Archive for Change

Slavery is Freedom (Being Part of Something Larger)

Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal-Nineteen Eighty-Four

Hi Lisa,

I have been lost in Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic novel, “The Last Man.” It’s a rather grim story about a pestilence that scythes the human family like so much corn-as Shelley is wont to say. I’ve accompanied the final fifty surviving members of the human race to Switzerland where they vainly hope to escape the contagion. Shelley’s prose is very dense and thus my mental plod has been very slow. I’ve literally reached the point where Vancouver Library SWOT teams are crashing down my door demanding their book back. “But I’m only on page 5” I shout back. I’m so thankful that the book was not required reading in university or I most assuredly would have abandoned my studies and returned to carrying bricks for hyperactive bricklayers.

Between Shelley’s pale horse and our own [H1N1] I’ve been thinking about your comment:

“Based on my own experience in organizations and conversations with corporate managers and leaders, I think many contemporary leaders also share a need for meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, contribution, and despite their privileges, and also often experience themselves as constrained by the system in which they operate.”

I have no doubt that managers and leaders share a need for meaning, etc., and that they feel (or are made to feel) systemic constraints.”

While reviewing Malina and Pilch’s “Social Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul” I encountered some observations which I believe speak to the experience of managers and leaders. Their analysis focuses on Galatians 5:13-26:

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not [use] liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those [who are] Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. NKJV

Malina and Pilch comment thus: “Israelite Jesus-group members, once under the law of Moses, are now free of those constraints. But this freedom is for a new slave service to fellow Jesus-group members, a service motivated by “love,” that is, group attachment and concern for group integrity. There really was no “freedom from” in the ancient world with out a “freedom for.” The God of Israel freed Israel from Egyptian slavery so that Israelites would be freed for the service of God in God’s land. Similarly, Jesus-group members freed from slave service to the Law were now free for slave-service to fellow Jesus-group members” p.215.

As I discuss in my monograph, “The Secret Synagogue,” what the above authors refer to as Jesus-groups were in reality Israelite rabbinical communities-leaders and managers. “Spirit” was a cipher for “perspective transformation.” I submit that while “meaning, purpose, self-actualization, personal growth, and contribution” were important to the messianic pedagogues, those characteristics and constraints did not negate their thralldom to one another and to their deities. Though we moderns describe group phenomena much differently the reality of thralldom remains largely unchanged.

I believe Nineteen Eighty-Four speaks to the need of mangers [push] and leaders [pull] to escape into something larger than themselves, whatever the relationship-a group, an organization: “Slavery is freedom. Alone-free-the human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal” p.277 I would substitute “administrative family” for Party.

Consequently, when we speak about the constraints managers and leaders are subject to are we not really talking about thralldom-no matter how psychologistic our descriptors?

What are your thoughts Lisa?

Bye for now,


A pattering rain and a melancholy wind assail the coast today. I’m off to locate the last man Lionel Verney and his remnant. I believe Orwell also described Winston Smith-Nineteen Eighty-Four-as the last man. Interesting, no?


Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. By Bruce J. Malina & John J. Pilch. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press.

Creating healthy organizations

In re-reading your post, I continue to notice new levels of richness and meaning.

Freire describes some of the core insights of Partnership: “Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.66).

Yes, as Freire describes, domination is system of relations, including our relation to self. We are divided beings in as much as we internalize the voice(s) of dominant, controlling others. As young children, we tend to absorb parental and cultural moods, attitudes, and perspectives. It is, therefore, so often true that children of dominating parents (or of a hostile culture) struggle with self-criticism and self-doubt. In the Dominator paradigm, this is the position of feeling “less than” others. In this psychological literature, this is sometimes called “shame.”

Psychology also describes “projection” as a psychological defense mechanism. One way of copying with our “disowned […] feeling, wishes, needs and drives […] is to attribute them to others” (Bradsahw, 109). We may also gain some temporary relief from the pain of internalized oppression through identification with the oppressor (Bradshaw 106). When we identify with dominator (our externalized notions of power, prestige), we may experience ourselves as feeling “better than.” In this state, we may project undesireable characteristics onto others and “do unto others as has been done unto us.” It is, therefore, a truism that, in the absence of healing, people who have been abused, often become abusers themselves.

