24 April 2014
I find myself feeling dangerous!
I think that compulsions are dangerous things, and I feel compelled to act … an act of what might possibly be thought of as sedition or treason, with the intent to foment revolution.
My body is bristling with it … I can feel it in the hackles raised on my neck, and I am aching for a fight.
Before I get lost with myself let me restate the charge …
I have been accused, or so it seems to me, to be resisting the interdiction to challenge some institutionalized ways of knowing. Specifically, an instruction of sorts about acting in alignment and accordance with a given model of interaction.
AN ARGUMENTATIVE STANCE:
I find that one of my ways of being … an ontological form so to speak … is to be in argument, in the most formal of ways of thinking about argument:
From From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
A process of reasoning, or a controversy made up of rational proofs; argumentation; discussion; disputation
From From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006):
A discussion in which reasons are advanced for and against some proposition or proposal
A course of reasoning aimed at demonstrating a truth or falsehood; the methodical process of logical reasoning
So it seems to me I have a long lineage of argument to point to as a valid way of and of seeking to know and knowing i.e.: of inquiry and discovery.
In part the revolution I might be seeking to foment is in challenging the willingness to accept that
- A) collaborative knowing is somehow more valid than subjective, individual, phenomenological knowing
- B) that having a deep sense of knowing that is resolute is less valid than one that is more permeable when it comes to pursing an inquiry into one’s own knowing
- C) that there are better and worse ways of knowing, e.g.: my challenge to a Euro-Centric way of knowing being refuted by virtue of making that challenge within a Euro-Centric institution
- D) that knowing is somehow separate from being, e.g.: “I am this thing I know.” as the causative, karmic statement
Before I go on, I must add none of what I am stating do I hold to be “true” in any way … other than as I experience it myself.
This idea that I can only know what I experience, and that my “knowing” does not necessarily represent any reality beyond my experience is essential to my stance and my argument.
So the things I state … that I am bristling at the challenge and ready for a fight … are based on my experience of events, and not the events themselves. I readily admit I cannot with any certainty know what those events were other than my experience of them … even if they had been recorded in high fidelity and high definition, e.g.: Dolby THX 5:1 Surround Sound and 8K, Ultra High-Definition (7680×4320) video!
Okay … with my charge restated I shall continue …
INCITING A (LEADERSHIP) REVOLUTION:
More precisely I seek to instigate what I think of as a large scale revolution … yea, not evolution but REVOLUTION … in leadership as we know it to be in most instances.
Leadership on the grand scale. Leadership as it exists in the institutions we inhabit and occupy day in and day out.
The institutions I refer to begin with the family, and leadership with those nuclear relationships. Then the extension of the institutions to include our communities and the schools, business and organizations they contain and that comprise them.
Reaching further I find I am compelled to point towards the large scale institutions and bureaucracies of governments and all they spawn and contain as well … the departments and the ministries.
I am indeed hot under the collar about such things … using the ontology of argument to fuel my inquiry so to speak.
It seems from the stance I find myself positioned in that leaders suffer from an institutionalized way of knowing … an insistence on being understood if not liked by others before they can or will lead, the desire for collaboration outweighing their commitment to lead.
Here I expect that some will find my stance objectionable, if not downright offensive.
How dare I suggest that the will to lead in a family, school, business or other institution could be or should be anything other than collaborative first and foremost.
“Doesn’t everyone have a right to a voice?” “
Doesn’t everyone have their right to their opinion?” “Shouldn’t we seek the input and advice of others before we act?”
I can hear these and other charges ringing forth at my suggestion that leadership may not be best served at all times by the collaboration so often sought by leaders in institutions today (or, mea culpa, so it seems to me … ). But my challenge to these charges is of equal fervor.
“Do we not seek our leaders to lead and not merely facilitate?”
Isn’t there an argument to be made that a biological imperative exists for a hierarchical structure in the formation of human systems?
(NOTE: Although I would argue that the hierarchy is best served and of most service when it is fluid, NOT non-existent.)
