The leader who understands how process unfolds uses as little force as possible and runs the group without pressuring people.
When force is used, conflict and argument follow. The field degenerates. The climate is hostile, neither open nor nourishing.
The wise leader runs the group without fighting to have things a certain way. The leader’s touch is light. The leader neither defends nor attacks.
Remember that consciousness, not selfishness, is both the means of teaching and the teaching itself.
Group members will challenge the ego of one who leads egocentrically. But one who leads selflessly and harmoniously will grow and endure.
(John Heider. (1985). The Tao of Leadership. Atlanta: Humanics New Age).
(underlined words are this blogger’s emphasis)
This blogger has three children, now all adults. At various times, when they were children, I would design projects (age-appropriately) that one or more of them would work on. These came in various degrees of simplicity or complexity depending on where they were in their human development. Even then it was frustrating for dad—many times I just didn’t get the fact that it was the first time they may have ever worked on a project like this. Long story short. In this writer’s impatience, the writer, many times, finished the project feeling frustrated and wondering if it was all a waste of time. Now, I know it wasn’t.
This may sound like the writer wasn’t exerting any force at all. Yet, clearly, it took energy to finish the job. Force is a degree of energy exerted on a person, object, or situation to get some task finished.. In the quote above, Heider says that in any group there is an emerging process. If one person in the group isn’t process-oriented, but is task-oriented, he or she may attempt to push the group’s envelope by forcing his or her agenda on the group.
Guess what? The group will give this person “push back” and usually some form of conflict
will arise in the group. I’m sure that most of us know this truism, but surprisingly many people don’t understand it. Why? We’ve been trained well. One of the survival skills we may have, as wordless hitchhikers, is the skill of manipulation and control. If someone has hustled on the streets all her life, these same hustling skills will be transferred to other areas of her life. They can be positive (healthy) or negative (unhealthy).
One of the actions we can take to be less forceful with our private agendas in groups of which we’re members is to realize that all life is a process. We need to make this a personal mantra, saying over and over to ourselves, “What we’re doing here in this group is a part of a process and is important. In community mental health systems (this writer is a part of this sub-group) we often have what are called process groups. These groups meet for the express purpose of processing– allowing the participants to process their own behaviors, feelings, reactions to life, and perceptions of reality. Each person in the group is a mirror for the others, because feedback is often elicited. Sometimes the group comes up with feedback for the individual as a way to help them so that they create less conflict for themselves. After awhile our own consequences, and their repercussions, cause us enough pain and suffering, we decide to try something new for us. Maybe it works—maybe it doesn’t.
The path of non-coercion is freeing. It’s a matter of consciousness not selfishness. Here Heider suggests that consciousness is a higher plane to follow than selfishness. There’s an interesting point of science that might apply to groups here as well. Valence electrons are the electrons in the outer-most shell of of the atom. They are typically the electrons which are involved in forming bonds to other atoms (as opposed to the other so-called “core” electrons which do not interact much with other atoms or molecules (wiki.answers.com). Valance electrons determine how atoms bond with other atoms and take part in chemical reactions. Atoms tend to form complete shells and will share electrons with other atoms, forming one type of chemical bond in the process (Microsoft®Private Cloud).
Groups do exhibit a certain chemistry. Think of valances as a window into a group that could be named consciousness. Just as valance electrons are the glue of bonding to other electrons, so is consciousness. A process-oriented consciousness then is quite different from an event-oriented-selfishness-consciousness,that more-often-than-not has a chemistry of conflict rather than harmony or unity. Perhaps our conclusion could be stated this way: Consciousness bonds a group more closely; selfishness creates conflict in a group; process-orientation (process flows, changes, unfolds, may be unpredictable) is a preventative to conflict; event-orientation (where each step is limited by time, highlights a specific goal, and is usually static and often viewed as unchanging) may bring out more conflict because people get stuck in their ideas and think their opinions, assumptions, and inferences are the “right” ones.
Think about the groups that you are a participant. Do they communicate more messages about force/conflict or more about consciousness and process-orientation?
Do some critical thinking about the group: if there’s a lot of conflict, can you be a change agent in that environment?
© Christopher Bear-Beam April 1 2012