The Psychology of Peace & Its Effect on Leadership Styles

Historically, the overarching idea of keeping and maintaining peace has been through maintaining a balance of power. Kings, queens, presidents, and parliaments did not simply govern those under their care but rather, ruled them by force. They sought to ensure that any territories operate in favor of the governing body’s values and beliefs, despite underlying issues, and even if it meant civil unrest, suffering or death for their subjects (Burns, 2003, p. 48). In May of 1916, Woodrow Wilson sought to create an internationally organized leadership coalition based on fostering peace. His views challenged those of many of his counterparts, championing countries’ and humanity’s hopes, rights, and ability to make informed and beneficial decisions for their people, without the intervention of another country’s powers (Burns, 2003, p. 45). This view was radical for its time, and ultimately, the League of Nations Wilson established failed (Burns, 2003, p. 48). Despite this, his aims sparked others to consider more highly beneficial practices and views for the people who give power to the government, shaping today’s ever-growing views of leadership (Burns, 2003, p. 49-50).
In recent years, the field of Psychology has begun to focus on the kinds of practices that invite peace rather than conflict or war as the final and ultimate solution (Levitt, 2014). Peace Psychology notes that in the establishment of true peace, we must begin to see, understand, and give a voice to the rights all minorities have, wherever they may be in the world (Levitt, 2014). Moreover, our focus must become a “celebration of difference” that causes us to see one another beyond the all too common lens of victim and rescuer (Levitt, 2014). This challenge is embodied in the word, allophilia meaning: the embrace of others for their differences, rather than in spite of (Levitt, 2014). Groups and communities which embrace allophilia create a greater possibility for peace in the midst of intergroup and community conflict, and allow for the kind of meaningful collaboration and conversation needed to enact this in other countries and communities (Levitt, 2014). Through seeking to establish peaceful, genuine, and loving relationships with all those around us in neighborhoods, cities, communities, and nations, we begin to create a wave of peace that empowers and shapes the way we understand, respond to, and work with all of humanity (Levitt, 2014).
Often in leadership and social justice or change, we see ourselves as heroes and rescuers, and the other as being victims. They need us. We dehumanize them without even intending to do so. There have been many instances in which I see myself in a sort of Savior complex because I help someone or improve their life in some way. Helping others is in no way a bad thing, nor should it be stopped, but what must happen is a change in alignment in why we do what we do: is it for social good or for ourselves to feel good? In my own leadership practice, especially regarding Psychology, I want to embody what it means to accept, love, empower and encourage others for all of what makes them who they are – unique and distinct from myself, yet just as valuable for their experiences, values, and beliefs.
In our endeavor to establish peace, we must remember Christ’s reconciliation and establishment of peace through the Cross (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 1077). Seeking to love those around us, empower and work with them to gain their rights is risky, much like Wilson’s hope for an international league devoted to peace (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 1084). However, we can engage in these risks because we align our lives towards Christ’s glory and forgiveness, knowing His will is done through His work alone, and not by our own work or gains in the process (Wigg-Stevenson, 2012, loc. 1084-1203).


Burns, J. M. (2003). Transforming leadership: A new pursuit of happiness (Vol. 213). Grove   Press.

Levitt, J. M. (2014). World peace, positive peace, and how do we get there? A review of the following: Reflections on peace education, nonviolence, and social change, US + them: Tapping the positive power of difference, and Positive relationships: Evidence-based     practice across the world. Peace And Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 20(1), 100-104. Doi:10.1037/pac0000011.

Wigg-Stevenson, T. (2012). The world is not ours to save: Finding the freedom to do good.    InterVarsity Press.

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