Archive for Leadership

Jeffrey Pfeffer: Stop the Layoffs

Great article from Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer overturning some common myths about the beneficial affect of layoffs for organizations. Instead of increasing productivity and stock prices they often backfire.

Pathology of Dominator Dynamics

Happy new year!  Time flys when … you are busy 🙂 

I am longing to write about Partnership dynamics.  However, I recently came an article on psychopathy and power hierarchies and am reminded of another topic — the pathology of dominator dynamics.  Reviewing the various pathologies of psychopathy, sociopathy, narcisism and codependence, one can (I suggest) readily see how these psychological conditions are correlated with dominator dynamics and culture.  This blog entry quickly touches on psychopathy and sociopathy. Future posts will touch on narcisim and codependence.  Once we  begin to see how these psychological disorders have  left their imprint on organizational members and organizations, we might experience a renewed resolve to imagine and enact healthier organizations. 

To briefly review cultural historian Riane Eisler’s cultural transformation model, which outlines the concepts of Partnership vs. dominator cultural dynamics, below is an very good summary by Ron Miller, a thinker and activist in the area of holistic education (who is potentially an excellent resource for the study of Partnership approaches to learning organizations). Miller writes: 

“[Eisler] … has argued that societies make choices about how they distribute power, that there is nothing natural or inevitable about oppressive hierarchies. She has looked at how values and beliefs are shared across social institutions, from intimate relationships to the state, and found a clear difference between what she calls “dominator” cultural patterns (societies marked by violence, authoritarianism, and gender inequity) and “partnership” orientations (societies that value cooperation, nurturing, and equality). A dominator culture seizes hold of human differences in order to rank people into more or less valued social positions; a partnership culture aims to link people into diverse communities where each contributes his or her strengths and finds aid and support as needed. In any dominator-oriented society, Eisler says, one finds “hierarchies of domination” that limit individual expression and crush resistance, while a partnership orientation supports “hierarchies of actualization”-ways of organizing institutions that maximize “the collective power to accomplish things together.”  (Retrieved from:, 1/10/10)

 The term “pathological” is defined as, “caused by or evidencing a psychologically disturbed condition… “psychoneurotic” … “neurotic,” and also as “caused by … or manifesting disease,” “not exhibiting good health in body or mind.” (Retrieved from:, 1/10/10). 

Recently I came across an article by Clinton Callahan on psychopathy and hierarchies of power. Psychopathy is a personality disorder that is characterized by an absence of empathy. Quoting Wikipedia for expediency:

“Psychopathy (pronounced /sa??k?p??i/[1][2]) is a personality disorder whose hallmark is a lack of empathy. Researcher Robert Hare, whose Hare Psychopathy Checklist is widely used, describes psychopaths as “intraspecies predators[3][4] who use charm, manipulation, intimidation, sex and violence[5][6][7] to control others and to satisfy their own needs. Lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse”.[8] “What is missing, in other words, are the very qualities that allow a human being to live in social harmony.”[9]

“Psychopaths are glib and superficially charming, and many psychopaths are excellent mimics of normal human emotion;[10] some psychopaths can blend in, undetected, in a variety of surroundings, including corporate environments.[11] There is neither a cure nor any effective treatment for psychopathy; there are no medications or other techniques which can instill empathy, and psychopaths who undergo traditional talk therapy only become more adept at manipulating others.[12] The consensus among researchers is that psychopathy stems from a specific neurological disorder which is biological in origin and present from birth.[10] It is estimated that one percent of the general population are psychopaths. [13][14]” 

Related to the disorder of psychopathy is the disorder of sociopathy. Again quoting the same article: “David T. Lykken proposes psychopathy and sociopathy are two distinct kinds of antisocial personality disorder. He believes psychopaths are born with temperamental differences such as impulsivity, cortical underarousal, and fearlessness that lead them to risk-seeking behavior and an inability to internalize social norms. On the other hand, he claims sociopaths have relatively normal temperaments; their personality disorder being more an effect of negative sociological factors like parental neglect, delinquent peers, poverty, and extremely low or extremely high intelligence. Both personality disorders are the result of an interaction between genetic predispositions and environmental factors, but psychopathy leans towards the hereditary whereas sociopathy tends towards the environmental.[38]” Retrieved from, 1/10/10)

In his online article, “Beware the Psychopath, My Son” ( Clinton Callahan draws on sources such as, Snakes in Suits by Robert Hare and Paul Babiak, to propose that because psychopaths (and by definition, sociopaths) are not constrained by human empathy yet mimic normal emotions well, that they often rise to the top of (dominator) hierarchies. He points to bloody history and to the amoral posture of many organizations to suggest that organizations are somewhat (if not more substantially) influenced by sociopathic norms.  The article is thought provoking and worth reading.  

