Archive for Diversity

Starry Skies, Diversity, and Vision

Hi Carman,
A beautiful Sunday morning to you! I agree that Partnership does not need to answer to Paul, Plato or Shakespeare, although I do enjoy dialoging with them from time to time.

Thank you for sharing your deeply thought through and fresh thoughts on Paul. One observation I would add is that whatever was or was not the intention of people at the time, Christianity and Judaism  –or rather, as different streams of thought converge, a variety of Christianities and Judaisms  — exist today.

Because we are exploring emerging ground, we have the opportunity to consider some interesting questions, that I think have some broader applicability.  One relates to focus.

Alfred North Whitehead describes how every fact “drags around with it” a universe of assumptions in which that observation or fact is both comprehensible and true. Essentially agreeing with Whitehead on this point, feminist philosphers have long observed that the practice of using fixed and firm categories — such as the often very firm boundaries between academic disciplines — to describe reality reifies a particular worldview by obscuring other potentially useful categories and the way that categories interconnect to form the “sacred canopy” of our worldview. 

On the other hand, when changes do occur in a particular field, the process of cross-fertilization of ideas is slowed. (This is one reason, as you know, that trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary studies are presently such a wellspring of new thought and innovation).   Also,  being too fixed with regard to category implies a world in which all things can truly be separate and static — described by one category or model without reference to others. For example, years ago, when I was in a leadership role in organizations (before I became a coach and consultant), I was  unable to immediately see the connection between emerging ideas in scie nce and emerging ideas in leadership. I thought that it was academically interesting but had nothing to do with the “real” world. Obviously, I’ve come to change my views!

The categories we use illuminate some aspects of reality and hide others.  With left-brained thought and language, it’s often the connections amongst things that are hidden.

Because the paradigm we are discussing is holistic, we can’t assume that the whole universe of assumptions is known to the reader, or even to ourselves.  Rather Partnership recognizes that different perspectives will “see” different patterns, and that, with a conducive social dynamic, multiple perspectives can, reflect more light on a given subject. Further, a holistic perspective suggests that reality is holographic in that nothing stands alone but is shaped by its context or world.

Because this blog seeks to explore a new paradigm of leadership and organization, it consciously oversteps conventional categories in order to describe both this paradigm we call Partnership and also the views of the cosmos, including the patterns of the stars, we each see from where we sit (both physically and on the basis of our life experience).

So, in discussing a Partnership approach to leadership and organizations, we talk about the literatures of leadership, organization, sociology, psychology (so far so good), and continue on to philosophy and theology which have been held, until relatively recently, to be separate and distinct subjects. Religion in particular has been considered a separate realm best avoided because it can raise passionate differences. “Sensible” people avoid it. By virtue of where I sit under that starry expanse, I am unable to be “sensible” in this respect because ideas in all these fields shape our view of the world. Certainly, as you have pointed out, the experience of a religious conversion or mystical insight is an example of a personal transformation which yields a sometimes radically different worldview. (My sister also described motherhood this way).

On the other hand, I appreciate that some who visit here may be put off when we venture “off topic” sharing our views of the patterns we see in that sky.  In a sense, this is a microcosm of a Partnership organization. Different members sitting on the grass, looking up and being able to share what they see. And also with respect to our collective endeavors, focusing on the shared values and vision that pull us together.

As you have probably noticed, I see the coaching approach as enacting Partnership, supporting the emergence of trust, collaboration and creativity in organizations. I am very excited to mention a new project that I am becoming involved with, to bring coaching training to leaders and teams, and coaching the development of a coaching culture. I’ll write more about it in this blog, but as this is also a kind of a letter, I wanted to share it with you here.

My best,


P.S. We are having a break in the rain today. It’s cold and overcast, with the holiday lights making a nice contrast as it grows dark in the evening.

Thralldom vs. Self-Actualization (On Our Relationship to the Whole)

Good morning, Carman. Welcome back 🙂 We are hoping for some rain today, as well — just 40% chance of thundershowers – would be great writing weather!

Your post seems to describe several dimensions of thralldom, with freedom from one form of thralldom found at the cost of subjection to another, presumably better form of thralldom. For example, there is freedom from slavery to become the servant of God and the larger vision of community, and freedom from flesh to become the servant of Spirit.  As you describe, it’s  framed as a matter of which master one serves. (I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view is very consistent with philosophical atomism). 

