Or subscribe using one of the following readers:. Posted on October 22, Permalink Comments 0. These symbols may be unfamiliar and yet I invite you to consider that, acknowledged or unacknowledged, they are at play in every situation in your life - work, family and community. The discussion about personal leadership and systemic leadership is a bit like the early 20 th Century discussion of waves and particles in physics. Waves and particles were believed to be separate; now they are known to be fundamentally inter-related. The same is true for the personal and systemic, often seen as separate, they are in fact fundamentally inter-related.
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Or subscribe using one of the following readers:. Posted on October 22, Permalink Comments 0. These symbols may be unfamiliar and yet I invite you to consider that, acknowledged or unacknowledged, they are at play in every situation in your life - work, family and community. The discussion about personal leadership and systemic leadership is a bit like the early 20 th Century discussion of waves and particles in physics. Waves and particles were believed to be separate; now they are known to be fundamentally inter-related.
The same is true for the personal and systemic, often seen as separate, they are in fact fundamentally inter-related. For example, it is unhelpful to talk about self or team personal leadership without thinking about the impact of the wider systemic context and its power to shape individual and team behaviour, what Meg Wheatley calls downward causation.
Individual and team personal action is much more likely to catalyse wider systems change when there is awareness of the patterns and dynamics of the larger whole. Power is the drive of all living systems, including human systems, to perpetuate themselves; to survive, develop and thrive with their environment. Love is the drive in human systems to unify that which is separated.
Seeing, understanding and learning the discipline of how to work with these elemental forces as they play out within individuals, groups and organisations is the core curriculum of life and leadership. Though this quote is more than fifty years old we are only just beginning to explore this territory in terms of leadership. The questions we ask leaders about power and privilege are somewhat more developed and more familiar than those we ask about love, for example:.
Interestingly this definition applies to every moment, and beautifully and simply encompasses both internal and external relationships. Language matters: how we express what love means will need to vary by setting.
Looking at your organisation family or community through the lens of power and love to consider the interplay of power and love can be illuminating. If you want to strengthen a human system, it is helpful to ask yourself what is the balance of power and love? How robustly or intensively are these forces expressed? Is power expressed strongly and love anaemically or vice versa?
What is the quality of power and love? What words would you use to describe the way these forces are expressed? When people experience power in its healthy form they often use words such as: strong, clear, empowering, clarifying, energising, focusing illuminating. When love is experienced in its healthy form people often use words such as: including, warm, friendly, patient, responding, connecting, caring, friendly, and extending, to describe the experience.
What is missing or absent in your system? Can you be a force a stand for bringing the neglected element forward into the life of the system? How we do this in practice in the messy complexity of everyday organisational and societal life is no small task. Amidst the turbulence, clarity emerges only periodically. Moving forward is more like falteringly taking a next step than any smooth trajectory, sometimes that step was made alone and sometimes together, and emotionally this often felt like walking on an unknown, possibly treacherous road in the dark with your eyes closed.
I share the headlines of this experience in order to draw attention to what I think are universal questions that we all need to wrestle with when we encounter turbulent, contested and complex situations, whether in work or elsewhere in our lives.
Posted on September 26, Permalink Comments 0. Posted on January 04, Permalink Comments 0. Imagine, these people were born that way and they haven't made any progress since.
The Terrible Dance of Power is the basest part of our human nature, to see others so different from ourselves that we are able to subjugate, oppress, and even annihilate them with no remorse. Please feel free to copy this piece, circulate it, translate it, perform it, put music to it, and even dance to it in public places.
Do whatever you can to create a dance we can live with. Posted on November 23, Permalink Comments 0. When the driver looked at those people jockeying for position around his truck, hoping to find work, what did he see before detonating the bomb that killed 56 of them and maimed others? When the Hutu and Tutsi massacred one another, when the Muslim Bosniaks were slaughtered by the Bosnian Serbs in Srebenica; when the Jews were shot over open ditches and herded into gas chambers; when the trucker plowed his truck into pedestrians on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice?
Charlie Hebdo? Club Reina? What is it people are seeing that makes it a reasonable act to murder them? Is there some light that our Power Lab experiences can shed? A key learning from those experiences is this: Our consciousness is shaped by the structures we fall into. I maintain that in that simple awareness lies our hope for the future.
The Bottom experience in the Power Lab is distinctly different from the experiences of the others, the Tops and Middles. The Bottom experience regularly is one of Love internally and Power externally — a strong feeling of commonality and connectedness with members of their Bottom group — and an equally strong experience of difference and separateness from the others.
In the Power Lab, that sense of difference and separateness has never led to Bottoms murdering Middles and Tops, yet the sense of otherness has been reflected in various aggressive actions. If we asked Bottoms about their feelings for themselves and others, they would assure us that these feelings were based on reality, that is, on substantive differences among the groups in the character or temperament of their members.
We Bottoms were just a very special collection of people. Yet we know that this experience of Love internally and Power externally is an illusion of the Bottom space.
