Archive for Teams

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.

On Parallels between Paul and Eisler, and Group Mind

Carman, It’s always a pleasure to read your thoughts. Thank you for highlighting the parallels between Eisler on Partnership and Paul. I hadn’t fully appreciated this aspect of Paul.  The opposition of “flesh” and “spirit” is a key theme in many theologies, so I read him more literally.  I do hear and appreciate that you interpret Paul’s words differently, with an interesting result.   

[12/8/09:  Carman, I’ve been continuing to mull your interpretation of Paul, and see some strong parallels with my own [process] train of thought. If we use the idea of “small self'” in place of “flesh,” I agree that these ideas do begin to describe a holistic, Partnership approach. I think the original metaphor is problematic in that it is too limited and freezes an occassionally conflicting relationship between different aspects (or intelligences) of ourselves into permanent opposition.  I think this core antagonism is paradigmatic, in a sense, of the ethic of opposition, domination and control towards others in a dominator system. If instead, we recognize difference rather than antagonism, we retain the possibility of a higher, creatively intelligent resolution which surpasses what we can  imagine as individuals.]

Another area of concern for me, with regard to Paul, is his statement in Corinthians 14:34-35 which seems to promote the subordination of women to men, which would be contrary to an ethic of Partnership:  “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”  That said, I’ve also read that this is often or usually interpreted to refer to a specific situation rather than as a generalization  

I know that you have some expertise on this subject.  What are your thoughts?  

I am interested to explore the key question that you have posed: “If a Partnership group were being infiltrated by dominator tendencies, how would you address the issue, especially if dissolution were imminent?”

I am drawn to the idea that a higher wisdom can emerge in groups where there is shared intention, trust, active listening, mutual encouragement and appreciation. I’ve found that in really healthy, collaborative groups there can be a kind of ” magic” — a very satisfying experience of co-creativity in which the result is clearly better than members might achieve alone.

Two quotes from Napolean Hill seem to speak to that notion:

“When two or more people coordinate in a spirit of harmony and work toward a definite objective or purpose, they place themselves in position, through the alliance, to absorb power directly from the great storehouse of the creative mechanism of each contributing mind.”

And:  “No two minds ever come together without, thereby, creating a third, invisible, intangible force which may be likened to a third mind.”

For me, these quotes bring together the very compatible principles of Partnership and holism.

Would you like to consider a particular concrete situation and reason together?


P.S.  I think we have your rain today!  The skys just opened up.

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.

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.

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.

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).

Holism, Power, and the Intersubjective Nature of Joy

Hi Carman, I am glad to hear that you are feeling restored to health! It’s a pleasure to read your posts again.

Yes, I agree — Alfred North Whitehead once said that whatever constitutes a world view can be understood to constitute a religion. And, process theologian, David Ray Griffin, who interpreted and extended Whitehead’s work, observed that two key world views dominate the modern West: fundamentalist Christian theology (in which God created the world but is separate from it) and materialism — the latter deriving from the former. Ecofeminist philosopher, Charlene Spretnak, observes that these two worldviews share in common the assumption that notion that we are all separate. 

However, this notion of separation is not fundamental to either science or spirituality. My hypothesis is that the perspective that we are all separate is born of pain and fear, and engenders the same.  And when we are separate and afraid, we seek power *over* our situation and others. Because money is a form of power that gives us some measure of control, it’s unsurprising that we would turn wealth itself into a god.

New science, on the other hand, points to a more holistic, intelligent Cosmos. In my personal understanding, it points to a world in which we are all deeply interconnected and in which there are multiple levels of intelligence — from cells, to organisms, to ecosystems — including the intelligence of the larger whole, in which we all participate. 

However, because our worldviews are self-reinforcing, our culture reinforces ways of perceiving and interpreting the world that emphasize separation, which one prominent physicist called a kind of optical illusion of consciousness. However, different aspects of human experience can and do, point to a more holistic and interconnected world, and that leads us into the life world that you describe so well.

Your question on how the two employers defended the life world sounds well worth exploring. I notice that Fezziwig takes joy in the happiness of others. We are social animals, and it seems that meaning and happiness ulitmately has this relational context. Conversely, I also notice that Scrooge is not a happy person. He may take pleasure in comforts, but in serving the god of wealth, he oppresses himself as well as others. 