And, insightfully, you make the connection to leadership (great distinction of leadership as pull and management as push) while both for the sake of something larger.

So much to respond to in this!

It’s been said that meaning is derived from the larger context. So if we are at the 1 mile mark in a race, the meaning of that accomplishment is relative to whether we are in a 1 mile race or a five mile race, and whether an act is moral or immoral depends on the nature of the universe.  (As Whitehead writes, any assertion of fact drags along with it a whole universe of understanding in which the fact is true). It is my personal experience that serving a greater good is the greatest form of satisfaction. But is this thralldom or self-actualization? And what is the difference?

My initial thoughts relate to paradigm. I do share the increasingly repeated view that we are in a time of paradigm change.  Considering the modern paradigm: When we think of ourselves as separate atoms, and the world as a collection of separate objects (the modern paradigm), then we think/find it necessary to control or dominate others to meet our needs. Hence, the dynamics of domination and thralldom.

In this paradigm, that which is larger than ourselves is a separate, dominating, all powerful, entity, which psychologist Jean Baker Miller correlates with the classic patriarchal father. Miller describes how subordination to the father was explicitly desribed in the childrearing texts of pre-war Germany as preparing children to assume their proper relationshp to the State and ultimately to God. In this model, there is virtue in subordination to the all powerful other. Implicit in this model is the power of the other to reward the subordinate and punish the non-compliant.

Further, in relationships of domination and abuse, there is a well-recognized psychological syndrome in which the injured party inflicts a similar injury on others, and in doing so, identifies with the dominating person or entity, and thereby obtains a temporary feeling of power and relief from his or her pain. (Hence the cycle of abuse).

Your quote from 1984, “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,” seems to describe freedom from the pain of the experience of thralldom through identification with the all powerful other.

These are the dynamics of domination, and a review of history shows us that these cultural dynamics have certainly shaped our approach to leadership and organization.

That said, if we look at the same issue from the perspective (or pardigm) of holism and process, then I think we reframe the question. If we are not isolated atoms — if our sense of separation is an optical illusion of consciousness, as Einstein proposed — then we are different kinds of beings than we have imagined. 

If we are, indeed, not separate from the rest of the world, then we are paradoxical beings in that we have both our unique experience from a particular perspective and are also internally related to the rest of the world. We are part of the world and the world is part of us. In this paradigm, we can never be independent and separate from rest of the world. (This notion of a self that is purely independent has been described as the “soul slowly twisting in the void”). The fact that most of us would find this notion terrifying tells us something about our psychological nature, at minimum.

From a holistic perspective, our freedom is inherently always in relation to others, to the world of our experience.

(If we were to address the theological dimensions of these ideas, we might notice that although some theologies describe both a transcendent God who is separate from a holistic creatioin, theologically, holism is usually associated with immanence, the view that we are both internally related with each other and to the Sacred ( by whatever name we choose to call it — for example, God, Goddess, Cosmic Intelligence, etc.) According to the perspective of immanence, the Sacred might be experienced as the deepest, wisest part of ourselves).

The holistic paradigm offers the possibility that the small self may be informed by the wisdom of a larger intelligence within, and so expresses its unique nature towards the betterment of the whole. From this perspective, self-actualization and service are of the same cloth.

Obviously this is my personal view. For me, the experience of this paradigm and relationship to the world (to the extent that I have grasped it so far) is not one of thralldom, but rather one of empowerment and, to the extent that I feel really “in-tune”,  joy. This feels very different to me than the drugs of status or “power over” in which one experiences the other side of coin of domination, or the satisfactions of certainty. (In my view, the conviction that one must be “right” and that others must therefore by “wrong” privileges only our own perspective and experience and is, therefore, egocentric and in opposition the world).

There are other perspectives that value Partnership, which see the world differently. Personally, I find a holistic and organismic approach (which sees the cosmos as a intelligent and creative), to be very coherent and workable.  Also, of course, one can apply a holistic perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications — another topic! 

Thank you for raising such a provocative question!

