Enlightening Influence

Enlightening Influence

Two Worlds

Imagine a world in which:

  • Businesses are typified by “greed, selfishness, manipulation, secrecy, and a single-minded focus on winning. Wealth creation is the key indicator of success.”
  • Business people are characterized by “distrust, anxiety, self-absorption, fear, burnout, and feelings of abuse.”
  • Interactions include “conflict, lawsuits, contract breaking, retribution, and disrespect.”
  • Scholars focus on “theories of problem-solving, reciprocity and justice, managing uncertainty, overcoming resistance, achieving profitability, and competing successful against others” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 3).

Imagine another world in which:

  • Businesses are typified by “appreciation, collaboration, virtuousness, vitality, and meaningfulness. Creating abundance and human well-being are key indicators of success.”
  • Business people are characterized by “trustworthiness, resilience, wisdom, humility, and high levels of positive energy.”
  • Interactions are characterized by “compassion, loyalty, honesty, respect, and forgiveness.”
  • Scholars focus on “theories of excellence, transcendence, positive deviance, extraordinary performance, and positive spirals of flourishing.” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 3).

For those familiar with the writings of St. Augustine, this sounds like his comparison between the City of Man and the City of God.  However, it is really a comparison between negative and positive worldviews in the Positive Organization Scholarship literature .  A key question is how those worldviews relate.  It is not one or the other.  POS “does not reject the value and significance of the phenomena of the first worldview.  Rather, it emphasizes phenomena represented in the second worldview….The second worldview merely calls attention to phenomena that represents positive deviance” (Cameron et al, Positive Organization Scholarship, 2003, p. 4).

In other words, the hope is that the second worldview, a more positive one must eventually transform or enlighten the first worldview.  This is also what St. Augustine had in mind.  We can participate in Christ and in that work.  That is the essence of a transformative worldview from a Christian, specifically reformed perspective.

Influence Strategies

Let’s make the concept of this worldview very concrete by applying it to the challenge of influencing others.  Suppose we wish to influence others toward creating a life of abundance and well-being.

There are distinct strategies we could use:

  • We could tell or persuade others to change.
  • We could force or coerce others to change.
  • We could invite others to influence an important decision toward change.
  • We could empower others to influence us.

As paradoxical as it seems, we best influence others toward creating abundance and well-being when we empower them to influence us.

Let’s begin with a discussion on influence.

What is Influence?

When we think of influence, we tend to think of power and politics. But influence is fundamentally a process through which people attempt to meet their needs by helping other people to do the same.  The venue for influence is decision-making.  The result is change.  Unfortunately, many times the direction of influence toward change is one-way: from the person with more power to the person with less power.

So what would influence look like in its enlightened, transformed state?  To explore this, we will return to our discussion of influence from a Positive Organization Scholarship (POS) perspective.

Influence from a POS Perspective

POS defines two states of leadership.  In the Normal State of Leadership

  • “[We] seek equilibrium….We are comfort-centered, externally-directed, self-focused, and [externally] closed.  We construct a world of social exchange and economic transaction.  The central purpose of anyone in such a system is to obtain status and resources while avoiding pain and punishment.  When emerging reality threatens our deeply held values by suggesting we need to move into the unknown, we resist.  We become self-deceptive because we say change is needed, yet we want to avoid the risk of losing what we have, so we seek to ‘manage’ change in ways we do not find deeply threatening” (Quinn, Building the Bridge As You Walk Across It, 2004, p. 69).
  • “In the normal state, we typically employ two general strategies of change: Telling, that is, making logical arguments for change and Forcing, that is, using forms of leverage such as threat or firing or ostracizing.  Less often, we use a third strategy, Participating, that is, using open dialogue and pursuing win-win strategies” (Quinn, ibid, p. 69).

Telling: Emphasizing the Technical.  The telling strategy is based on the technical (expertise of the speaker) and its goal is to persuade for, or in favor of, the speaker perception of truth.

  • “The Telling strategy assumes that people are guided by reason.  If others decide it is in their best interest to change, they’ll gladly do so.  Any resistance to change [the perspective assumes] could only be the product of ignorance and superstition….”
  • “The Telling strategy is most effective for situations in which people are not very invested…. “The Telling strategy is not as effective in situations requiring significant behavioral change because it is based on a narrow, cognitive view of human systems” (Quinn, ibid, p. 70).
  • See http://blogs.trnty.edu/businessdept/2016/05/27/a-social-science-perspective-of-influencing-with-power/  for what the social sciences have to say about influence strategies.