In a dominator system (such as is predominant in our culture), there is a tendency to either feel less than or greater than others, and whether one feels inferior or inferior can vary depending on time and circumstance.

Judgement appears to be the mechanism by which this occurs. Therefore, it is not surprising that it is common to fear the judgement of others — particularly those we perceive to have some level of power over our lives.

One dynamic for maintaining the “upper hand” in a dominator relationship is silencing, in which one does not permit others the privilege of speaking their truths. This dynamic may be internalized as self-silencing.

Codependency has been defined in a variety of ways. One pertinent definition is, “A pattern of coping which develops because of prolonged exposure to and practice of dysfunctional family rules that make difficult the open expression of thought” (

This same dynamic has been described in organizations. In the 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness, Stephen R. Covey describes the dynamics of codependency in organizations and how its negative effect on organizational effectiveness (17). For an excerpt, see:

Author John Gardner writes, “Most ailing organizations have developed a functional blindness to their own defects. They are not suffering because they cannot resolve their problems, but because they cannot see their problems.” The perspective of each individuals and organization (which is ultimately shaped by its members) seems natural and normal; therefore, real alternatives may not be readily seen, or when seen, may seem counter-intuitive. Seeing alternatives, including personal and organizational health, is an imaginative act.

If we can label a core problem of contemporary organizations to be co-dependence, then, what might the literature of psychology and recovery have to teach us with respect to creating healthier, more flexible, collaborative, and creative environments?

Also, what is the relationship between a Partnership relationship and perspective (based on mutual thriving), coaching and the psychological-social paradigm of recovery?

Tranformation vs. Change; Nelson Mandela as a Transformational Leader

Hi Lisa,Once again, your exquisite examination of the dimensions of leadership brought me to the mouth of the cave [psychic prison] and enabled me to more fully comprehend the shadows on the wall [organizations].

Because it is a recurring theme in your treatment, I would like to discuss “transformation.” Transformation, in my opinion, is not simply about change. Managers can and do effect change. Epimetheus exemplifies management as change agent-within the parameters ordained by the Olympian Establishment. Transformation, on the other hand, suggests to me a fundamental or complete change to the very character of someone or something. Prometheus, I hold, was a transformational leader. (I don’t deny that change can be profound-I’ll use the terms “transmogrify” (grotesque change) and “transform” (developmental change) to distinguish the phenomena.

In an attempt to close the gap between the oppressed and the oppressor, Nelson Mandela stole the fire from the South African Establishment. Mandela’s experience exemplifies transformational leadership, whose gain for the people brought pain upon himself. I will encapsulate an excerpt from Organizational Behaviour in a Global Context, p.495

Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress

For most of the past 200 years, South Africa was ruled by a white minority government, although blacks have made up over 75 per cent of the populace. Whites

• owned most of the property,
• ran most of the businesses,
• controlled most of the country’s natural resources,
• did not have th right to vote, and
• often worked for little or no wages.

Nelson Mandela reacted to the oppression of white-minority rule by:

• organizing a non-violent organization- the African National Congress (ANC),
• provoking demonstrations and strikes.
• promoting acts of sabotage to pressure the South African government to change-in response to the killing and injury of blacks in Sharpeville where previous riots had resulted in several whites being killed.

“Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962, and he spent the next 27 years in prison. While in prison, Mandela continued to promote civil unrest and majority rule, for which he gained international recognition. He was offered but turned down a conditional release from prison in 1985, which was offered to him only because of the enormous pressure put on South African President F.W. de Klerk to release Mandela unconditionally. Finally, bowing to this pressure, the South African government was forced to “unban” the ANC and unconditionally released Nelson Mandela from prison. Eventually, Mandela persuaded de Klerk to sign a document outlining multiparty elections. Mandela won the 1994 national election and became the first truly democratically elected leader of South Africa.”

To return to the myth of Prometheus, the Olympian Administration feared the loss of the fire. Perhaps they resented any act that would bring their dependent creation “closer to the gods.” They did not want to share their privileged position-their sense of elevation above and separation from their subordinates.

In terms of our analysis, the Promethean fire can symbolize reason as an energy, a capacity to recognize “the unreality of many ideas that man holds and to penetrate to the reality veiled by the layers and layers of deception and ideologies” to quote Fromm. Thank you for emanating such energy today Lisa.