Enjoy your day,


Ideological Inversion and Self-Deception (Illuminating dominator dynamics)

“It is impossible to see reality except by looking through the eyes of the Party”–Nineteen Eighty-Four”

Ideological Inversion and Ideological Self-Deception

Lisa, thank you for ‘making the darkness conscious’ by examining the root system of slavery. I especially love your powerful and prescient comment, “In considering how perspective – especially the perspectives of the powerful – shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given that women and slaves “naturally lack authority.”

Why prescient? Because you reference two dimensions of thralldom that I believe parallel our modern experience: 1) Parasitism and 2) Ideological inversion of reality. Your canine companions will especially relate to threat from parasites-like fleas!

Slavery, says Patterson, is a relation of domination, a relation of “parasitism.” Patterson has much to say about parasitism. I’ll now attempt to encapsulate his treatment. I believe parasitism is one of the most important issues you and I will explore.

In parasitism:

-Dependence may or may not entail destruction of the host
-The host may be dependent on the parasite
-The parasitism may be only a minor nuisance

As a parasite, the slaveholder camouflaged his dependence, his parasitism, by 1) ideological inversion of reality, and 2) ideological self-deception. This former technique, says Patterson, camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is. Isn’t that profound? Ideological inversion of reality camouflages a relation by defining it as the opposite of what it really is.

Who was responsible for creating the ideological inversion of reality? The slaveholder class. Were almost all masters insincere? No. “They genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves and that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on others.”

“Southern slaveholders,” says Patterson, “were hardly exceptional in their ideological self-deception. The same inversion of reality was to be found among slaveholders everywhere:

“We use other people’s feet when we go out, we use other people’s eyes to recognize things, we use another person’s memory to greet people, we use someone else’s help to stay alive-the only things we keep for ourselves are our pleasures” Pliny the Elder, a slaveholder (quoted in Patterson).

I’ll now attempt to epitomize the relation of parasites and their hosts.


The slaveholders (as parasites):
-defined the slave as dependent

-genuinely believed that they cared and provided for their slaves

-held that it was the slaves who had been raised to depend on them and others (this is ideological self-deception)

-believed (along with the community) that the slave existed only through the parasite holder, who was called the master

-fed on the slave to gain the very direct satisfactions of power over another, honor, enhancement, and authority

-rendered the slave the ideal human tool due to natal alienation and genealogical isolation (i.e., separated from family and kin).

“The slave, losing in the process all claim to autonomous power, was degraded and reduced to a state of liminality” (a marginal status) p.337. Parenthesis mine.

How did the slave resist her desocialization and forced service? By:

-striving for some measure of regularity and predictability in her social life

-yearning for dignity

-becoming acutely sensitive to the realities of community.

The slave’s zest for life and fellowship confounded the slaveholder class. The slave’s existential dignity of the slave belied the slaveholder’s denial of its existence.

Patterson sketches the covert antagonism between the classes thus:


-“retaliated ideologically by stereotyping the slave as a lying, cowardly, lazy buffoon devoid of courage and manliness,

-retaliated existentially: by refusing to be among his fellow slaves the degraded creature he was made out to be,

-fed the parasite’s timocratic character with the pretence that she was what she was supposed to be. She served while concealing her soul and fooling the parasite. “play fool, to catch wise.”


“All slaves, like oppressed peoples everywhere, wore masks in their relations with those who had parasitized them. Occasionally a slave, feeling he had nothing to lose, would remove the mask and make it clear to the slaveholder that he understood the parasitic nature of their interaction.”


“However firm their belief in their ideological definition of the slave relation, slaveholders simply could not deny the stark fact that their slaves served under duress: a combination of punishments and rewards was essential.”


Slaveholders knew that incentives were better than punishments to promote efficient service.


“The well-looked-after slave redounded to the generosity and honor of the slaveholder.” The slave’s response “emphasized the slave’s apparent “dependence” and gave credence to the paternalism that the parasite craved.”

Patterson’s discussion of parasitism is provocative, is it not Lisa? As always, I look forward to your comments. Thank you for including the neglected dimensions (e.g., feminism).

Bye for now,


I hear the sea gulls squawking outside my kitchen window. I wonder what’s bothering them? It’s raining here today. I guess I better wear my Wellingtons (gum boots) on the sea wall. I could just write an ode to my boots. Though they cost less than $10, they’ve been a godsend. “Adventure in ideas.” I like the sound of that!