 What do you think?  Have you ever worked with a sociopathic personality?  How did it affect the dynamics of the organization?  (Please don’t post any names or organizations).

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.

Domination-Partnership Dichotomy (Exploring Parallels)

Hi Lisa,

Why am I not surprised that serving a greater good is [your] greatest form of satisfaction? Thank you too for your invigorating treatment of the holistic paradigm.

I would like to address and integrate some of your comments, beginning with, “I disagree with Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit, but that view is very consistent with philosophical atomism.”

Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” is, I believe, societal rather than somatic. That is, his focus is on “group attachment” and “group integrity.” In short, he is doing sociology, not psychology. Paul’s dichotomization of flesh and spirit seems very much like Riane Eisler’s dichotomization of domination and partnership. Eisler declares: “For all their unique peculiarities, most of our attempts at civilization have had one of two basic configurations the domination system or the partnership system.” She seems to be speaking about two basic ways of looking at the world and about the systems that express such worldview.

Similarly, Paul’s dichotomization of “flesh” and “spirit” seems analogous to “domination” and “partnership” as those mindsets impact the group. (I cannot overemphasize the group phenomenon). In Galatians, Paul is counseling leaders/teachers against sub-professional conduct that undermines group adhesion. Unless he can recall them to a larger vision, the leadership group will dissolve.

Put another way, Paul is a rabbinic leader speaking to a group of rabbis about convention learning versus transformation learning. Convention learners are attempting to reintroduce their [domination] thinking into the transformation [partnership] culture. Using the domination-partnership dichotomy I will attempt to paraphrase Paul’s counsel. Let’s imagine he is addressing a leadership school that promotes partnership:

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

16 I say then: Make progress in the partnership mindset, and you shall not enact the domination mindset. 17 For the domination mindset militates against the partnership mindset, and the partnership mindset is against the domination mindset; and these attitudes are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the partnership mindset, you are not bound by the domination culture.

19 Now the group-destroying behaviors characteristic of the domination mindset are evident, Sexual Deviance: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 Self-Idolatry and Narcissism: hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, casting your fellow teachers in the worst possible light, 21 envy, character assassination, drunkenness, drunken parties, and the like; of which I warn l you beforehand, just as I also warned you in time past, that those who practice such things will be expelled from the partnership program.

22 But partnership’s mindset yields the following orchard: group attachment, esprit de corps, member well-being, longsuffering toward one another, kindness toward one another, spontaneous goodness, group trust, 23 gentleness toward new members, self-control vis-à-vis recalcitrant members. Against such there is no legitimate prohibition. 24 And those [who are] partnership’s offspring have repudiated the domination mindset with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in partnership, let us also walk in transformed consciousness. 26 Let us not return to the domination culture by becoming conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Lisa, in your previous post you stated: “of course, one can apply a holistic perspective to leadership and organization with interesting implications.” I would find the application of your insights to a leadership group in crisis to be very instructive. Perhaps the group scenario above will suffice. If a partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue-especially if dissolution were imminent?

Bye for now!


The rain has relented and so my sun-starved eyes may be sated today.

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.

The Evolution of Organizations

Hi Carman,

My apologies for my delay in responding! I appreciate your willingness to remain in dialogue with me during this period where I’m not able to respond as quickly as I would like. 

 Your post raises such insightful and powerful questions about organizations. First, you notice the parallel between Patterson’s description of the thrall or slave, “a body with natural movements, but without its own reason, -an existence entirely absorbed in another” [the Master] and Morgan’s description of employee in a bureaucratic organization (organization as machine). Both scenarios share the ethic of controlling others to achieve one’s ends. This ethic is common and even considered part of normal human condition in much of Western philosophy, psychology, management literature, etc.

 Your openness and willingness to dig – to notice the residue of the dominator paradigm in even the brain metaphor and learning organization demonstrate intellectual courage. I agree that we need to be willing to explore beyond even such valuable contributions as these — using them as stepping stones on the road to personal and organizational self-actualization.

 Thank you for introducing Dr. Tara Fenwick’s analysis that:

*  “Even within the Learning Organization – ample evidence of thralldom (disposition to dominate; propensity to submit).”

 * The learning organization while being “ostensibly egalitarian” remains “essentially authoritarian” in that all serves the organization “learning is technical, instrumental” 

 * “Critical scrutiny is deflected away from the power structures and the learning organization ideology itself, and focused on the individual”

 * “The voice of the learning organization sculptors is not self-critical. The agenda and vision of the leader or educational agent is bracketed out, obscuring the partiality and positionality of the voices calling for continuous learning and learning organizations.”

