will it be easy to break the cycle? Will it be easy to change the current system? No. But that is okay. Because as human beings we can do difficult things that take time. And kindness isn't weakness, it's actually strength. Now is the time to start, and you can start to break the cycle. All you need to do is start. Think, Speak and Act Kindly, and join our Kind Leadership community.
Because no matter how you look at it, war isn't good for anything or anybody.
You can download a printable pdf, by clicking on this image. KindLeadership.org condemns the war in Ukraine. Unkindness only leads to more unkindness. And harm. The antidote for unkindness is kindness. Today, and each day, as we go through this world crisis, please do an act of kindness in honor of the people who are in harm’s way. Your act of kindness, combined with those of others, will change the world for the kinder and better. There are no winners in war. Until everyone is safe, and treated with kindness, none of us are.