Adding Gender to the Analysis of Thralldom (Dominator Dynmaics)

I love your term, “messays.” It’s certainly appropriate to a blog — especially this one, which is, to borrow the title of one of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s books, an “adventure in ideas.”

Freire’s analysis substantially overlaps the a feminist and womanist analysis, which isn’t surprising, given our cultural history in which women were considered to be inferior human beings (relative to men) and therefore accorded the status of property.

Ecofeminist philosopher Charlene Spretnak observes that a hierarchal, utiliatrian (even adversarial) stance towards the natural world had profound implications for women, who as birth-givers, have historically been habitually (though not inevitably) associated with nature: cultural attitudes towards nature tend to coincide with attitudes towards women (Ortner 1974; Sanday 1981).

This was certainly true in classic Greek thought: men were understood to participate in divine rationality, whereas women were understood to either lack the rational soul principle or to be deficient in this regard, and therefore part of the natural matrix that men sought to transcend in their quest for the divine. Thus, divine-world and mind-body dichotomies mirrored the “natural” dichotomy of male and female: the left-hand term was understood to be masculine and superior, and the right-hand term was feminine and inferior (Code What Can She Know 29).

The heart of the male-female dichotomy is captured by the classical Greek understanding of conception: according to Aristotle, man provides the active principle and rational (human) soul; woman, who lacks the soul principle, contributes the body (Aristotle “On the Generation of Animals” 278, S737a; Shepherd 4). If the soul-principle in the male seed is able to overcome the pull of (female) matter, a male child results; otherwise the result is a female child – who is, essentially, a defective male (Aristotle, The Politics of Aristotle 13: S1254b and 327: S1335b; Shepherd 4).

Thus, in this train of thought, it is the male who is considered fully human. (This speaks also to our culturally inherited view of animals as automatons. As a “parent” to two very smart dogs, I can say that this is not true in my experience!)

The relationship between knowledge and power is self-sustaining, as we can see in Aristotle’s rendering of gendered reality:

“[M]ale rules over the female, or the man over the child; although the parts of the soul are present in all of them, they are present in different degrees. For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature” (“Politics” 1260b; Code 9 n. 5).

(Tellingly, in light of the power dynamics, even the male slave is thought to have “no deliberative faculty at all.” Also, the term “woman” here seems to refer to a female person who is not a slave.)

Consequently, women and slaves attended to the material and bodily necessities of life – what de Beauvoir called “immanence,” while elite men concerned themselves with “transcendent” cultural projects, such as writing philosophy. Further the life experience shaped by such stark sex role separation might be seen to re-enforce for privileged males the sense of living in a “glass box” on top of nature; and for women a concern with the concrete facts of existence.  

One analysis is that women (and all oppressed groups in general) share an experience of being “other” to economically and educationally privileged white males (Hurtado 833), and being the recipients of projections of men’s own embodiment and immanence (Anderson 32).  Similarly, J.B. Miller (1976) describes a sweeping commonality in the projections that dominants apply to subordinate groups. Given the power of the perceptions of dominant groups to shape reality, these commonalities may give rise to some similarities of experience amongst diverse “others” who may learn to conform to the expectations of dominants as a matter of survival.

With regard to race and gender, womanist philosopher Patricia Hill Collins observes that despite differences in social experience, there are substantial similarities between womanist and feminist perspectives:

“The search for the distinguishing features of an alternative epistemology used by African-American women reveals that values and ideas Africanist scholars identify as characteristically “Black” often bear remarkable resemblance to similar ideas claimed by feminist scholars as characteristically ‘female.’  This similarity suggests that the material conditions of race, class, and gender oppression can vary dramatically and yet generate some uniformity in the epistemologies of subordinate groups” (207).

 In considering how perspective — especially the perspectives of the powerful — shape social structures that reinforce beliefs, it is further reasonable to assume that women and slaves, whose rational facilities were assumed to naturally “lack authority,” would be denied the educational and leisure opportunities that would enable them to effectively counter these assertions – if indeed those in power would listen, given the assumption that these groups  “naturally lack authority.”

Of course, thankfully, the whole system (from philosophy, to psychology, to families, orgaizations, politics, etc.) has shifted so that a greater diversity of perspectives can be heard. Yet, it’s fair to say that many of our organizations and social structures are still shaped by dominator dynamics in our cultural inheritence.

