Right at General Electric; Wrong on Love

by DanWolgemuth on February 15, 2016

zerosum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participant(s).

Welcome to leadership in the Jack Welch era of General Electric. I lived it. I performed inside of it. At the outset, this concept can provide levels of success because of the strong demand for accountability and honesty, but then the implications of a leadership philosophy like this began to illuminate a difficult reality.

In essence, this constrained the ability of every leader to inspire and incent a team to perform at peak levels of camaraderie and collaboration. Essentially, each team member was competing with another team member for significance and success. If you were a “B player” on the team, the only way to become an “A player” was to unseat one of your colleagues. A personal step up the ladder demanded a corresponding step down the ladder by a teammate.

A zero-sum game… that was no game at all.

All of this flashed through my mind like a recreated accident scene during a conversation with a five-year-old grandson. Mary and I were taking care of Alli’s and Chris’ two boys while they got some quiet and unconstrained time together. I noted that my dinner conversation with Desmond tangled with a somber and slightly emotional little boy. Desmond was unguarded in his sadness over his parents’ departure. With significantly more detail than was necessary I reminded Desmond that his parents love each other and needed time together to continue to allow their love to flourish (I didn’t use the word flourish… but you get the point!).

Desmond’s despair deepened. I had failed to reassure or lighten his load. A question burst from his bruised heart… “But don’t they love me too?”

A flutter in my heart and the flashback was in full screen. A zero-sum game.

In paraphrased fashion Desmond’s question was something like this, “Does my parents’ love for each other have to balance against their love for me?” or, “If my mom and dad love each other more, does that mean they love me less?”

Our capacity to love is expanded as we learn to love more deeply. For every gallon of fuel we put in this tank, the size of the tank expands all the more.

I am not trading my love as a fixed commodity. I am blowing air into the balloon of my soul and watching it expand.

Oh no, Desmond; no zero-sum game here.

“Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:8a

The more I spend, the more I have. The more I give, the more I receive. The more I invest, the greater the return. Love.

Love never ends. Bottomless in its potential, eternal in its impact. Love.

Love well. Love authentically. Love boldly. Love sacrificially.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son…”

Love… in Jesus. Because of Jesus. Through Jesus.

Limitless love. Infinite love.

“Oh no, Desmond…”

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