Forcing: Emphasizing the Political.  The Forcing strategy is based on the political (the power of the speaker) and its goal is to enforce something or force someone to do something in favor of the speaker–possibly to preserve her/his point of view or status quo.

  • “The Forcing strategy seeks to leverage people into changing.  Usually some form of political or economic power is exerted.  Efforts may range from subtle manipulation to physical force.”
  • “The Forcing strategy usually evokes anger, resistance, and damage to the fundamental relationship.  Thus, it is not like to result in the kind of voluntary commitment that is necessary for healthy and enthusiastic change….”
  • “In the normal state, then, we commonly seek to create change by engaging in a two-step process: first, tell others why they need to change; second, if telling fails, figure out how to force them to change” ” (Quinn, ibid, p. 71).

Participating: Emphasizing the Interpersonal. The Participating strategy utilizes participating strategies to help people create ideas or complete tasks with each other.  It is a “norming” (converging) activity in that it tends build consensus.

  • “The Participating strategy involves a more collaborative approach.  This approach recognizes that people are influenced by habits, norms, and institutional policies and culture.  Here the change agent welcomes the input of others, who are seen as equals in the change process.  Instead of trying to make change happen simply by providing information, as in the Telling strategy, the change agent focuses on surfacing, clarifying, and reconstructing people’s values and on resolving hidden conflicts.  The emphasis is on communication and cooperation….”
  • “Participating strategies and active listening require that each person allows the other to express his or her own truth while insisting that his or her own truth be heard.  The exchange can then give rise to a new and more complex truth” (Quinn, ibid, p. 71).

A key point is that in the Normal State of Leadership, influence is the result of credibility and compliance.  In the Fundamental State of Leadership, influence is the result of an internalization of values.

The Fundamental State of Leadership

The internalization of values can transcend all of our behavior.  This can result in a deep change — a conversion.  When we are in the Fundamental State of Leadership, our values have transcended our behavior.  Unfortunately, it is a short-term phenomenon.  “The fundamental state of leadership is a temporary psychological condition. When we are in this state, we become:

  • [Less] comfort-centered and more purpose-centered.  We stop asking, What do I want?…Instead we ask, What result do I want to create?…[That] may attract us outside our comfort zone and into the uncertain journey that is the creative state.  As we begin to pursue purpose in the face of uncertainty, we gain hope and energy” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] externally-directed and more internally-directed….We begin to transcend our own hypocrisy, closing the gap between who we think we are and who we think we should be” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] self-focused and more other-focused.  As our sense of achievement and integrity increases, we feel more secure, less selfish, and more willing to put the common good ahead of the preservation of self” (Quinn, ibid, p. 22).
  • [Less] internally-closed and more externally-open.  When we meet our needs for increased achievement, integrity, and affiliation, we increase our confidence that we can learn our way forward in an uncertain and changing world” (Quinn, ibid, p. 23).

A Psychology of The Fundamental State

“Life is difficult….Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult” (Peck, The Road Less Traveled, p. 15).

“Life is a series of problems…. Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve life’s problems.  Without discipline we solve nothing” (Peck, ibid, p. 15).  “[It] is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning” (Peck, ibid, p. 16).

“Fearing the pain involved, almost all of us, to a greater or lesser degree, attempt to avoid problems” (Peck, ibid, p. 16).

“[The tools] of suffering, [the] means of experiencing the pain of problems constructively [i.e., discipline]: …delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balancing” (Peck, ibid, p. 18).  But underlying discipline is death and rebirth, and love.

