L.A.C.E. Made Simple


LACE Love Authenticity Courage Empathy with four interlocking hearts


Why: Because the capacity to address the toughest challenges in ourselves, our relationships, our workplaces, our educational institutions, and our societies is rooted in the self-realizing, connecting, healing and justice-oriented power of love.

What: LACE, or Love, Authenticity, Courage, and Empathy, is a model for connecting people with values to bring about change in themselves, their relationships and the systems they inhabit. LACE, as an acronym, represents the following:

Love: Intentionally nurturing the growth and development of self and others in ways that add value.

Authenticity: Aligning our values with our behavior in ways that allow us to serve and lead in just and effective ways.

Courage: Moving through fear, anxiety, tradition, discomfort or the status quo to live out values and serve others.

Empathy: Understanding that other people’s experiences and perspectives have value too and using that understanding to support and/or bring about change.

How: LACE facilitates change at three levels that build on one another:

  • Self-awareness
  • Relationships
  •  Systems

L.A.C.E. calls each individual to action, beginning with introspection for personal development and actionable change. LACE asks everyone to show love, but it especially encourages those who are in positions of power, authority and abundance to be the first to model and demonstrate love to those who have been marginalized and oppressed.

Self-awareness: Thoughtfully assessing why you behave the way that you do, what needs to remain the same and what needs to be different. As an ongoing process, introspection opens our eyes to who we are, including our strengths, weaknesses, core values, blind spots and life purpose. Introspection brings about self-awareness and self-awareness, in turn, brings the choices that we make unconsciously into the light of day. Self-awareness helps us to better manage those choices, as well as our actions, including how we show up, and who we are becoming.

Relationships: LACE provides the common language for leaning in, learning and resolving conflict. It transforms individuals into teams, partners, co-conspirators and collaborators working toward a common and just purpose.

Just Systems: Ultimately, LACE is about creating systems that are wholly inclusive, actively anti-oppressive, kind and just. The introspection and connections are expected to generate policies, processes, practices and systems that are radically inclusive as well as loving, not just begrudgingly tolerant.

Where: The principles of LACE are rooted in research on social neuroscience, biology and positive psychology. As it turns out, the fear and anxiety that we often experience in addressing new or challenging situations often shifts our attention away from the work of creating and contributing (Steimer 2002; Steele 2010) and puts the brain in survival mode (Rock 2008, Arnsten 1998). However, love is the master emotion that activates oxytocin and connects our brains with other people in ways that expand cognition, physical skills, social skills and overall wellbeing (Fredrickson 2013). 

In fact, love, authenticity, courage, empathy and other positive values on which the model is based, promote big picture thinking. A two-decade long study on the impact of positive emotions showed that people who feel more positive are more likely to think creatively, be more flexible, demonstrate more ability to integrate information and are more open to new information (Isen, 1987). Positive emotions like love have also been shown to have an undoing effect in that they can loosen the hold of negative emotions (Fredrickson & Levenson, 1998). A third body of research shows that building a sense of belonging into the learning process (Canning, Muenks, Green and Murphy 2019, Binning 2019) helps undo emotional and disciplinary obstacles (Middendorf and Shopkow 2017), setting the stage for more expansive, connected and transformational learning experiences.


Arnsten, A. F. T. (1998). The Biology of Being Frazzled. Science, 280, 1711-1712.

Binning, K. (2019, October). Fostering a Sense of Belonging in the College Classroom: Peer Interactions that Improve Student Success. Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) event, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

Board Source (2012). The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for Board Members and Chief Executives: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.

Isen, A. M. (1987). Positive affect, cognitive processes, and social behavior. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 20 (p. 203–253). Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0065-2601(08)60415-3

Middendorf, J and L. Shopkow. Overcoming Student Leaning Bottlenecks: Decode the Critical Thinking in your Discipline. Stylus: New York. 

Rock, David. 2008. Scarf: A Brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others.” Neuroleadership Journal, Issue 1: 2008

Steimer, Thierry. “The biology of fear- and anxiety-related behaviors.” Dialogues in clinical neuroscience vol. 4,3 (2002): 231-49.

Yvette Alex-Assensoh © The LACE-Hearted Way, LLC.