THE COST OF NOT LEADING:
I see the effect in the system-at-large for the void in leadership presenting symptomatically in many different ways:
- Unruly children who aren’t just rebellious (normal IMO during certain phases of development) … but somewhere between ornery and obnoxious to the point of outright violence against themselves and others
- Social system breakdowns with less opportunity available in the system-at-large for those not yet fully enfranchised and benefiting from the accumulation of wealth from generations past
- Civil and political unrest, locally and globally, about the direction of leadership as it is practiced at the top, with a sense that those not close enough to the top will be left behind entirely
- Outbreaks of violence against individuals – as in the battering of women and children … communities of people – as in racial and religious hate crimes … nations against nations – as in acts of war …
I feel the unrest in my own blood and bones … probably in part what I am bristling at just below the surface at all time, with the smallest slight or infraction in my direction setting me on edge or pushing me off it.
There is a rage that brewing against the lack of decisiveness from our leaders I think … at least that is what is percolating inside of me, always threatening to boil over.
Instead of owning the obligations and responsibilities of leadership, I see our leaders wanting to share their leadership, abdicating accountability to empathy.
I for one know that I cannot, nay will not, follow a leaders who is themselves indecisive … I want those who choose to occupy the chair of leadership to lead, to express a vision of their own that calls followers to them, and then to lead with a strong arm and even stronger heart.
I want to follow a leader with heart, in the mold of servant leaders from all times … those who willingly bear the weight of the crown and raise those around them upon their shoulders … not the leader who off-loads the burden of leadership and raises themselves up on the shoulders of others.
The leader who will be a servant my learn to not to care enough to lead well … i.e.: not to care about what others think of them to be able to do what it takes to lead others beyond what they could lead themselves to undertaking and accomplishing. It is a lot to ask, but I ask nothing less.
Even in the most loving and collaborative of primates, our cousins the bonobos, we find a strong hierarchical structure. In their case (the bonobos) it happens to be a matriarchal structure with the dominant females beating the males into submission if they get all uppity and dispute the given order of things.
The bonobos to be fair also use the granting of sexual favor to organize and create structure in their communities, once again under the auspices of the females who lead.
But … to be sure these are not “communal” or “collaborative” decisions made by all within the community, the dominant female bonobo leads with an iron fist when necessary, and does not brook insubordination with grace.
I use this example to help make my point as it is … We too, as primates, are sometimes potentially best served when we least tolerate equivocation … not always, but in measure.
I would argue that we, like the bonobos with whom we share so much of our DNA (greater than a 99% match in our genetic structures by some measures), have a deeply imprinted archetype to recognize a hierarchy in the system.
THE ARCHETYPE OF THE KING/QUEEN:
We deeply seek the pleasure of the King or Queen, to have them beam their grace down upon us.
The ancient act of kneeling before nobility in an act of submission born of subjugation may be renewed and rejuvenated by the action of submission born of choice.
By choosing to place ourself in relation to other subordinately we may receive what grace they can and choose to cast upon us. This grace may be an act of love, or teaching, or discipline or wisdom.
If the act is one of grace, and of our choosing, it may not matter in form to still bestow the benefit. Again, I can imagine the protestations in the the milieu I inhabit with my fellows.
“SUBMISSION … kneeling before another!!!! How dare he be so insubordinate as to even suggest that to me!”
The hypocrisy of the speech act all but invisible to the proclaimer.
It seems we have built a society so fearful of command or control as to have thrown out the baby and drunk the bathwater of our own beliefs in equality, plurality and tolerance … even when these things may least serve us, our causes or our kind.
When the presence of the King or Queen is missing it is just as severely felt by us as when they are fully and most regally present to us. I believe that in part the challenge to the perturbations of my argument are a response to the missing Kings and Queens in our collective psyche, and the deep desire for their presence in our lives.
NOTE: It may be worth pointing out that in my observation and experience both the King and the Queen are necessary for us to perceive and experience ourselves as whole and complete.
It might be useful here to restate my purpose as I did the charges against my stance I experienced them …
My interest is in inquiring into the heart and soul of change, what it is … NOT the process of change … but , its ontology.
To organize my inquiry I have chosen as well a focus, the idea or concept of leadership such as it is that I think of it, one might say the phenomenology of leadership as an ontological entity … i.e.: “What does it mean to be a leader and/or to lead?”
The question in English seems to provoke an inquiry into action, i.e.: the doing of leadership, yet I seek to resist this direction and to aim my inquiry at the nature of leadership and leading as a state of being.
