Seed Thoughts For Changing The World

Seed Thoughts For Changing The World

Change the World

You Are A Seed

Within us is a code for certain good works but also have the freedom to “self-organize” and break our own personal as well as cultural “scripts”  — we can all become “transformational change agents.”  “Transforming a human system usually requires that we transform ourselves, and this is the key to the process” (pp. 1-4).  (And the human system has to respond to the change in us.)

What happens when we no longer judge someone as the problem? (p. 6).

Refer to Gandhi, the movie. “At this extraordinary moment, control makes a paradoxical shift from the physically dominant man (the policeman) of external authority to the physically wounded man (Ghandi) of internal authority..,,What we have in this scene are examples of two types of change.  Incremental changes are those that happen within normal expectations.  For the crowd to lose its courage in the face of the policeman’s brutality is an incremental change.  It is a relatively small and predictable change.  For the policeman to be suddenly frozen in his tracks by a wounded and seemingly powerless individual, however, is an instance of transformational change.  It is outside our normal expectations.  It is profound change” (pp. 8-9).

Normal Change Theory

Three general strategies for change in a normal situation (Chin and Benne 1969) — “telling (making logical arguments for change), forcing (using forms of leverage such as the threat of being fired or being ostracized), and participating (using open dialogue and pursuing win-win strategies)” (pp. 9-12).

Advanced Change Theory

ACT — “a set of action principles for more effectively introducing change to human systems….’Action from principle, the perception and performance of right, changes things and relations;  it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything that was’….“In the face of principled behavior, the individual observer is constantly required to choose between preservation of the current self or the creation of the new self”  (pp. 13-15).

“Thoreau’s statement about principle suggests that moral power plays a major role in the transformational process” (p. 17).


“To observe transformational capability, we cannot observe normal people doing normal things.  We must observe people who are living by principle.  To develop transformational capability, we cannot be normal people doing normal things.  We must stand outside the norm.  To that end we must ask who we are, what we stand for, and what impact we really want to have….The ideas I present here…suggest that the process of significant self-modification and change, of knowing and personifying core values, leads to a sense of empowerment.  Empowerment leads to increased experimentation, creativity, learning, and impact.  These results, in turn, lead to the development of unique characteristics and the capacity to transform human contexts” (p. 19).

Refer to Gandhi, the movie: the pastor and the thugs

Gandhi and King

“…Gandhi and King were both devoted students of Jesus…I then went to the New Testament and began a search for the philosophies and behaviors these three men shared.  From there came the seed thoughts at the beginning of each chapter. From the unfolding of each chapter came the principles of ACT” (pp. 23-24)