Bye for now,


The seawall beckons-“like a siren she calls to me”-to quote U2. In God’s Country.

Leadership vs. Control by Guilt and Fear

In a recent post, Carman de Voer noted the distinction between leadership and management. These two different functions often converge within a particular role, but tend to draw upon different kinds of power. Management is associated with control, which is a highly reputable value and principle in most organizations. The process of management itself has been described as a feedback loop: managers “plan, organize and control” the work of the organization.

We have come to learn that the only relatively simple systems are subject to control in this sense; the interactions between the elements of more complex systems result in unpredictable outcomes. For this reason, particularly where the intelligence, creativity and committed contributions of organizational members are important to organizational outcomes, we have seen a shift from an emphasis on management to an emphasis on leadership.

Whereas management tends to rely on external rewards and punishments, leadership, particularly transformative leadership, seeks to align the self-actualization of organizational members with the self-actualization of the organization (the achievement of the organization’s mission and vision).

However, because leaders and managers, are still accountable for the contributions of their people, and their own jobs and careers are at stake, they usually feel some urgency around results.

The word “urgency” points to both importance and fear or anxiety. Another common term, which is used in conjunction with urgency is “edge.” (It might be useful to notice that intense focus and forward motion driven by vision and purpose, absent fear, has a very different tone).

Leaders then, very often experience some level of fear or anxiety — conscious or unacknowledged — and, the most common reaction to fear is to try to control others.

It’s useful to pause for a moment to consider: how do we, ourselves, attempt to exert control? What are the options? I once attended a workshop on power dynamics in which participants paired up on either side of a line. Each side was given the instruction that to win, they needed to get the other person to come over to their side of the line. Participants utilized a variety of strategies — including pleading, promising, guilting and dragging each other across.

In Spiritual Selling, sales and marketing expert, Joe Nunziata, describes the often unconscious strategies that people use to control others, and how these strategies are often employed in the workplace:

“Guilt [and shame] is the weapon of choice used by parents to control their children. […] In most cases, parents are not using guilt on a conscious level. They have absorbed guilt […] for generations and passed it on to their children. Innately parents know they can use this guilt to manipulate and control their children. Once the power of guilt is realized, it is then used in all areas of life. People begin to recognize the power of guilt in other situations. It can be applied to relationships, employees, coworkers, friends, and family. […]

“The desire to control and manipulate is driven by fear. The ego believes it will be safe if it can control people and the environment. This is why so-called control freaks are always micromanaging all aspects of work and the people involved with a project. There is an inherent fear that losing complete control of the situation will have disastrous results. […]”

“These same guilt and manipulation techniques are used in the business world. A sales manager may use the exact same process to motivate his or her people. Making salespeople feel they are not doing a good job can trigger similar feelings of guilt and shame. The intent is that they will start to feel bad and then have the desire to work harder. [Those who have read this blog for some time will recognize this dynamic as “The Wheel of Fear.”] The effectiveness of this approach depends on the makeup of the indiviudal. If similar techniques were used effectively by our parents they will transfer into the business world as well. You will be susceptible to the feelings of guilt you experienced as a child. […] Guilt and fear have long been viewed as the only way to motivate performance. Although the world has changed and some organizations are embracing more postiive techniques, a large majority are still trapped in this model. It is important to realize how powerful these unconscious traits are and how difficult they are to break…” (46-49).

Of course, external rewards, such as salary increases, bonuses, promotion, political capital, etc. are the “carrot” of this “carrot-and-stick” approach.

Hence, the organization tends to take on the characteristics of the family — too often, a dysfunctional one.

Transformational leadership, on the other hand, taps into a substantially different power dynamic in which the leader speaks to team members’ intrinsic motivations, to align the self-actualization of each team member with the self-actualization of the team or organization. In my opinion, coaching is a key component of transformational leadership. It cultivates the intelligent, creative energy of team members towards the achievement of overarching, meaningful goals. While recognizing distinctions in roles, it respects all organizational members, and builds the health and capability of the system…

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy organizations?
How can we cultivate ever more healthy organizations?

Christie, L. “Getting Off Your Wheel of Fear”

Ibid. “Leaping Off the Hampster Wheel of Fear”

De Voer, C. “Promethius and Transformative Leadership.”

Nunziata, J. Spiritual Selling. Hoboken, N.J., Wiley, 2007.