I am writing this of course to suggest that integrating the consideration of gender opens up key psychological and social dynamics of dominator systems. It’s not simply a matter of including women as an historically oppressed class (certainly, economic class, race, and other factors come into play as well), but of noticing how ideas and values surrounding gender have shaped our psyches, language, values and institutions.   

Thank you for mentioning Patterson’s analysis of the three facets of slavery: social, psychological, and cultural. I think it is very helpful to look at whole systems. Anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday also brings up the dimension of ecology/environment as a factor in the power relationships between women and men. I’ll save that for another time!

Best wishes,

P.S. We may have rain today — good writing weather!


Anderson, Pamela Sue. A Feminist Philosophy of Religion: The Rationality and Myths of Religious Belief. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998.

Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle. The Revised Oxford Translation. Ed. Jonathan Baines. Princeton, N.J.:Princeton University Press, 1984 (1912-52).

—. “On the Generation of Animals.” The Works of Aristotle. Trans. Arthur Platt from vol 2 of The Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: William Benton, 1952.

—. The Politics of Aristotle. Trans.E. Barker. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1946.

—. Politics. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Basic Works of Artistotle. Ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.

Code, Lorraine. What Can She Know?: Feminist Theory and the Construction of Knowledge. Ithica, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Perspectives on Gender, Vol. 2. New York: Routledge, 1990.

Hurtado, Aida. “Relating to Privilege: Seduction and Rejection in the Subordination of White Women and Women of Color.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14 (Summer 1989).

Miller, Jean Baker. Toward a New Psychology of Women. 2nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987.

Ortner, Sherry B. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Women, Culture, and Society. Ed. M.Z. Rosaldo and L. Lamphere. Stanford, CT: Stanford University Press: 67-88.

Sanday, Peggy Reeves. Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality. Cambridge, N.J.: Cambridge University Press, 1981

Shepherd, Linda Jean. Lifting the Veil: The Feminine Face of Science. Portland, OR: FireWord Publishing, Inc., 1993.

Spretnak, Charlene. Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature and Place in a Hypermodern World. New York: Routledge, 1999.

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.

Silence and speaking in organizations

Hi Carman,
I apologize that it has been taking me so long to respond to your thoughtful and insightful posts. I appreciate your ongoing contributions to this endeavor!

Thank you (first) for your discussion of cultures of silence. The quote you chose from Charles Davis was a very apt illustration of how we internalize the power structures in which we participate:

“Exterior un-freedom causes interior un-freedom. A child first learns to talk or think aloud, then afterwards to think without voicing its thought.”

Deconstructive postmodernists (with whom I share both agreement and disagreement) have observed that assertions of truth are acts of power. This is very evident in a court of law, where attorneys put forth a view of reality which serves them and their clients. This is also true in dominator organizations, where authority and power are often perceived to arise (in part) from being “right” and where, in a circular way, might makes right. Certain views and positions become “legitimate” and others, which question or challenge these perspectives may be viewed as heritical or a power play. (1)

In the same way that in a dominator family, a child is shusshed for “talking back” or challenging parental authority, in dominator organizations, members may be admonished for raising perspectives and positions that challenge organizational orthodoxy. (This seems to come back to your post on orgaizations as theocracies…). And what is true of families and organizations is also true with respect to our larger institutions and culture.

So, in dominator organizations, organizational members learn to silence themselves, effectively internalizing the outer controls, so as to avoid “punishment.” This self-silencing can become so automatic, that we are barely consciously aware of it.

Further, it is also taboo to discuss the silencing itself. Because it pulls back the covers on power relationships, challenges the legitimacy and absoluteness of existing truth claims, and because there is the sensibility that “that war” was already fought and won,” raising the existance of the taboo tends to both threaten and irritate people. A very successful control structure maintains both the silence and suppression of awareness or discussion of the silence itself.

Conversely, speaking in our own voice is a form of self-assertion, of “power-from-within.” And, when we share our truths an perspectives as part of a mutually-respectful dialogue or larger conversation, this sharing can become the co-creative “power-with” in which the flow of energy and ideas in the group gives rise to broader insights and more powerful ideas than would be the case of a person acting singly. Master coach Karen Capello calls this the power of authenticity:

It is the empowering, creative energy that organizations want and need. The challenge, as I see it, is that to be truly creative, many organizations need to rethink their assumptions about power and knowledge, and the role of leadership.