I want to explore the premise that who a leader is being is what is most perceived by those they lead. (Of course, this presumes that leadership is about leading people and not processes – a presumption I fully own up to in the pursuit of my inquiry.)
THE LIQUID OF LEADERSHIP:
It seems that in pursing the line of inquisition I have followed what has emerged in part is what I think of as the liquid nature of leadership in human systems, in much the same way information is liquid.
The “liquid” of leadership, i.e.: the state of being of the leader, permeates the system equally despite the distance from the leader that those in the system reside in relation to them.
This last point is essential in the exploration I have undertaken … it is NOT a given by any means, but one that continues to demand my attention over and over again.
The leader’s presence (or lack thereof) is felt at a distance from the leader in the same degree that is felt adjacent to the leader in connection to the transference of state within the system where the leader operates.
A LEADERSHIP EXAMPLE:
If I take my family as an example of the liquid nature of presence there is a particular decision I can point to that has shaped my life for more than a decade … setting the course I have taken and continue to follow.
When my daughter was born, my son was already thirteen. I had an intention from his birth to be of service to him by virtue of being the man I wanted and needed to be such that he would experience me in ways that allowed for him to become himself. I accepted that he would nonetheless model some of my ways of being and behavior, if not permanently, then surely until he found his own ways. The weight of what I can describe as “generational responsibility” was heavy upon me.
I recognized in my own ways of being and behavior the imprints of my parents and extended family, and beyond those that of my teachers, friends and colleagues, not to mention lovers and partners. I assumed,rightly or wrongly, that my way of being, and the behaviors I expressed as a manifestation of it, would imprint themselves on my children, as my own history had demonstrated to me about myself.
At the moment of laying eyes on my newborn daughter for the first time I made a vow that regardless of the place, time, circumstance or situation … alone or with others … I would act as though my children were standing with me, observing and modeling me.
To be sure I have not keep this vow in any way resembling perfection. I continue to discover my humanity in my failings and foibles as I attempt to continue becoming the man I intend to be.
But, this way of organizing myself, in relation to my children, regardless of where they or I am at the time, permeates my consciousness and my actions. In other words in order to lead I must do so from one step behind, allowing the consideration of my constituents (in this case my most beloved children) to permeate my intentions, and the actions they give rise to as well.
I am both leading and being lead by the consideration I have for my son and daughter in the role I hold as a leader in the family system that revolves to a great extent around my way of being and how that manifests in an extant way … through my words and acts.
However, I believe in my heart and soul that my children experience me as much as they attend to anything I say or do … to use a common expression, they “feel” me … as I “feel” them, even when we stand thousands of miles apart from one another.
Of course you can ask, and rightly so, who is leading whom?
SIGNALS IN THE SYSTEM (A RECURRENT THEME):
FWIW, I would answer by stating that the strongest signal in the system organizes the system, even when that signal is in response to another signal also within the system, e.g.: the way a fire alarm ignites the action of a team of firefighters, and possibly and entire community, in response to the signal of the smoke and flames.
Do the firefighters follow the signal of the alarm, or is the alarm a way of transmitting the signal of the smoke and flames beyond their local reach?
Likewise, it is only when the signal that I am and send is present, even when I am not, like the spore of pheromones in the wake of my having walked a particular path, does my “leadership” begin to permeate the system as a whole.
This applies equally as well to the vacuum that would be present, in the system, were I not at all … just ask any child who is missing a parent if the effect of the loss is as profound as the presence of the parent who remains. I know how the signal of both those who are present, and those who are not, reverberates in the system.
Despite the distance of time, the missing presence of my wife, who I lost to cancer almost two years ago, haunts the home that my daughter and I share. The emptiness where she once was stalks the rooms like a ghost in the wake of her absence.
We could also ask anyone at Apple what the effect of Steven Jobs is now that he is no longer physically present within the organization, arguably no where to be found literally. I presume the employees of Apple would share their sense of the ghost of Steve Jobs legacy haunting the corridors and conference rooms for years to come … despite whether or not they ever met the man.
This is the “liquid” I am referring to as … “the effect of the leader felt at a distance” … (applicable in both space and time).
CONCLUSIONS??? … NONE!