Promethius and transformative leadership

Another beautifully written post by Carman de Voer:

Hi Lisa,

For the last few weeks I’ve been pruning a figurative olive tree–a Promethean task, to say the least, but one, I hope, will also “light up the mind.”

I’m not at all surprised that you would integrate love and leadership. Though we have never met I believe you are “unconditionally committed to another’s completion, to another being all that she or he can and wants to be”—The Fifth Discipline, p.285 (Senge’s defininition of love is superb, don’t you think?)

Leadership, like many ideas, has deteriorated into a mere synonym for management. The story of Prometheus speaks to what leadership really means. Prior to his rebellion, Prometheus and Epimetheus [his brother] were, I propose, managers, in that they enacted the goals of the Olympian Establishment. Essentially, they were “chosen” to perpetuate the status quo. At some point Prometheus became a leader—a radical, a [peaceful] revolutionary whose learning program became an indirect attack on the prerogatives of power-holders.

Prometheus the Leader

Prometheus envisaged a new race of beings of higher intelligence fitted to worship and serve the gods in a manner pleasing to their greatness. Prometheus and Epimetheus were chosen to complete the creation. “We will make the new beings in the likeness of the gods themselves. They shall not bend their face to the earth, but shall stand erect and turn their eyes heavenward.” Prometheus shaped the clay into a figure in the likeness of the gods. Eros imbued it with life and Athena imparted to it wisdom.

Prometheus longed to give humanity more and greater gifts, to light up the mind within it that might glow with a noble ardor; to make it lord of the lower creation; to enable the new god-like race to attain to greater heights of wisdom and knowledge and power. But no fire existed on the earth. He remembered the divine fire which could help to make humanity all-powerful—the sacred fire of Zeus.

Prometheus asked himself, “Could I steal it from the abode of the gods?” The very thought brought terror. Swift and merciless would be the vengeance of Zeus upon such a thief. More fearful would be his agonies than those inflicted upon the rebellious Titans.

Prometheus the Designer, Steward, Teacher

The thought of humanity inspired and ennobled by the divine fire quenched the reality of his own inevitable punishment and on a night heavy with clouds he stealthily ascended the holy mountain and lit the reed he carried with the divine fire. He had counted the cost and was prepared to pay it.

Prometheus revealed to humankind the divine fire and showed them

• how it would help them in their labors;
• how it would melt metals and fashion tools;
• how it would cook food and make life bearable in the bronze days of winter;
• how it would give light in darkness so that humankind might labour and travel in the night-time as well as by day.
• how to dig the fields and grow corn and herbs;
• how to build houses and cover their roofs with thatch;
• how to tame the beasts of the forests and make them serve them.

The sacred flame also gave inspiration and enthusiasm, and urged humanity on to achieve increasingly higher and greater things. The whole earth thrilled with their activities, and in their midst moved Prometheus, teaching, guiding, opening out before humanity’s delighted eyes fresh fields for effort and attainment.

Prometheus the Radical

There came a day when the points of light scattered over the surface of the earth. Zeus thundered, “Who is it that has stolen the fire from heaven?” “It is I” answered Prometheus calmly. “Why did you do this thing?” “Because I loved humankind! I longed to give them some gift that would raise them above the brute creation and bring them nearer the gods. Not all your power, Ruler of heaven and earth, can put out these fires.”

As Zeus listened to these words his rage turned to hatred of the being who dared defy his power. Zeus summoned his son Hephaestus, the god of the forge, and ordered him, “make a chain that nothing can break, and chain him to a cliff. I will send an eagle who each day shall devour his liver, causing him horrible torments day and night; each day it shall devour his liver; and each night it shall grow again, so that in the morning his suffering may be renewed.”

Prometheus replied, “So be it, O tyrant. Because you are strong, you are merciless. My theft has done you no harm; there is still fire to spare on Olympus. In your selfishness you will not share a privilege though it would advance the whole race of mankind. It may not be for long that you will sit in the high seat of the gods!”

The myth teaches me that “transformational leadership” comes with great cost. The myth’s core issue is control! The myth teaches me that the nexus of love and leadership does not take place in a cultural or organizational vacuum. The values and ideologies of power-holders will invariably be threatened. Those like Prometheus and “the good shepherd” [translation=the ideal leader John Chapter 10: 1-20] who desire humanity to have higher quality of life will pay dearly—possibly with their own lives.