(1) This is not always true, of course. Alternative ideas may be considered within certain bounds, depending on both the idea and the speaker. (This speaks to the concept of rhetorical communities).

Organization as Theocracy Metaphor

Hi Lisa, I had fun originating the “theocracy” metaphor. Your question, ‘What are the dynamics that can lead us to imagine other people as objects?’ guided me throughout. As with all metaphors it both illuminates and obfuscates.

Organization As Theocracy

Theocracy: government by men claiming to know the will of God.

Etiology of Error

The Messianic [Christian] Scriptures are a record of rabbis disciplining rabbis. In-groups were those rabbis who accepted Jesus as Jewish Messiah; out-groups—rabbis who rejected Jesus as Jewish Messiah. “The world”—ancient Jewish society—was the arena of reclamation. All discipline was lateral –rabbi counseling rabbi–and only after the completion of the biblical canon became hierarchical [leader controlling “laity”].

Replacement Theology

In the ensuing centuries, an institution emerged calling itself “Christianity” borrowing concepts from the Jewish worldview and organic culture contained in the sacred scripts. Rather than leaders [rabbis] disciplining leaders and furnishing them lateral training, it conceived a learned group of [non-Jewish] men [clergy] communicating ‘higher’ learning to powerless men and women [laity].

In-groups became those who accepted the institutional interpretation of the Scriptures; out-groups became those who rejected such. The catholic [universal] leadership and institution became “the saved’’—“the world” became those outside of and [often] opposed to “the church.”

Protestant Ethic

A paradigm shift: from individual within the corporate to corporate within the individual.


• Bi-polar partitioning of people into classes [“superior” and “subordinate”-“saved” and “unsaved”]
• Isolation
• Impersonality
• Systematic and detailed planning of activity
• Efficient and effective “good works”
• Motion economy with corresponding disdain for relaxation and “idleness”
• Time=money
• Patriarchy
• Wealth confirms divine favor
• “Spiritual” slavery to god

Implications for Organizations

The impersonal organization is exalted to divine status and becomes the unconscious projection of human needs and neuroses. Organization has a psychological profile: mission, vision, and values. It is feared and obeyed because “it” controls the material bases of life. Activity un-related to its “business” [idiosyncrasies, laughter, social interaction] is disloyalty to the deity. Object is supreme; subject is slight.

Management: Enacts the business [busy-ness] of the controlling entity. A priestly class “above” mediates between the “deity” and those “below” or “down” the hierarchy. These systematically plan the lives of “workers” to the last detail. Credentials, honor, status, and remuneration confirm their calling as a priestly aristocracy of labor.

Separation and secrecy [hence, ‘secretary’] sanctify them away from the potentially contaminating operatives. Workers are objects to be ‘reconciled’ to the deity [organization]. Management’s success is judged by melding the will of the organization and the will of workers. Obedience, submission and commitment are paramount.

Management Assumptions:

Non-managerial workers are in deficit [“sinners”]. Non-managerial workers exhibit the following characteristics:

• Dislike work and attempt to avoid it
• Have no ambition, want no responsibility
• Would rather follow than lead
• Are self-centered and therefore do not care about organizational goals
• Resist change
• Are gullible and not particularly intelligent

In fine, “workers” are “slaves of god” in that they experience a symbolic ritual of dishonor (social death) inflicted by both themselves and the enslaving organization. As slaves they are deprived of freedom of decision and action by means of force or enforced solidarity with a view to the utility of the enslaving organization. Self-manumission obtains when leaving an enslaving organization; slavery resumes when entering another. The brutal and brutalizing relationship is masked by a thin veneer of civility that is mitigated only by State “protection.”

The antagonism between “leaders” [shepherds] and “led” [sheep] can only be remedied by workers being “born from above” and “saved” [e.g., from unemployment]. Workers must “perform”—demonstrate unequivocal commitment [“everything not out of faith”—commitment—“is sin”] to the divine order—no matter how odious its dictates.

Servitude is insufficient–workers must repent of their own knowledge, repudiate their own identities, and adopt the new identity espoused by their “teachers.” As objects or instruments, workers must “demonstrate” complete and unequivocal submission [slavery] by surrendering to the higher power. In fine, they must “transform by making their minds over” [Romans 12:2] to prove to themselves what is the good and perfect will of the Power. The social pattern is re-enacted within each organization.