Eight Seed Thoughts For Changing The World

  • Envision Productive Community
    • “Productive community is a synergistic community, made up of groups of people who are becoming more inner directed and other focused.  In this community the common good and the individual good overlap.  There is clear purpose and structure. There is high cohesion and responsiveness” (p. 119).
    • “The three change agents see a system of relationships in which the members share a common purpose and each works for the benefit of all…[productive communities].  When people become members of productive communities they tend to become more inner directed and other focused.  They tend to be motivated by a calling that they feel deep within .  They make contributions that exceed narrow self-interest. People in productive communities also have another unusual characteristic.  They want to be connected to reality.  They want to know what is real, even if the news is bad” (p. 28).
    • “…none of the change agents say anything about abolishing hierarchy” (p. 29).
    • “…sacrifices led to increased commitment.  The increased commitment resulted in new behavior, and the new behavior changed the vision.  She could now see potential no one else could see” (p. 31).
    • Note the differences between frozen bureaucracy, dynamic hierarchy, structured anarchy, and chaotic anarchy.  Note that there are positive and negative forms of bureaucracy and adhocracy (p. 40).
    • “Deep change is not incremental change; rather, it is radical or ‘out-of-the-box’ change.  It usually requires letting go of control” (p. 41)
    • “He was beginning to see that fear of punishment and sense of inadequacy had caused him to get stuck.  He had lost his sense of meaning.  He was not growing….The notion of growing is key to understanding a basic truth — that when we experience meaning, we are in the process of becoming” (p. 44).
    • “I think by community Palmer means a collection of human beings who can effectively pursue a common purpose while also growing individuals” (p. 48).
    • “In asking ‘What is the right thing to do?’ the transformational change agent is asking a second critical question: What result do I want?  Such change agents are not asking How do I get what I want?…Transformational change agent is willing to go outside his or her defined position and violate expectations in order to originate productive community” (p. 53).
  • Look Within
    • “I would suggest that we do not find a purpose: a purpose finds us.  The process does not begin with some kind of goal-setting process.  It begins by making fundamental choices about our own life and what we stand for….” (p. 61).
    • “Clarifying our purpose and committing to pursue the highest in us is transformational” (p. 64).
    • “[We] need to look within for at least two reasons. The first has to do with purpose: making fundamental choices about who we are.  The second involves realigning our behavior accordingly.  By honoring and acting in alignment with our ideals, we grow within and increase what Gandhi called “soul force….The clearer we are about ourselves, the greater our capacity for change.  Instead of responding in expected ways, we can step outside of our routines.  Instead of reacting as expected, we choose our response to meet present circumstances” (p. 68).
  • Embrace Hypocritical Self
    • “With most change, it is a challenge to awaken the conscience….[The story of Jesus halting the stoning of the adulterous woman] illustrates the powerful impact that moral leadership can have in the transformational process” (p. 72).
    • “Argyris..believes there is a universal pattern in professional life.  He says that we tend to organize our lives around four basic values.  We strive to (1) remain in control, (2) win, (3) suppress negative feelings, and (4) pursue rational objectives.  In light of these values, any suggestion of failure is going to feel like a threat.  We avoid negative feelings through ‘dissociation,’ that is, by separating ourselves from anything that might cast us in a less favorable light.  Ironically, we shut down at the exact moment that we most need to be open to learning.  In doing so, we begin the process of stagnation, or slow death” [Recall The Man Who Listens to Horses story]” (p. 73).
    • “What is the bottom line?  As painful as it might be for us to accept, the truth is that we are all hypocrites.  And this is information that we either do not know or do not want to know.  Why?  Because we value control, winning, suppression of negative feelings, and the pursuit of rational objectives, we find ways to neutralize the slightest signal that we might be making a mistake or failing.  We resist any evidence that we might be less than perfect.  Our hypocrisy leads to dysfunctional behavior in our relationships with others….The channels of communication get distorted.  The system does not grow.  We keep exerting authority in order to preserve our positive self-image, at least in our own minds.  However, the more we do this the more disconnected and ineffective we become….We project our dark feelings on others.  Implicitly or explicitly we say, ‘You were responsible’” (p. 75).
    • “Whenever I am in a change situation, I almost always ask the terrible question: How am I practicing hypocrisy in this situation?” (p. 84).
  • Transcend Fear
    • “When we learn the whole story [feeding the five thousand and departing to the mountain) we discover that he was committed to being internally and not externally driven.  It was important to him that he remain very clear about who he was and what results he wanted….Like Jesus, Gandhi understood how external sanctions can shape our lives and divert us from our true purpose. He saw that to be internally driven one had to listen to one’s conscience….Like Gandhi, Dr. King understood that most of us, even though we might deny it, are driven by fears of what will happen to us if we fail to conform to the will of the system.  He also understand that suppressing our fears only caused them to multiply.  He argued that we need to bring those fears to the surface and face them head on” (p. 89).
    • What are the shackles that hold us?  One of the most central is the need for social approval” (p. 90).
    • “At the personal level, my frustrations over feeling powerless tend to turn into more serious problems.  My self-image grows increasingly negative.  I see myself as a person of little value.  My behaviors reflect those feelings.  I then attract people who also have a negative self-image and who need to feel superior.  We form co-dependent and often abusive relationships”  (pp. 92-93).
    • “The individuals, groups, teams, and organizations will not change until they can identify and embrace their potential, that is, really grasp what they are capable of achieving.  This will not happen until one person, somewhere, makes a fundamental choice and begins to demonstrate a new way of being” (p. 94).
    • “Our social fears generally have to do with wanting to be perceived as competent and being accepted as a contributing member of the group.  Within any organization upon which we are dependent for our well-being, we are naturally going to be concerned that the authority figure sees us as competent.  In fact, one of our greatest fears is failing to meet up to the expectations of an important authority figure” (p. 94).
