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Moving Towards Deeper, More Meaningful, Creative, Sustainable Processes

Posted on Jul 14 2014

One of my favorite books for inspiration and reflection is John Heider’s, The Tao of Leadership.  As John so aptly states: All behavior consists of opposites or polarities. If I do anything more and more, over and over, its polarity will appear. For example: As children we hear the saying, what goes up, must come down.

By themselves polarities can have immense creative potential. Yet, it is easy to consistently polarize a community or organization into a state of chronic ineffectiveness, oscillation, or submission, making it difficult to follow a deeper, more meaningful, creative, sustainable process.  For this reason it is important to maintain relationships and connection to others through respectful dialogue, while exploring differing perspectives, or challenging authority, and the power to make decisions that matter to people.

Yet, sometimes when people are passionate about an issue their communication contains polarizing double signals of aggression. The emotional intensity can result in some people moving closer, while others move away from the heat.  In this place the challenge for the leader is to balance between chaos and order, while accessing wisdom and skills to facilitate the polarities and tension between people and roles in relation to power.

The philosophy of deep democracy challenges the way we think about how power is held and used within our institutions and structures.  Deep democracy, contrary to classic democracy where majority rules, is an approach that fosters a deeper level of dialogue. It supports the inclusion of competing views and tensions to build awareness of relative rank, power and privilege and the potential of these forces to marginalize other views, individuals and groups. In my work I use elements of deep democracy from gradients of agreement that move people beyond yes and no decision making to conversational methods to understand divergent perspectives, but also to explore emerging opportunities that may provide a different path forward.

To learn more about these processes and ideas, see:

Deep Democracy: http://www.deepdemocracyinstitute.org/

Mindell, A. (1995). Sitting in the fire: Large group transformation using conflict and diversity. Portland, OR: Lao Tse Press

Heider, John. (1985). The Tao of Leadership. Atlanta, Georgia.

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