  • Delaying Gratification.  “Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.  It is the only decent way to live” (Peck, ibid, p. 19).  This feeling of being valuable is a cornerstone of self-discipline because when one considers oneself valuable one will take care of oneself in all ways that are necessary.  Self-discipline is self-caring” (Peck, ibid, p. 24).
  • Acceptance of Responsibility. “Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity” (Peck, ibid, p. 42).  “We have…the freedom to choose every step of the way the manner in which we are going to respond to and deal with [oppressive] forces” (Peck, ibid, p. 43).
  • Dedication to Truth. “[We] must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our own self-interest, than our comfort.  Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.  Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs” (Peck, ibid, p. 50).
  • Balancing.  “Mature mental health demands…an extraordinary capacity to flexibly and continually restrike a delicate balance between conflicting needs, goals, duties, responsibilities, directions, etc….Balancing is a discipline precisely because the act of giving something up is painful” (Peck, ibid, p. 66).
  • Death and Rebirth. “The fact that the unconscious is one step ahead of the conscious may seem strange to lay readers; it is, however, a fact that applies to not only in this specific instance but so generally that is is a basic principle of mental functioning….What makes crises of these transition periods in the life cycle — that is, problematic and painful — is that in successfully working our way through them we must give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things.  Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken.  Consequently, they cling, often forever, to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, thus failing to negotiate any crisis, to truly grow up, and to experience the joyful sense of rebirth that accompanies the successful transition into greater maturity” (Peck, ibid, p. 71).  “It is in the giving up of self that human beings can find the most ecstatic and lasting, solid, durable joy in life.  And it is death that provides life with all its meaning.  This ‘secret’ is the central wisdom of religion” (Peck, ibid, p. 72).
  • Love. “Discipline…is the means of human spiritual evolution….[The] motive, the energy for discline…[is] love…. (Peck, ibid, p. 81).  “Love is an act of will — namely, both an intention and an action” (Peck, ibid, p. 83).  “Love…is a form of work or a form of courage.  Specifically, it is work or courage directed toward the nurture or our own or another’s spiritual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 120).
  • Attention. “The principal form that the work of love takes is attention.  When we love another we give him or her our attention; we attend to that person’s spiritual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 120).  “By far the most common and important way in which we can exercise our attention is by listening….Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work” (Peck, ibid, p. 121).  “An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, stepping in his or her shoes” (Peck, ibid, p. 127).  “The energy required for the discipline of bracketing and the focusing of total attention is so great that it can be accomplished only by love, by the will to extend oneself for mutual growth” (Peck, ibid, p. 128).
  • Courage. “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the making of action in spite of fear, the moving out against the resistance engendered by fear into the unknown and into the future” (Peck, ibid, p. 131).
  • Entropy“The essence of life is change, a panoply of growth and decay.  Elect life and growth, and you elect change and the prospect of death” (Peck, ibid, p. 133). “[All] life represents a risk, and the more lovingly we live our lives the more risks we take” (Peck, ibid, p. 134).
  • Serendipity. Serendipity is a gift.  It is a manifestation of grace.  Grace, “manifested in part by ‘valuable or agreeable things not sought for,’ is available to everyone, but…while some take advantage of it, others do not.”  Why not?  “[Let] me suggest that one of the reasons we fail to take advantage of grace is that we are not fully aware of its presence – that is, we don’t find valuable things not sought for, because we fail to appreciate the value of the gift when it is given us” (Peck, ibid, p. 257).

But there is even something beyond the Fundamental State of Leadership and its psychology.

­­A Transforming Theory

St. Augustine (354-430) was one of the early influencers of what today we called the Reformed-Calvinist worldview.  A contemporary influencer is Richard Mouw (1940-  ).  In his book When the Kings Come Marching In, Mouw admits that those in the Reformed-Calvinist tradition have often stated their case in “too facile” a fashion, choosing to debate issues almost exclusively on philosophical and systematic-theological grounds.  In response, he chose to provide a biblical analogy based on Biblical passages concerning the new heaven (City of God) and new earth (City of Man, transformed by the City of God).   The analogy comes from Isaiah 60, Isaiah 2, and Revelation 21 and 22 (Mouw, When the Kings Go Marching In, 1983, p. x, xi). (Author’s note: much of the following comes from a similar paper by Steen and VanderVeen, “Will There Be Marketing In Heaven,” Perspectives, November 13, 2003.)