    • “Notice that Dr. King does not tell us that we should be without fears….Transformational people have many fears and they are willing to admit to them” (p. 95).
    • “The paradox is that if we hold onto the scripts that got us to our present level of wealth and status, we will lose wealth and status.  Wealth and status are not the ends for which we are on the earth. We are here to seed the universe, to contribute to the emergence of the larger systems in which we exist.  That requires that we transcend our old scripts…. It is only by letting go of our desires for wealth and power that we grow” (p. 104).
    • “When we create, we claim the role we attribute to God.  In most traditions, God is defined as the great creator, the original cause of the process from which we emerge. Now, as inner-directed and other-focused originators, we become one with the great source” (p. 105).
    •  “Practicing transcendence by progressively letting go of object reference is not easy task.  For most of us, it is impossible until we find a unique mission….’Based on all the good and bad things that have happened in your life, what unique mission have you been prepared to serve that no one else can serve?….[Frankl] noted two points that are relevant here.  First, that people are always free to choose [how they will respond]. Second, having a sense of purpose give us the strength and the capacity to transcend even very abusive and even life-threatening situations” (p. 106).
    • “Our lives are no longer determined by the scripts assigned by the group.  We become the authors of our own stories.  In doing so, we violate the key assumptions of the social sciences and the key assumption of the people around us: We are transcending our own culture” (p. 113).
      • Contrast: Where is God?  Cf. The Kingdom Vision: Apprentices to Jesus
        • “The madness of the world rages all around, yet in places and events influenced by the apprentice of Jesus, we see God’s heart made visible.  When this becomes our goal, we dispel any thought that is just another form of self-actualization or personal development.  Thankfully, the objective is more magnificent than that.  Ultimately, we seek first the kingdom of God.  This was the unifying vision that knit together everything Jesus said and did” (Upended, p. 23).
        • We each have a kingdom to manage: when we “choose to align our influence with God’s will, the good that He intended for us from the beginning springs up” (Upended, p. 23).
  • “Be The Change You Wish To See”
    • “Why is it necessary to embody the common good?  Becoming the personification of the vision inspires others.  They are lifted to new behaviors by our behavior.  In witnessing our courage, they take courage.  As they engage in new patterns of behavior, a new community begins to arise” (p. 120).
    • “There is a saying that perception is projection, meaning that the world we perceive is one that we have molded by projecting our beliefs onto it” (p. 121).
    • “I believe everything I have learned about the problems of organizations can be stated in a single sentence: In organizations, individuals often choose personal good over the collective good” (p. 124).
    • “When someone in the good chooses personal good over collective good, we sense that we are all being cheated….In an organization, when someone chooses personal good over collective good, trust begins to wither.  Commitment and cohesion begin to disintegrate….The same deterioration occurs when the organizational good is chosen over the good of the larger society….People in the organization do not like how they must now see themselves.  They practice denial.  Everything becomes more transactional” (p. 125).
  • (You Are Already) Disturbing The System
    • “In organizations, transformational change agents do not seek to maintain equilibrium as managers are typically trained to do.  Instead, they seek to understand the system deeply and the individuals who are such integral parts of it.  Then they try to disrupt the system so that participants must step outside their scripts, pay attention to what is happening right now, and engage in new behaviors” (p. 162).
    • “Resistance is not where transcendence ends or even where it stops off for a while, but where it begins….Think of resistance as a feedback loop in which the change agent and the resisting system are joined in creative tension.  One is the acorn and one is the soil.  As they interpenetrate, they gain the potential to move to still another level of complexity and integration.  A self-organization system is in place.  Those who know how to facilitate significant change no only don’t avoid resistance, they seek it, knowing how essential it is for the transformational process to be successful” (pp. 167-168).
    • “So in the end, systems move to new levels of complexity because they are disturbed.  Yet the basic irony about all this, since systems are designed to prevent disturbances, that is, to help each person within the system maintain a steady course. Even so, human collectives can never transform until someone cares enough, and dares enough, to deviate and disturb them” (p. 169).
    • NOTE Ch 8, p. 171: “The sacred servants suggest that we should trust the emergent process.  Jesus tells his disciples that their behavior will disturb the system and they will be brought to stand before authority figures.  He then advises them to not worry but trust the process: ‘Take now thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak….[The] sacred servants tell us that if we change our state of being, we can transcend the shackles of fear, and in such a state we will enter the transformational reality and accomplish transformational deeds.”
  • Surrender To The Emerging Reality
    • “Now here’s a heretical thought.  Leadership is not about results. It is about commitment….Most people want to be told how to get extraordinary results with minimum risk….Leadership means go forth and die.  Normal people do not do it because they have nothing worth dying for.  The transformational person will argue: ‘Until we have something worth dying for, we have nothing worth living for.’  Transactional people often life lives of ‘quiet desperation.’…The transformational person is focused on something bigger than self.  One of the most incomprehensible aspects of the transformational perspective is that personal survival is not the first law of nature” (pp. 179, 183).
  • Forget Power; Enhance With Moral Authority
    • “I believe that perfection is a dynamic state that we enter whenever we are closing one of our integrity gaps, thus becoming more perfect.  When we exercise the courage to close an integrity gap, we experience victory over the self and become connected to a deeper reality.  We also gain increased moral power.  People see and are attracted by our increased integrity” (p. 193).
    • “[Looking] through other people’s eyes can mean that we have to change.  We can’t simply assume that telling people to change is going to get the results we want” (p. 202)