To this point, I recently read a quote by Booker T. Washington, which read, “You can’t hold a man [or woman] down without staying down with him [her].”  This is true at many levels, from the psychological, to the sociological, to a more holistic understanding of what some call “the inter-subjective space.” (Robert Kenny has done some fascinating, ground-breaking work on how this space applies to creative teams (  Transformational leadership thus has the potential to liberate and free the creative potentials of both the leader and the organization.

The role of the Spirits could be metaphorical or it could relate to the larger spirit or intelligence of the whole, for which people have used a variety of terms, depending on their spiritual or secular orientation.  (I think you previously raised the question of the relationship between spiritual transformation and tranformative leadership…)    

Speaking of valuing the subjective dimension of life, several colleagues and clients that I am working with in my coaching and training practice, hold the intention that their work should also be fulfilling and fun.  It’s an enriching practice to work with, as I’m sure you know! 

Have a great weekend!


More on humanizing systems (and the brain)

Hi Carman, As always, your posts are both intellectually enriching and poetic.

Years ago, Alfonso Montuori and I wrote an essay on how our philosophical paradigm and guiding metaphors have shaped organizations and leadership, and created the blind spots that now limit organizations. A very perceptive reviewer suggested the article would be all the more impactful if it was written from the voice that naturally emerges from the perspective we descibe. You write in that voice.

You make an excellent point about humanizing systems, and I appreciate your references to Weber and Havel. It raises the question: Are we meant to serve our systems, or are they meant to serve us?  There is so much more to be said here about human and social psychology in a “mechanistic system” or a “theocracy.”  But, for the moment, I, too, am drawn to explore more creative and fulfilling possibilities. ..

Towards that end, I would like to offer an additional perspective. In our essay, Alfonso Montuori observes that we tend to emphasize and value either the individual or the group — one in opposition to the other. For example, capitalism vs. communism; the lone hero fighting the oppressive organization.

However, Montuori also observes that sense of opposition itself reflects a worldview of separation (which I would loosely associate with our ideas of left brain cognition).  Rather, from a systems point of view, he suggests, it’s a matter of “both/and. ” The organization and individual are part of a single continuum. In a sense, each is in and shapes the other.  In a healthy organic system, groups exist to serve their members, and members serve the group so that it continues to sustain them. We could also add that a healthy organic system also recognizes that its own sustainability requires a healthy environment…    

A key distinction between a healthy organic system and bureaucratic systems is that, as rational systems, bureaucratic systems tend to make objects of their members. Using the machine analogy, the “subject” is the operator of the machine, and the experience of organizational members is not considered as important as the economic and other outcomes of the organizational machine. Often it could be said of these organizations that the experience of organizational members only makes a difference in so much as as it affects the bottom line.

This machine also exists inside many of its members — who learn not to value our own subjective experience.  For example, there have been times in my organizational career, where I had so much to do (produce) that I literally felt machine-like and disconnected from my feelings.

My perspective is that in a hierarchal, bureacratic system (which emphasizes external power relations), we are enculturated to feel primarily those emotions associated with our dynamic place in the pecking order: anxiety, anger, depression and for the lack of a better word, “glory.” But, in as much as we are encouraged to subordinate the quality of our experience to economic and other outcomes, there is an inclination to shut down other feelings, including empathy, which is considered to be “soft” and “feminine” and therefore, less appropriate to an organizational environment.

Being a biological organism myself 🙂 I believe that when one of my bodily subsystems is in distress (or very healthy), I feel it — either unconsciously or consciously.  Conversely, when I am happy or in distress, every system in my body is impacted by that.  In other words, I think that the quality of holism arises, at least in part, from mutual feeling (of parts and the whole).  [I’m very influenced in this train of thought by Alfred North Whitehead’s process philosophy.]

So, I think the restoration of feeling and the revalorization of the quality of our subjective and inter-subjective experience is key to a more cognitively balanced (Partnership) approach to organizations…  To come full circle, this is a quality I hear in your writing.

thank you so much for this inspiring conversation!

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.