Bye for now!


The Unconscious in Organizational Transformation

Readers and writers who visit this blog are engaging with facinating and powerful questions and ideas.

One recent search term that brought someone to this blog was, “the role of the unconscious in organizational transformation.” It raises the topic of the unconscious in both personal, organizational and cultural dynamics and transformation.

What do we mean by unconscious? We’ve learned that unconscious patients perceive and process information — they hear what is said and what they hear can positively or negatively affect their recovery. So the unconscious is part of our experience, but it is unexamined experience. The unconscious also contains the connections between experiences. If you touch a hot surface and are burned, that information is there; and such connections are the raw components of belief. We also develop attitudes and orientations towards our experience: life is an adventure; life is an ordeal; people will help you or hurt you, etc. The connections we make are influenced by the events themselves, our orientation/attitudes — or interpretative lenses, pre-existing clusters of associations, and our received cultural beliefs — both explicit and implied. We look for evidence to support our existing beliefs; and receive biological rewards when we find them.

However, like the proverbial iceburg, most of our beliefs, including our interpretative lenses, are below our conscious awareness. And many of the foundations for these beliefs were set at in our earliest experiences, a time when we lacked our present insight and experience. Yet it’s these beliefs, orientations, lenses that are the locomotives of our lives. Hence, Carl G. Jung’s assertion that until we make the unconscious conscious, it will rule our lives and we will call it fate. This also resonates with Socrates’ “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Although I think Socrates overstates his case a bit, as a coach, I can testify that the examined life can become a great adventure, because when we examine many of our limiting beiefs, we find that they are actually not true.

The same principles apply with respect to organizations. It’s interesting to think in terms of a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious, the interaction amongst our unconscious beliefs, shaped by our personal and organizational histories. This is potentially a very fruitful area for organizational transformation. Thank you to our visitor for raising the topic.

Making objects of people and the ethos of domination

Hi Lisa,

Thank you for the opportunity to engage in creative communion–and to make the “unconscious conscious.” I believe it was systems scholar Bela Banathy who said, “the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

I have begun to question the traditional labor market [employer-employee] nomenclature as an example of such mislabeling. When we strip away the legal lacquer and peel back the political politeness a master-slave paradigm appears to be the underlying animus.

Freire calls “domination” a “fundamental” phenomenon:

“I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination—which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved. In order to achieve humanization, which presupposes the elimination of de-humanizing oppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which people are reduced to things.” Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.84.

I contest the confining of domination to “our epoch.” The myth of Erysichthon and Ceres suggests that slavery is more ubiquitous and persistent than many may want to concede:

Erysichthon [Earth-tearer] was a rich and impious man who cut down a tree from the sacred grove of Ceres [mother earth] for his banqueting hall. By cutting down the tree, he had killed a dryad nymph [oak tree productive force]. The other dryads called upon Ceres [mother earth] to avenge their sister.

Ceres inflicted Erysichthon with insatiable hunger. No matter what Erysichthon ate, he could quell his hunger for more food. Erysichthon sold everything he had, for food, until he had nothing left but his daughter, Mestra [teacher]. He sold her too!

While on the seashore awaiting possession by her owner, Mestra prayed to Poseidon [the sea] to save her from slavery. She was then given the ability to shift-change—first a fisherman, then a mare, an ox, a bird, and so on.

Mestra escaped from her master and returned to her father who saw endless opportunity to make money by her. Driven by hunger, Erysichthon sold his daughter off, like livestock, into slavery, for a great deal of money to buy more food. But all the money she earned was not enough. Finally, driven to despair, he consumed himself.

Some observations and questions:

1. Is “domination” the exception or the rule? I suspect scholars have been tip-toeing around this issue.

2. The Oxford Dictionary of Current English (1996) defines slave thus: 1) captive 2) person owned by and has to serve another, 3) machine or part of one, directly controlled by another—Morgan’s Machine Metaphor immediately comes to mind.

3) Erysichthon sold his daughter off, like livestock. Our word chattel [movable “property”] originally meant livestock.

4) Moderns recoil at the suggestion of slavery as an organizational norm. “You are always free to leave,” they say. But if the assumptions underlying the master-slave, owner-owned, subject-object relationship greet the “runaway,” then how is that liberating?

