The Power Triad and Leadership

In a collection of the Journal of Metapsychology articles, Frank A. Gerbode, M.D. has one entitled Affinity, Desire, and Intention. I found it while Google-ing about affection and other forms of human attachment. He provides the most interesting and useful conceptualization of power that I have encountered to date:

I will speak of the combination of drive, understanding, and control as "power", since "power"
connotes not only ability but also a certain drive for a result. There are many people who are able to do great things but fail to do so because of lack of drive or ambition -- in other words, lack of the capacity to desire things. We do not regard such people as powerful. Others have very strong desires but little ability, and these, too, we do not regard as powerful. Only the combination of ability and drive adds up to power, in the common usage of the term.

This power triad helps me think about new "expressions" of power based on empathy (experiential understanding of another's specific modalities), farsightedness (drive or the impulse/desire to have or to continue to have an entity), and extention, in the Taoist sense, in which by joining/communing with the world harmoniously, one gains control through it, as opposed to over it.

More and more, I find this to be the model of leadership that I seek to self cultivate. But who are the models? It seems to be only attributed to or found in spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. Who are the model's for business or government or education? Mahatma Gandhi? And if one cannot find models, how do you actualize it in practice outside of spirituality? This is not to say that the domain of spirituality is separate from the domains of business and government, but rather we tend to downplay the spiritual, as distinct from religious, aspects of those practices.

In the end of the article, Dr. Gerbode  defines power as a means not an end:

I do not mean, here, to glorify power for its own sake. In my view, the entire purpose for being in a world, with all the entities that it contains, is to use them as a means toward the fulfillment of one's most deeply-seated intention. And that is the intention to attain an ever-increasing degree of communion with one's fellow beings.

It would be interesting if "the ability to increase communion" was a design criteria in business or that a "communion index" was part of government. Perhaps, we would have more models based on a "power triad" form of leadership.







Lear and rethinking flattery

Last Saturday, I saw the Goodman Theater's production of King Lear, starring Stacey Keach. I had forgotten how dark and violent Shakespeare's tragedies are. Every scene was one of extreme sex and/or violence making video games seem tame.

But what stuck me most was the core theme about intergenerational conflict and the truth. The tragedy starts when Cordelia refuses to flatter her father with "false" words as her sisters do. He banishes her and splits the Kingdom between the two older sisters, leaving himself dependent on their kindness. Lear's tragedy is his inability to see until too late the truth of Cordelia versus the falseness of her siblings, who "abuse" him.  Lear's plight is echoed in the tragedy of Gloucester, who cannot see the falseness of his illegitimate son, Edgar, and eventually has is eyes gouged out.

Being on the younger side of the intergenerational conflict, it makes me worried when leaders prefer false flattery to being told the truth. What happens when there is no fool to enlighten the king?


BFEL seeks EBFL

Wantads Black Female Emerging Leader seeks Established Black Female Leader for long term mentorship possibilities

In the past, most of my mentors have been men. In fact, they have been mostly white men with the exception of one latino. Some this has to do with the lack of males and females of color in the mostly white societies that I inhabit. Now, I have found that those white male mentorship relationships never last very long, about 1.5 years average. The pattern is constantly the same. In exchange for my intellectual labor as thinking catalyst, my emotional labor as confidant, and my ego-boosting labor as quasi-sexual temptress, I get the "privilege" of being made over into their image as leader. This goes back as far as white male mentors redefining my speech patterns in 7th grade to those who seek to reshape my behavioral choices today.

My natural openness and performative non-judgmentalism encourages this attempt at penis and skin grafting. My perspective had been that if the model of power is white male power, I wanted to understand and empathize with it. And perhaps this empathetic movement is my downfall. Because eventually the "grafts" don't take, my black female mind/body/spirit rejects the foreign tissue. In other words, even if I wanted to I cannot adopt "white male styles." Not that I am incapable of being an assertive, independent, and decisive leader. Its just that it always gets warped by others into being "controlling,"  "impatient," and other negative characteristics "having too much energy, being force of nature" that because I am a black woman are not acceptable. When I try to articulate that my experiences mean I have to reject the models they are creating for me,  they respond with shock of my arrogance to have a mind of my own and the will to make it manifest in the world. So when they realize I won't be their "mini-me," they withdraw their support, although still wanting to extract my labors.

My relationship with a male Latino mentor went better to some extent. There was less attempts at grafting in general. And as a person of color, his skin was not as foreign to my system. It lasted longer (about 5-6 years), but eventually ended, mostly due to my expectations for more active encouragement. He was very encouraging, but mostly due to removing obstacles in my way (an important form of encouragement) but not the same as actively and directly engaging in the furthering my intentions. To put it metaphorically, I wanted him not just to remove the logs in the swollen river, but to actually help me construct a raft to navigate the river. This was too much of an investment for him, and I withdrew from the relationship in disappointment.

I have been summoning lots of white women lately, but they tend to follow the essential female powers ideology which didn't work for me after Junior year at Bryn Mawr College. The exception is my current female mentor, who is also a secular Jew, which is one of my few non-dysfunctional mentor relationships. She has definitely suffered discrimination in the academy and professionally and her experiences are very valuable for me.

Yet, I've never had a black female mentor and that bothers me. Right now, I desperately feel the need to have someone in power who really gets me: my intelligence, intensity, dedication and discipline, and drive to make the world a better place.  I need someone to understand that I have good instincts that have served me well and when I follow those instincts and persuade others to follow with me that its not being controlling or inflexible. Its knowing that if I don't have the courage and confidence to follow the path, which I've already scouted; others will not trust the young black woman actually leading them.

So I am seeking an EBFL, because my soul is scarred with penis and skin grafts that it knew better to reject.


Orbiting versus empathy

Sorry that I have been away from posting. I've been very busy with work. Here are a few things that have been on my mind lately.

Orbiting versus empathy as a modality for decision-making

Orbiting is Gordon MacKenzie's term, from the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball,  for how to avoid the Giant Hairball of corporations:

Orbiting is responsible creativity: vigorously exploring and operating beyond the Hairball of the corporate mindset, beyond "accepted models, patterns, or standards" — all the while remaining connected to the spirit of the corporate mission.

While this is a positive orientation to avoid the muckity muck of corporate cultures, what does this mean if you have the responsibility for developing the accepted models, patterns, or standards in an organization. In that situation, orbiting means a different thing. It is about disconnecting or ideally attentuating your connections to other people within the organization. This is how CEOs use spreedsheets and abstract ratios to orbit from the impact of a corporate layoff.

Empathetic decision making is another modality. Being trained as an anthropologist, I tend to put a lot of stock in human relationships as the basis of all business or government issues. How to get the client or citizenry to trust you? How to convince people to buy your idea, vision, or product? These are all human issues, which means that you have to be connected to people to understand their mindsets, motivations, desires, and expectations. This is the work of empathy. As a business or governmental leader whose decisions have such a strong impact on other people and the environment, empathy is key for making effective and holistic decisions. In A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink, talks about empathy being one of the six senses (the others are design, story, sympathy, play, and meaning).

I asked a CEO-type friend which modalities he uses and he said that he uses both in tandem. First empathy to gather all the information he needs to make sure his is attuned to what's going on and then orbiting to gain a broad enough picture to make sure his decisions include the most perspectives. But I still wander if that orbiting is necessary to still make a decision. Can you internalize both the forest and the trees while still in the trees? Somehow, I instinctly feel that something is lost when you orbit. It is setting up a separation between self and other.

Is there something akin to an expansive empathy in which you extend yourself and your connection to all things so that the distinctions between self and other is blurred and thus the decision made is one of the whole living organization?