Three Assumptions Underlying Integral Leaders’ Choices of Power

August 2012 / Feature Articles

Robert Wayne Johnston

Robert Wayne Johnston

Robert Wayne Johnston

It is no mystery we learn, for better or worse, more or less consciously and unconsciously, through our communications with other entities. These include communications with other humans, one’s spirit guide, other animals, our planet, and our cosmos — in every situation we find ourselves “learning in the laboratory of life.” Our inter-entity communications appear based on mainly three sets of alternative assumptions each of us may have about the power of others we meet in various situations, and possible consequences of each response we might choose for mutual health or ill.  Obviously, perhaps, one’s assumptions about the other entity will likely serve to determine one’s own response(s) to it-her-he.

I have come to see three sets of assumptions come into play as options during one’s selection and use of nine generic kinds of power, namely, coercive, legitimate, expert, charismatic, participative, representative, consultative, rewarding, and supporting power. Each assumption may be employed in all sorts of  interactions, whether it be colleague to colleague, stranger to stranger, teacher to student, physician to patient, minister to parishioner, psychotherapist to patient, professional to client, parent to child, supervisor to employee, politician to citizen, human to animal, human to ecosystem, or whatever.

While I will limit my presentation to integral leader-to-integral worker relationships my assumptions may also apply to integral colleague-to-integral colleague communications. Also, I use the term ‘health’ to include not only mental, spiritual, and biologic health, but also social, familial, vocational, economic, aesthetic, and biosystemic health.

All three sets of assumptions may be viewed as healthfully empowering options to the degree they harmonize with the learning capability, self-management skills, and mutual intentions of both parties.  Yet, each may be disempowering and/or unhealthful if misused or overused.  Below I have organized these assumptions into three “families” which I have come to see underlie our choices of inter-entity communications and their effect on learning in various life situations.  Caveats for each are summarized at the bottom of the chart.

 

 

 

In Some Situations

In Some Situations

In Some Situations

I Perceive The Other Person

I Perceive The Other Person

I Perceive The Other Person

As Less Powerful Than I

& Me As Having Equal Power

As More Powerful Than I

Therefore I Tend To 

Therefore I Tend To

Therefore I Tend To

 Choose Assumptions About

Choose Assumptions About

Choose Assumptions About

Communicating & Learning

Which Are

Communicating & Learning

Which Are

Communicating & Learning

Which Are

Directive and Controlling

Cooperative and Participative

Non-Directive and Supporting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Such As — Such As — Such As —
People do not want to learn; People accept responsibility for An individual will accept re-
they must be forced, manipulat- their own learning and helping sponsibility for his/her own
ed, or persuaded to learn what each other if the goals are learning if the goals are relevant
they need relevant to their individual and to his or her own individual
common interests talents, interests, and needs
People learn by being told how People learn by struggling with People learn in their own way —
they should learn real or simulated problems and they don’t need to be told how
interacting with other people they should learn.
Significant learning is acquired Significant learning results from Significant learning is self-
from experts and other author- participation in planning and prescripted, self-discovered,
ities problem solving by the individ- self-appropriated, and self-
uals involved in the situation applied
An individual is dependent Both individuals participate in An individual is alone responsi-
upon someone more powerful in reaching consensus and keep- ble for keeping him or herself
to keep her/him on course each other on course on course
Communicating to the other Communicating with the other Communicating to the other is
is a process of directing, telling, is a process of jointly creating a process of active listening
manipulating, selling, and con- a setting and conditions for the (distinct from passive listening)
trolling; receiving communica- communications to take place which includes asking questions
tions is passive and interacting participatively for clarification about what the
to explore options together and other is saying, and expressing
make joint decisions your feelings in “I-messages”
Learning may be disturbing to Learning may be disturbing to Learning may be disturbing to
the other if it makes her or him the other if she or he is resistant the other because it requires her
work on her or his own initia- to changing her or his attitudes or him to work on a subject on
tive independent of  your and behavior for your mutual on which she or he has no way
direct guidance benefit to learn without accepting help
People who are highly depend- Each, the sender and receiver, Each individual is unique in
ent are all at the same level of in a dialogue is unique in their his or her level of development
development and learn at the level of development and cap- & personal learning goals.Com-
same rate as the others, there- ability; communication pro- unicating and learning experi-
fore communications can be cesses must provide for both iences need provide for individ-
mass programmed individual differences and ual differences only; ignore
commonalities commonalities
Structured lectures and step-by Semi-structured experiential Non-structured, non-directive
-step “how to do it” instructions learning involving participative communications provide the
are the most effective commun- dyads, or groups, is the most most effective learning mode
cations for learning effective of communications
“Old dogs can learn new tricks “Old dogs can learn new “An old dog can learn new
only if they receive structured tricks together, providing the tricks as he or she wants with-
step by step instructions.” psychological climate is ‘right’” out help from anyone.”
     

Caveat

Caveat

Caveat

Directive and controlling Cooperative and participative Non-directive and supporting
behavior, if overused or behavior, if overused or behavior, if overused or
misused, may elicit in the misused, may result in  misused, may result in the
other:  fear and distrust; little over dependence on group other person becoming 
or no genuine communication process by the other, insensitive to the needs of
and learning; destructive producing a mental set unable others, a social isolationist,
conflict; stunting of individual to act independently when anarchist, or despot.
growth and development; needed, such as in .
subterfuge; perfidy; and emergencies.  
counterdependence.    

ÓCopyright 1979; Rev. 1996; 2006; 2010 – Robert Wayne Johnston – OmniMindÓ Constituents

About the Author

Robert Wayne Johnston, PhD has been a pioneer theorist and practitioner in consciousness expansion, integral self-management, creative leadership, and organization transformation and development since 1966. Working as both an internal and external consultant, he specialized in guiding top managements of small to large non-profit and Fortune 500 companies through the process of starting-up corporate-wide organization development projects from scratch. Concurrently, he was curriculum consultant and adjunct professor teaching human behavior in organizations in two graduate schools of business. Profiled in Organization Transformation Theorists and Practitioners, he has published widely and made numerous presentations at conferences.

During the ten years before retiring, he changed somewhat the focus of his vocation to introduce his innovative in-depth transformational self-management processes in psychiatric and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Now an active retiree, Bob has been giving back to society by doing mostly volunteer consulting work in the areas of self-management for healthful aging and creative leadership for non-profit local, state, and national councils on aging, and the White House Conference on Aging. He founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences Community Group in Amherst, Massachusetts.