Your thoughts Lisa?


Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2007.

Towards a Learning Organization (A presentation by Carman De Voer Mais)

Carman De Voer Mais has developed a fresh and insightful PowerPoint presentation on learning organizations. He makes the important point that becoming a learning organization isn’t something that “patched on” to the existing organizational paradigm, but rather a transformation of both the paradigm and the players.  I’m going to try to share that presentation with you here.  This is my first attempt to provide a file link in WordPress, so it may take a few tries …

Carman, I hope your cold has lifted!


Thinking Creatively, Building Effectively by Carman De Voer Mais

Perspective & transformation

Carman, Your example of the transformation of Scrooge in the Christmas Carol, illustrates how third parties can stimulate transformation by helping a leader see the current situation and dynamic more clearly, and consider new perspectives and possiblities.

This whole area of the process of transformation is intriguing. By definition, it involves some kind of diversity — an encounter with a different perspective through dialogue or “cognitive diversity.” For me, cognitive diversity, in practice, means accessing our holistic, creative, “right brain” as well as our analytical, sequential “left brain.”  Transformative spiritual experience, creativity, imagination and vision, seem to strongly involve “right brain” processes. (A neuropsychologist would, no doubt, point out that this is a gross oversimplification).  

The process of coaching involves both aspects — the holding of the mirror, to help a person see more clearly what is otherwise too close to see — to see lens with which we see the world, so to speak,  and the facilitation of imagination, to experience a new perspective.  

When we are able to see the lens with which we see the world, we have already experienced a cognitive shift in that we have separated who we are (the observer) from a particular perspective, and we have freed ourselves to more readily explore perspectives that are healthier, more effective, etc.

The act of imagination, envisioning other possiblities, is extraordinarily powerful and taps a vast intelligence. Because in the West, we so strongly identify with our rational egos and our analytical, sequential thought processes, that we overlook the genius within each of us — that intelligence that creates entire worlds in our dreams, for example. It’s not always completely rational, but it contains all the connections that are not always visible to our sequential thought processes.  

In discussing spiritual transformation, William James makes the point that when we’ve exhausted our usual resources, when our rational-analytical processes fail us, we then, often in despair, throw ourselves open to other possibilities, and experience a shift and illumination. And Zen koans operate on a similar principle: the left brain lets go and there is a shift in perspective. 

Transformative leadership need not, in my opinion, involve complete illumination, but I think the inherent humility of recognizing that “we are not our thoughts and perspectives” and our consequential ability to imagine new possibilities — to dip into our own creative potentials, is key to personal and organizational transformation. 

Carman, I enjoy your notes about the environment, there. It sounds beautiful. It’s been raining heavily here; we need it!  Best wishes, Lisa

Additional examples of radical transformation & on bells staying rung

Wow, Carman, your discussion of sudden and radical transformation throws open some doors that would be interesting to follow!

Yes you draw an apt and fruitful comparison between transformation per se and spiritual transformation. In addition to the Christian concept and experience of metanoia that you discuss, this kind of spiritually transformative experience is found in other religious contexts and outside of them, as well, suggesting that it is a universal human experience.  Some examples are: the themes of birth-death-rebirth or descent and emergence in the Mysteries, shamanic experiences of dismemberment and reconfiguration as a “new person”; Eastern enlightenment experiences, and also the sponatneous “cosmic consciousness” described by Burke. Also, there are rites of passage in many cultures that lead to new roles and ways of being in the world. No doubt I am omitting many other important examples.

This kind of reordering or “re-membering” is sometimes understood to be literally healing, and also reflects an improved and more “appropriate” (for the lack of a better word in the moment) relationship the context or larger whole.  This process or whole “event” is compellingly interesting in itself.

From what I understand, these kinds of radical transformation are not always “sticky” in that it can be easy to revert to former ways of thinking and being. However, as much as we are drawn back into comfortable, habitual ways of thinking and being, one cannot entirely “unring” the bell.  And, thus we create a vision or carve out a space for a new way of being, and we can begin to create new habits in that space. I’m reminded of the famous face/vase illusion. After seeing the new perspective, we can still revert to our original perspective; however, having seen it’s complement, we can more easily find it again. 

Would you agree?