How To Stay Relevant Without Selling Your Soul

By Robert Quinn

Robert Quinn is an expert in transforming leadership.  Here are my favorite quotes from Deep Change.


Deep Change assumes that one person can change the larger system or organization in which he or she exists (p. xii).

When we have successful experienced a deep change, it inspires us to encourage others to undergo a similar experience….Having experienced deep change in ourselves, we are able to bring deep change to the systems around us (p. xiii).

Our capacity to face uncertainty and function in times of stress and anxiety is linked with our self-confidence, and our level of self-confidence is linked with our sense of increasing integrity.  We are all affected by technical competence or political acumen, but we are more deeply influenced by moral power (xiv).

Chapter 1: Walking Naked In The Land Of Uncertainty

The process of formalization initially makes the organization more efficient or effective.  As time goes on, however, these routine patterns move the organization toward decay and stagnation.  The organization loses alignment with the changing, external reality.  As a result, customers go elsewhere for their products and services, and the organization loses critical resources.  When internal and external alignment is lost, the organization faces a choice: either adapt or take the road to slow death.  Usually the organization can be renewed, energized, or made effective only if some leader is willing to take some big risks by stepping outside the well-defined boundaries.  When this happens, the organization is lured, pushed, or pulled into unknown territory (p. 5).

We can change the world only by changing ourselves (p. 9).

Traditional learning is learning linked with the past–it is learning something that someone else already knows.  “Traveling naked into the land of uncertainty” allows for another kind of learning, a learning that helps us forget what we know and discover what we need (p. 12).

Chapter 2: Confronting The Deep Change Or Slow Death Dilemma

A victim is a person who suffers a loss because of the actions of others.  A victim tends to believe that salvation comes only from the actions of others.  They have little choice but to whine and wait until something good happens.  Living with someone who chooses to play the victim role is draining; working in an organization where many people have chosen the victim role is absolutely depressing.  Like a disease, the condition tends to spread….When someone makes the initial decision to avoid confronting a difficult situation, a negative process is triggered….Often, without fully realizing it, the person has taken on the victim’s role (p. 21).

We actually seem to prefer slow death.  Slow death is the devil we know, so we prefer it to the devil we do not know (p. 24).

Life is a process of deaths and rebirths (p. 25).

Chapter 3: The Fear Of Change

One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change.  Personal change is a reflection of our inner  growth and empowerment.  Empowered leaders are the only ones who can induce real change.  They can forcefully communicate beyond a level beyond telling.  By having the courage to change themselves, they model the behavior they are asking of others (p. 35).