In the Power Lab, though, that delusion is not possible since there people are assigned randomly to the three positions. What drives these and other murderers today and throughout the ages?
The common element is that they all experience themselves as Bottoms in the great Power Lab that is the world. They all experience themselves as being oppressed by others. They are the victims of a war being waged against them. There may, in fact, be no war, nothing more than life moving on and bringing change with it. Yet it is the perception of war that triggers the Bottom reflex response — Love internally, Power externally, which sets the stage for the justified battle of Good versus Evil.
When one is in the grips of this illusion, it all makes sense, the bombings, the massacres. There are real issues to be faced and worked on: income inequality, racial conflicts, immigration, the consequences of globalization, changing demographics, environmental degradation, among them.
There are issues to be worked, but no war may be warranted. There is a learnable lesson to be gained. A difficult lesson, yet we can learn it. Our experiences of ourselves and others are not always reflections of reality — of who we and they really are. What we see is not all there is. Our experiences are the result of the pattern we have fallen into.
Change the pattern and our experiences will also change. In the Power Lab, we run a second exercise in which all the Loving Bottoms now find themselves in Top, Middle, and Customer roles, and Love quickly gives way to Power in all its myriad forms. A humbling experience. And, I hope, instructive. So, teach our children science, technology, engineering, math, literature, and the arts. And teach them this. Posted on January 06, Permalink Comments 0.
Yesterday it took me to Kupishock, Lithuania, and the emigration in of my parents and grandparents; from there I strayed ever backward to 18 th and 19 th century eastern Europe and into the middle of the conflict between the Misnagdim and the Hasidim. But, first, I need to tell you what I was supposed to be working on: a presentation on the meeting of differing cultures. And so it was with the Misnagdim and Hasidim. There is this old joke about the rescue of a Jew who had been surviving for decades alone on a remote deserted island.
Upon discovery, he was eager to show his liberators all that he had accomplished over the years: his lush garden with flowers and fresh vegetables, his sturdy cabin, and then, of course, the synagogue where he prayed.
His liberators, impressed, noticed another structure, a little way off. In the 18 th century, the Hasidim were a rising sect in Judaism led by the charismatic Baal Shem Tov. The Hasidim were a threat to the traditionalist Misnagdim; the rituals, the rote reading of the Torah, these were at the heart of Judaism. And then there was the political threat. Judaism had been rocked by two debacles: the emergence and humiliating fall of two self-proclaimed Messiahs. Were the Hasidim one more sect who would bring more pogroms?
What eventually cooled down this conflict was the arrival of the Maskilim, who represented a major threat to both. The Maskillim were the adapters, the secularizers, the Jewish enlightenment, the preference for German and Hebrew over Yiddish, for dressing like the Others, reading their books, writing their own works of substance, striving to become a part of and make their way in and contribution to the larger society.
And it all started with a single cell. Differentiation is beautiful to behold; differentiation without homogenization, not so beautiful. What small dent can I put into this stubbornly enduring edifice? Posted on November 30, Permalink Comments 0. Our world is awash in bottomness. Large segments of the populace are afraid and angry. Whether in the UK, the US, Holland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, or France, the underlying fear is: The world I know — my livelihood, my culture - are under threat, and I am angry, furious, at those distant actors who have created this mess.
I am unseen by them, uncared for by them, abused by them, and powerless to deal with them. An ages-old biological response to bottomness is to coalesce, to find comfort, support, and power as part of a collection of like-minded people.
Our differences — which under other conditions might be significant - become submerged in the service of our unity. It is important for us to understand that coalescing is an adaptive response. Coming together makes it possible for us to deal with issues we are powerless to deal with alone. Coalescing is not the problem. And, given that we experience one another this way, it follows that we can do to THEM things we would never do to one another.
Explore a preview version of Seeing Systems, 2nd Edition right now. Skip to main content. Start your free trial. Seeing Systems, 2nd Edition by Barry Oshry. Based on more than thirty years of research and packed with illustrative cases and solid systems theory on human interaction, Seeing Systems provides a penetrating look at the dynamics of systems and a unique foundation for revolutionizing our understanding of system life.
Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life
Based on more than thirty years of research and packed with illustrative cases and solid systems theory on human interaction, Seeing Systems provides a penetrating look at the dynamics of systems and a unique foundation for revolutionizing our understanding of system life. This new edition features an extensive new section on having the wisdom and courage to face and work with the reality of uncertainty, and a new epilogue describing how Oshry is currently using theater, blogs, and podcasts to extend his multi-pronged revolution aimed at transforming system blindness into system sight. Oshry recognizes this and the importance of organizational dynamics in his works. Enrique G. Seeing Systems helps us grasp what really happens beneath the surface in organizations. Regardless of whether you are an executive, executive coach, middle manager or individual contributor, Seeing Systems provides powerful insights and applications for enhancing your effectiveness. Giarrusso, Professor, E.