Feature Article: Afterword: “Things Come Apart…”

Feature Articles / February 2003

I am departing from my habit of writing a short article related to Integral Leadership to share with you the unpublished Afterword from Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner’s recent book, 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. It seems the publisher elected to reduce the book by two pages and these are the pages that were eliminated. It is an even more amusing gaffe since the prior chapter ends with the words, “in conclusion, we claim that we have integrated validity and reliability. However, the final comment must go to Charles Hampden-Turner in the Afterword.” With Charles’ permission, I share the moving Afterword with you now.

> Russ Volckmann

It was W.B. Yeats who wrote, in “The Second Coming,”

Things come apart;
The centre cannot hold…

Any society is haunted by the prospect of catastrophe when its diversity cannot be unified, its splits cannot be healed, its distinctions multiply beyond its bridges of mutual understanding – when all vie with all to be different and too few are willing to serve the common call. This may come about, even if people do not will it to be so. In the social sciences, for example, we have literally hundreds of scales and instruments to measure differences. It is deemed “scientific” to categorize, polarize, discriminate, analyze and reduce. In comparison, the processes by which we understand, communicate, reconcile, relate and generate larger meanings are little examined and very poorly understood.

This extraordinary bias highlights our social world selectively. We have some fairly reliable scales to identify neuroses, psychoses, behavior disorders, and even fascism (the famous F-scale). It has been proven possible to induce conformity and obedience to authority and to measure dogmatism, rigidity, anomie, and kindred afflictions. The reason these phenomena lend themselves so easily to measurement is that they are in themselves processes of fragmentation and disintegration. Like a smashed window, the consequence is shards, with the elements broken down for the analyst to see. Things that come apart before our eyes conform easily to scientific methods. It is much more difficult to measure wholeness, mutuality, support, understanding, reconciliation, and human development, because in these processes elements intertwine with one another in complex combinations, with simple polarities transcended. It is even harder to ascertain “the facts,” because life is not a list of ingredients, but a form of organization.

This book attempts to measure integrative and reconciliatory processes in which one difference or value encompasses and joins itself to its opposite value – where rules, for example, are improved by the study of exceptions, where individualism is vindicated by serving one’s community, where the whole reveals the processes by which its parts are organized and where inner convictions are forged by attention to outside developments.

There are alternative sequences by which values join with one another, so that different cultures celebrate their own historic paths to reconciliation. We differ widely in paths taken, but we arrive at the same clearings in the forest where the paths converge.

There is an old adage which says that what can be measured can be decreed, and what gets decreed gets done, while the immeasurable receives lip service at best and is completely ignored at worst. If, therefore, it is possible to measure values reconciliation, and if the resulting integrations are forms of wealth creation, as is argued here, then perhaps we have found an oasis in a spiritual desert. Perhaps we have learned to reassemble living processes in a world threatening to come apart.

Whether, in fact, we have achieved this integration is for our readers, and not us to decide. But the search for paths to integrity should not be minimized in importance. We do not claim success in our endeavor. We do insist on the importance of the quest itself.

Fortunately, social “science” does not rule in corporate affairs. Common sense does. Those who experience the disintegrative forces of scientism fall back on intuition, gut feelings, and personal judgment, as did virtually all the leaders in this book. But suppose we could uncover a logic of intuition, of understanding, of connection and rapport? Please consider whether, in these pages, we have made a start.

We cannot reassemble the fragile shell of our humanity by force of arms or the decrees of superiors. We have to construct it ourselves, element by element. We claim only to have set out on this journey with the examples off our 21 leaders to guide us. Many more need to join us on our journey if we are to reach valuable conclusions or sufficient generality.