One of the last things we want to consider is our own selfishness and immaturity.  We resist reflecting on our own fear of change (p. 36).

Chapter 4: The Heroic Journey

The amount of energy we feel has much to do with the alignment between oneself and our surrounding environment.  We can be aligned with our environment in such a way that we feel either strong and empowered or weak and powerless (p. 41).

The hero’s journey is a story of individual transformation, a change of identity.  In embarking on the journey, we must leave the world of certainty.  We must courageously journey to a strange place where there are lots of risks and much is at stake, a place where there are new problems that require us to think in new ways (p. 45).

Chapter 5: Finding Vitality

When an impossible objective is given to people in a large hierarchy and when it is accompanied by immense pressure to produce, the people in the organization will also experience growing pressure to engage in unethical behavior.  An invisible form of corruption at the top, the exercise of authority without concern or demand without support, results in a very visible form of corruption at the bottom (p. 52).

Denial occurs when we are presented with painful information about ourselves, information that suggests that we need to make deep change.  Denial is one of several clear paths toward slow death.  When we practice denial, we work on the wrong solutions or on no solutions at all (p. 52).

We need to watch carefully for signs that we have crossed the invisible line [the line between increasing returns and decreasing returns on our efforts].  When this occurs, we need think about breaking the logic of task pursuit and charting a course toward deep change and renewed vitality (p. 55).

Chapter 6: Breaking The Logic Of Task Pursuit

A hermit, who lived far out in the forest, would cut enough wood each summer to heat his cabin through the winter.  One fall day, he heard on his shortwave radio that an early winter storm was heading for his area.  Because he had not yet cut enough wood, he rushed to his wood pile.  Examining his dull and rusty saw, he realized that it needed sharpening.  He paused for a moment, looked at his watch, looked at the height of his uncut wood pile, and shook his head.  Instead of sharpening his saw, he began to cut.  As he worked, he noted that the saw was getting increasingly dull and that he was working harder and harder.  he told himself repeatedly that he needed to stop and sharpen the saw, but he continued to cut anyway.  At the end of the day, as the snow began to fall, he sat exhausted next to a sizable pile of uncut wood.  This man was not ignorant.  He knew his saw desperately needed sharpening.  He also knew that the more he cut, the duller the blade would become.  Yet he could not bring himself to stop and sharpen the saw.  This man [made himself the — edit by svveen] victim of the logic of task pursuit (p. 59).

Chapter 7: A New Perspective

We have to reinvent ourselves so that we can meaningfully connect with our current world.  This is not such a radical thought; it’s actually an ongoing process  (p. 66).

One way to realign the self is to retell the most important stories in our life….When we repeat one of these stories, we do not tell it exactly.  We recount it from the perspective of our current problem.  It is presented in a unique way that allows us to reconnect our past foundation with our present and future structures.  In fact, what we are really doing is realigning our past to include our present and future (p. 67).

Chapter 8: Confronting The Integrity Gap

The heart of effectiveness, Torbert argues, is building integrity through the constant observation of one’s lack of integrity (p. 76).

Ultimately, deep change, whether at the personal or the organizational level, is a spiritual process.  Loss of alignment occurs when, for whatever reason, we begin to pursue the wrong end.  This process begins innocently enough.  In pursuing some justifiable end, we make a trade-off of some kind.  We know it is wrong, but we rationalize our choice.  We use the end to justify the means.  As time passes, something inside us starts to whither.  We are forced to live at the cognitive level, the rational, goal-seeking level.  We lose our vitality and begin to work from sheer discipline.  Our energy is not naturally replenished, and we experience no joy in what we do.  We are experiencing slow death (p. 78).

Chapter 9: Build The Bridge As You Walk Across It

Organizational and personal growth seldom follows a linear plan….When we have a vision, it does not mean that we have a plan.  We may know where we want to be, but we will seldom know the actual steps we must take to get there.  We must trust in ourselves to learn the way, to build the bridge as we walk on it.  Deep change is an extensive learning process.  When we pursue our vision, we must believe that we have enough courage and confidence in ourselves to reach our goal.  We must leap into the chasm of uncertainty and strive bravely ahead  (p. 84).