 This seems true on its face. Organizations are not self-existent, but exist within a larger social and economic framework. A colleague of mine has recommended business journalist Marjorie Kelly’s book, The Divine Right of Capital. Kelly’s work contrasts economic democracy with economic aristocracy, which is comparable to feudalism. (The feudal analogy is commonplace in organizations). We are all shaped, to a substantial degree by our inheritances. Therefore, many (most?) learning organizations are the convergence of these two streams. Further, leadership and organizational coaches, consultants and trainers usually serve larger organizations whose roots are in Theory X soil, and so we may emphasize how these approaches help organizational leaders serve their ends, which include the achievement of career success by delivering results to shareholders.

 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.

 It comes back, I think, to this sense of self-searching and transformation. As Fenwick implies, this is particularly important at level of organizational leadership precisely because of the impact that the “beingness” of leaders has on the quality … and effectiveness of the organization.

 The topic of organizations, effectiveness, and the self-searching and self-actualization of organizations and their members is such a large topic, that I will postpone it to another post. But, I do want to acknowledge your question about structure and the implied consideration of the nature of power (is it unilateral or co-creative?) This question is also timely as we are increasingly seeing the realities that Tom Peters described in Thriving on Chaos 20 years ago, in which the employer-employee “contract” has been substantially dissolved and the boundaries between career and entrepreneurship have become increasingly blurred… What new structures are arising? 

 Thank you for bringing such an interesting discussion!


Organizational Culture

Thank you for this contribution. It’s so relevant to our whole discussion, I’m also posting it up here in the main blog.

Best regards,

Hello Denis and Lisa,

I’m not sure about the question but I believe you are asking about the odd language academics use to describe organizational culture. It’s so easy to feel overpowered by academic writing. Simply put, It has been said that “the water is the last thing the fish see.” If we imagine that organizations are fishbowls then the challenge of helping fish to comprehend their environment is obvious [if fish could think like we do!] We so often take words for granted. “Culture” is an example. So let’s go back to basics. What do we mean by “culture”?

Gareth Morgan’s excellent work “Images of Organization” [which I highly recommend] says that “culture” comes from the idea of “tilling and developing the land” (p.120) Morgan says the agricultural metaphor focuses our attention on “very specific aspects of social development.” What does he mean?

Does he mean that people are unique? Yes. Are you and I unique? Yes. But are we also alike in many respects? Yes. However, Morgan is talking specifically about “organizations.” So the metaphor of “culture” asks us to imagine that organizations are like countries and we are like anthropologists trying to understand the distinctive societies. Hence, an organization, like a country, will exhibit unique characteristics [I like to say that organizations are like fingerprints in that they both unique but exhibit commonalties].

Following are some elements of “culture”:

*Leadership: Who are in control?

*Structure-How have those in control arranged positions?

*Climate-How have those in control taught members to “feel” about one another?

*History-Who were originally in control? How did they and their successors shape the organization?

*Customs and rituals-What big meaningful events have been arranged by those in control?

*Language-How do those in control communicate with organizational members?

*Dress-How do those in control dress? How do they expect organizational members to dress?

*Beliefs-What things are accepted as true by those in control? How deeply are those beliefs held by those in control? How are those beliefs communicated to those with less control?

*Artifacts-How have those in control arranged buildings, furnishings and equipment?

*Values-What do those in control expect of those they control?

Culture is all about the creation of social reality. But power is key. Power is the ability to create or produce reality [organizations]. Here is an example from Morgan’s chapter on culture:

“We sit in the same seats, like cows always go to the same stall. It’s a real waste of time. It’s a situation where you can say just about anything and no one will refute it. People are very hesitant to speak up, afraid to say too much. They say what everyone else wants to hear” p.131.

*A modernist approach might begin by asking about the elements of culture-the big picture. For example, What elements of culture are useful in analyzing the above example? *A symbolic interpretivist approach might ask how members are making meaning within their experience. For example, How does the metaphor of the cow illustrate the member’s interaction? *A post-modernist perspective might ask about the member’s power and ability to make meaning and how the member’s perception impacts the organization [and yes, we can critique post-modernism].

My advice to those studying organizational theory is to pay attention to power and control. It’s all very well to talk about “shared” meaning and “rational” goals, for example. But in the final analysis members will say and do what they are expected to do-by those in power.

I hope this helps.

Bye for now!