  • Isaiah 60 records a vision of a magnificent, transformed city: “many of the people and objects from Isaiah’s own day appear within its walls, but they have assumed different roles, they perform different functions” (Mouw, ibid, p. xii). Mouw pictures the Holy City “as a center of commerce, a place which receives the vessels, goods, and currency of commercial activity”; for instance, “camels come from Midian, Ephah, and Sheba, carrying gold and frankincense” (v. 6), ships arrive from Tarshish, “bearing silver and gold” (v. 9), and expensive lumber comes from Lebanon (v. 13) (Mouw, ibid, p. 7). Mouw notes that the animals “are primarily important as commercial goods and vehicles” and that, along with sailing ships and lumber, they are no longer “signs of pagan cultural strength or displays of alien power.” Instead, they now “proclaim the name of the Lord;” these things “are gathered into the Holy City to be put to good use there” (Mouw, ibid, p. 8, 9).
  • Isaiah 2, in contrast, condemns the wicked and their works. Isaiah “seems to picture God as destroying the same kinds of things which are then brought into the Holy City in chapter 60” (Mouw, p. 10). According to chapter 2, these things are to be judged by the Lord because “people trust in these things for their security” (Mouw, ibid, p. 11).

The Kingdom of God “Breaks” In

Mouw answers the contrast between Isaiah 60 and Isaiah 2 in the following way:

“My own impression is that the judgment that will visit the ships of Tarshish is of a purifying sort. We might think here of the ‘breaking’ of the ships of Tarshish as more like the breaking of a horse rather than the breaking of a vase. The judgment is meant to tame, not destroy. The ships of Tarshish will be harnessed for service in the Holy City–a process that will require a ‘breaking’ of sorts (Mouw, ibid, p. 13).

In other words, the function of the ships will not be destroyed, but their direction will be changed — they will bring complete praise to the Lord, for this is what they were created to do.  No longer will they symbolize “haughtiness and rebellion” (Mouw, ibid, p. 13), but obedience.

Likewise, influence is a function but also a direction.  It too can be transformed.

In short, a transformative view of influence toward positive change — toward abundance and well-being — puts the Fundamental State of Leadership in the context of becoming perfect; that is, holy, complete in Christ, what we were created to be, but not as God ourselves:

  • “The Old Testament is essentially the account of a God who forms for himself a people who are specifically called to be holy” (Smith, Called to be Saints, 2014, p. 17).
  • “Jesus uses language that makes some readers uncomfortable; he speaks of perfection (Smith, ibid, p. 18).
  • “When we view the human vocation and sanctification from the vantage point of creation, we see the human vocation as fulfillment of creation.  To be complete in Christ, to be ‘perfect,’ is quite simply to be what one was created to be” (Smith, ibid, p. 19).
  • God intended for us a life of abundance and holistic well-being.  That is what he called us to be.  But such a life for ourselves and others is the result of if not coincidental with a life of perfection.

Becoming perfect, which will not occur during our lifetimes, results from a biblical vision of life, which is a “radical dependence on God and in deep mutual interdependence with others” (Smith, ibid, p. 25); in short, such a radical dependence on God and deep mutual interdependence on others is a response to Special Grace.

Radical Dependence and Mutual Interdependence

What does such radical dependence on God and mutual interdependence on others look like?

  • “A holy person is a wise person.”
  • “A holy person does good work.”
  • “A holy person lives in a manner consistent with how God has loved us.”
  • “A holy person is a happy person” (Smith, ibid, p. 36).


How do we influence others toward abundance and well-being?

Here are four distinct strategies and two distinct humanistic worldviews:

  • Normal State of Leadership
    • We could tell or persuade others to join us.
    • We could force or coerce others to join us.  We could do this by politicking those above us in the hierarchy or moving ourselves into positions of power.
    • We could invite others to influence our decisions.  We could give them a voice but not a vote.
  • Fundamental State of Leadership: We could empower others to influence us.
  • An Augustinian State of Leadership: To this we could add a third worldview: a more positive one that must eventually transform or enlighten the second worldview that enlightens the first one.  That third worldview puts Christ at the center.  This is what St. Augustine had in mind.  We can participate in Christ and in that work of being a light to the world.  That is the essence of a transformative worldview from a Christian, specifically reformed perspective.  In this work we are radically dependent on God and in deeply and mutually interdependent with others.

Thus as influencers toward abundance and well-being we must keep fighting against our tendency to be independent and remain in control, as humans and as humanity, which leads to disorganization and undifferentiation.  The goal is to encourage others toward holiness which comes from being in Christ.  But the entropy of sin will be an extremely powerful force.  We are totally dependent on God in transforming ourselves and the world.

That may not be a satisfying, concrete answer.  It is, however, an answer of faith.  As Augustine said: “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand” (St. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, trans. Rettig).