From What prevents us from regarding others as whole human beings?, 2009/02/21 at 6:32 AM

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

Transformative, holistic learning

Carman, Sorry for the long delay! My executive and career coaching practice includes working with people in career transition, and, unfortunately, many people are needing this kind of support right now.

Regarding transformation, you wrote:  “It changes ‘how’ we know. Change thus appears to involve the re-perception of reality. [It…] involves the ‘deconstruction of a given world-view and its replacement by a new world view.’ […] I believe it is superfluous to talk about collective (organizational) transformation without first clarifying individual transformation.”

Yes, I agree whole-heartedly. I suspect the reason many change efforts fail is that real transformation hasn’t taken at the individual level, and for change to hold, leadership must be transformed as well (hence, of course, the term “tranformative leadership”).

And, yes, I would also agree that personal transformation involves a re-perception of reality, such that the desired changes can be seen as a natural and normal part of being in the world (or organizations).

For example, most people would agree that the value of charity — lending a hand to those who need it — is a good one. However, behaving charitably does not come naturally to everyone — otherwise, there would be less want in the world. If our perspective is that the world is a collection of separate beings in competition for scarce resources, and we feel fearful, we might publically endorse the concept of charity, but not live by it. Rather, this world view leads to a different value, which contradicts the espoused value. This creates a culture in which it is understood that we say one thing and do another.

Similarly, in organizations, it’s not uncommon for people to espouse one value and then act in a way that is contrary to the value.

So, it’s interesting to consider the dynamics of that transformation… how does it happen?

Another consideration is the system itself. In this blog, I’ve primarily emphasized change from the inside out. There is also change from the outside in. In a nutshell, every worldview generates values and a structure of living in accordance with that view. If we are able to create a change in the structure, we may find that experience, perspective and attitudes change as well. 

For example, when I entered the field of software engineering years ago, women engineers were still a rarity, and I experienced some pretty blatant discrimination. In retrospect, I’m sure I was an affirmative action hire. Still, I did an exceptional job, and so did many other women. Over the years, affirmative action created a climate where the presence of women was considered more normal, and discrimination dwindled. 

Another example is compensation or performance management systems. We may prefer to behave in one way, but the system may shape our behavior in another…

Usually, the problem with this outside-in approach is that the structure is not strong enough for the new behavior to hold long enough to cause a change in perception.  It comes back to the perspective of human beings.  

That said, ultimately, for change to be sustained, the entire system, inclusive of psychology, sociology, organizational structure, processes, performance management system, culture, etc. must shift to be in sync with that change. This is, of course, the broader topic of organizational learning. It’s the systemic nature of this transformative learning, which I attempt to capture in my transformational-holistic-learning model.

It’s another full week for me, but hope to connect again, soon.

Power of Authenticity

Recently, I completed a course in Spirited Facilitation, which applies leading-edge principles and practices to group facilitation. Spirited Facilitation was developed by coach and trainer, Karen Capello, based on the inspired learning model (see I look forward to sharing more of this model with you in the future entries.

One of the key elements of the spirited facilitation model is learning to connect at will to the feeling of being fully alive, which is also when we are most fully our selves. Ms. Capello calls this state of being, our “essence energy.” Coach Rhonda Britten calls it, “our essential nature.” It is our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual state of being, when we are being self-actualizing, when we are living according to our highest purpose. It feels pretty good!

Each of us would describe this state of being differently. For example, for me, it would be something like, “inspired, insightful, co-creativity.” I am happiest and most inspired when I am finding new perspectives and making useful connections — especially in interesting conversations with others, and creating something new that adds to the quaity of our experience. For others, this peak experience may be “calm radiance” or something very different.

Whatever it may be, Ms. Britten points out that claiming (or reclaiming) our essential nature is key to to jumping off our “wheel of fear.” In an earlier post, I shared a story about witnessing a demonstration by hypnotherapist Monica Justice, in which she demonstrated that speaking the truth makes us physically stronger  (

Could it be that we gain strength — perhaps connect to our personal power — by being and expressing our authentic selves? For me, these are provocative questions which raise some big issues, which, of course, we will discuss here 🙂