Self Actualization vs. Dehumanization

Carman, Thank you for your note! I appreciation this whole process of deconstruction and reconstruction of ideas. It takes courage to relinquish our certainty enough to open our minds to new connections and possibilities. There is a period of chaos before new structures coalesce, which can be uncomfortable, to the say the least, but the insights we gain by allowing and processing this chaos or change can be enormously rewarding. Therefore, I appreciate Rosemarie Anderson’s term for that period, “auspcisous bewilderment”(1). One of the benefits of Partnership systems is that they are safe enough to allow the uncertainty inherent in the creative process.

As you requested, I moved our earlier conversation in the comments area of “Freedom vs. Slavery” to the main blog to make it easier to read.

Your quote from Freire aptly contasts the difference between the experience and concept of work as self-actualization in the context of community and work as dehumanization or exploitation. These are two different paradigms of leadership and organization (social relationship), and of ways of being in the world.

The Partnership paradigm reflects an ethic of mutual flourishing. Conversely, a dominator paradigm reflects a “dog eat dog” or “dog oppress dog” 😉 ethic. Both are part of our historical inheritance, but the ethic of domination goes deep. What is our reaction when we are crossed? And then, what response do we choose…

In considering Friere’s comment, I am also reminded of philosopher Jacques Derrida’s reminder that there is freedom and power throughout the system. Even in situations of extreme oppression, such as former Soviet labor camps, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago demonstrated that the human being could choose a perspective of self-actualization. So we have these mulitple frontiers, the social and the psychological, for moving towards more creative, adpative and fulfilling systems..

It’s a pleasure to read and post your insightful and creative essays, as always!


1. Rosemarie Anderson, “Intuitive Inquiry,” Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences: Honoring Human Experience,” eds. William Broud and Rosemarie Anderson.

Anderson includes a quote from the mystic Jelaluddin Rumi in the opening to her chapter, which speaks to this place of auspicious bewilderment and creativity: “Today like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do.”

Freedom is Slavery

While the following may shock the sensibilities of some, I want to emphasize that I am doing sociology, not ideology. That is, I am not exalting one political system above another or indicting either management or labor. Rather, I am attempting to understand the themes of domination, exploitation, and dehumanization-recurring issues on this site. Hopefully, with your help as intellectual mid-wife, we can attempt to surface entrenched assumptions which I believe catalyze most human-to-human interaction.I learned something about the word “leadership”: “laeden” is to go upward and “schaeppen” is to create a thing of value. Evidently, the word “shop” derives from the suffix. We buy things of value in shops. However, like the Dutch word “boss,” “leader” essentially means “master.” You allude to leadership as a creative act in your question, “What steps can leaders take to create an environment of trust and safety to support open and constructive communication?” Both words connote the right to command and the duty to exact obedience.

For the past few weeks I’ve been attempting to give my vague notions about leadership more concretion-to surface and challenge my assumptions about leadership. The exercise is both fatiguing and exhilarating. I’ve also taken a deep mental plunge into Orlando Patterson’s book “Slavery and Social Death, A Comparative Study.” I am attempting to integrate Patterson’s insights into my own experience. The fruit of this synthesis is what I term

(Bondage, Slavery)



As a principle, thralldom is the condition of being entirely subject to another’s will.

As a practice, thralldom is a form of forced labor in which people are considered to be, or treated as, the property of others.

I submit that the principle of thralldom is the active force underlying virtually all relationships. It is the bedrock of all social interaction. Thralldom is complete control over someone who is subject to that one’s will. The controller is subject, the controlled is object. The controller is a person; the controlled is a non-person-a thing.
Thralldom has two dimensions about which you have spoken at length Lisa: 1) domination 2) dehumanization.
The Tree will illustrate how I see thralldom as a ubiquitous phenomenon:
Leaves and Fruit: labels, language, media, scholastic systems, products and services, which simultaneously obscure and express the reality of thralldom.

Branches: interpersonal and organizational expressions of thralldom (e.g., organization as machine, organism, instrument of domination, political system, psychic prison).

Trunk: thralldom [slavery] as social fact [reality]

Root System: propensity to dominate, legitimacy of the State and its military apparatus, ideology, tradition, forgotten history.

Thralldom is:

Mediated: by money
Modified: by the character of the organization
Mitigated: by labor relations and human rights legislation.

Based on the above, “freedom” would be the degree of “protection” within an experience of exploitation.

While the conditions of slavery vary from relationship to relationship the dimensions of domination and dehumanization remain constant.

For example:

• discipline: punishments and rewards
• subjection and submission: (inferior) status
• performance: duties performed under duress
• treatment: as objects, human tools, instruments
• perception: as commodities

If you like, I will expand on my research, which we can discuss and debate to our hearts content-time permitting of course.

Bye for now,

Carman (My new e-mail address is not yet established–please bear with)


Leadership: http://www.learning

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?