(even when I looks like I believe myself …)
BUT … MAYBE GETTING CLOSER!
(… or at least close enough to be of some service)
MY ROLE AS CHANGE ARTIST:
My current role as a researcher and practitioner is committed to exploring the nature of my professional actions, and their impact and effect/effectiveness, with a aim towards uncovering what might be revealed about what has remained hidden from view for me as of yet … and of the possibility of developing new ways of being in my role as a change artist that would better serve and benefit those I commit to being of assistance to in this role.
To date my observations include those that point to being of greatest service when I help those who lead better serve the systems they operate within, whether those systems are intimate relationships, families, business, multi-national organizations, or entire governments and their obligations and responsibilities to their constituents.
Simplifying and summarizing what has emerged on the horizon of my attention is that when I can (and do) help leaders, i.e.: lovers, parents, entrepreneurs, executives, administrators … become more aware and self-differentiated, while simultaneously remaining deeply connected to the systems in which they lead and serve, I am myself providing the greatest service.
This is NOT a function of helping leaders to motivate or direct others, or to organize the context or the actions that unfold within the context.
In other words this is NOT a function of doing, but a function of learning to “be” in the role of leading.
In addition to some of the questions I have already asked, questions I have added that remain outstanding include:
- “What does it mean to lead?”
- “How can a leader better come to know themselves in the role of leading?”
- “What does it mean to be in the role of leader as change artist” (with the assumption that all change artists at some point lead their clients)
- “How does leadership apply to the work of being a change artist?”
- “How can change artists best work with leaders?”
Leaders set the mood, or the emotive state, within the systems they lead. This role was explored and documented in the work of Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee in their book, Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Their conclusion, after a significant longitudinal study, was that the leader sets the mood for the organization-at-large … and I would add like it or not, with intention or not.
THE DISNEY MODEL - i.e.: KILL THE PARENTS:
I would argue that the baggage or our lack of self-differentiation, i.e.: our inability to cope with independence prior to seeking inter-dependence, now permeates leadership at all levels.
The primary differentiation that is lacking however is the differentiation from the family of origin, i.e.: our parents and their shadows in our lives, that prevents us from getting on with our lives.
With this consideration in mind I hold that one of my primary acts in my role as change artist is reparenting my clients to achieve the necessary separation, i.e.: “killing the parent/s” to achieve self-differentiation and independence, leaving the state of dependance behind and assuming a new state of being entirely.
Only from a state of independence, can a leader achieve inter-dependence.
MORE ANSWERS THAN QUESTIONS:
I think that too many programs and prophets have proclaimed that the way of knowing and doing that the leader possesses is what defines the quality of their leading, but I am suggesting that it is the state of being that the leader possess that defines the entirety of their leadership quality.
BUT … I still don’t know how to most effectively lead the leader to uncovering who they are in that role … the role of leadership … and that remains what is on the horizon for me at this point in my search, i.e.: how to most effectively assist my clients to transform themselves in the leaders they are capable of being, and the ones they desire to become …
As individuals operating in relation to others in love and work … as lovers and friends, parents and children, employers and employees … the edges remain largely undefined, but I believe the magic is there beyond the boundaries where entire systems, and the people that comprise them, find one another.
I have many, many more questions than answers, and FWIW I expect it will continue to be this way.
So I conclude for now with my ranting about the challenge that raised my hackles and sent me off bristling (a very powerful and useful state to be in for me, given my commitment to formal argument as part of my methodology and learning strategy) …
I found in my bristling at the challenge I perceived my stance was both reinforced and reinvented. I could, and do, hold the paradox of getting that it is only a stance, and yet I also indulge in the folly of believing it.
The idea of provoking the system via taking a resolute stance, and simultaneously observing the affect of taking that stance in a human system, is at the core of my inquiry.
Becoming the instrument of perturbation, provocation and probing all at time – i.e.: forming a singularity that collapses these roles into one – continues to fascinate me.
This is the heart of my inquiry as it stands today … albeit ready to be challenged and changed again …
To become the change I intend AND the change I seek to inquire about … the what and the how … knowing that I do not yet know, while acting as if I do … and accepting that I may never really know anything at all beyond my own experience reflecting itself, is where I stand today … breathlessly waiting for what is next, once again peering beyond the horizon.