Chapter 22: The Power Of One

There comes a time when we all question whether something is right.  At such times, we have to listen and follow our inner voice, even when it means tackling the system and enlisting some unconventional procedures and techniques.  One person can make a difference.  However, deep change comes at a great cost.  Enacting change means taking some risks.  When we take the necessary risks, we become self-empowered.  We begin to better align our internal self with our external world.  As our internal power base grows, we become confident and make genuine progress toward our goal.  We become energized and slowly begin to recognize that we can make a difference.  We begin to understand that one person really can change the system (p. 218, 219).

The Essence of Transformative Influence

There are four ways to influence others.   Here they are in terms of frequency of use.

  • We can tell someone to do something.
  • You can coerce someone to do something.
  • You can engage people in the decision-making process.
  • You can allow yourself to be influenced by others.

Telling is the most frequently used tactic for influencing others.   But over the long-run, it is the least effective.   Here’s why.

Three Leadership Orientations

There are three basic leadership orientations:

  • Position-Oriented (explains why and when telling and forcing work)
  • Participation-Oriented (explains why and when engaging people in the decision-making process work)
  • Positivity-Oriented (explains why and when being influenced works)

Positivity-Oriented approaches work because both parties identify deeply with each other — when there is a shared sense, or internalization, of values.   Position-Oriented approaches don’t need internalization, just power.   Participation-Oriented tactics require leaders to have a certain amount of credibility and attractiveness based on similar values, if not power, to work.

Position- and Participation-Oriented tactics reflect the Normal State of Leadership.  The Normal State of Leadership requires certain assumptions about people, ranging from Theory X assumptions to Theory Y assumptions.  The underpinnings of this orientation is Traditional Change Theory (see table below).

Positive-Oriented tactics reflect the Fundamental State of Leadership.  The underpinnings of this orientation is Advanced Change Theory (see table below).

Assumptions, Values, Orientations Traditional Change Theory Advanced Change Theory
Action orientation Planning and proposing solutions Enabling emerging processes
Prime barrier to effectiveness Change target inadequacies Change agent hypocrisy
Prime focus of change Alteration of change target Alteration of change agent
Behavioral determinants External sanctions Internal values
Implicit purpose Personal survival of change agent Realization of collective potential
Nature of learning Controlled analysis Discovery at the edge of chaos
Assumed relationship Influence and control the change target Reverence for the freedom of the change target
Modes of influence Rational persuasion and leverage Attraction and inspiration
Change agent behaviors Conventional Paradoxical
Desired outcomes Alter the change agent Transformation of self and system

Quinn, Spreitzer, Brown: “Changing Others Through Changing Ourselves,” Journal of Management Inquiry, June 2000, 9, 2.

The Challenge

Unfortunately, Positivity-Orientation leadership tactics are rare  — we are typically “great” only for a moment — because of the power of entropy.   In a word, things fall apart and move toward disorganization and chaos.  Being great is our challenge.  We are called not only to transform ourselves and our systems, but even the way we influence.

Such goodness is a gift of grace and only because of grace is it sustainable.

Fundamental Transforms Normal

Building a Bridge


In the Normal State of Leadership

“[We] seek equilibrium.  In the normal state, 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” (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” (p. 69).


“When we are in the [Fundamental State of Leadership,] we become more purpose-centered, internally-driven, other-focused, and externally-open” (p. 21).

  • “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” (p. 22).
  • “[We] also become 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” (p. 22).
  • “[We] also become 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” (p. 22).
  • “[We] become 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” (p. 23).

Leading From The Bottom

Maybe you are starting your first full-time post-college job.  Or maybe you are starting over in a new place.  If so, this post may be for you.

Your Situation

It’s your first week on the job.  Let’s recognize the obvious.

  • First, every job has a “honeymoon” period.  As in life, the weather changes.  When the storm comes, you will question whether you’re are where you should be.
  • Second, some conflict comes naturally.   Disagreements and feelings of frustration are not unusual.  The remedy is to understand the source of the conflict.  Is it shallow or deep?  Is it about personality or culture?
  • Third, you weren’t hired to be a change agent.  And even if you were, be patient.  According to Heifetz et al (in The Practice of Adaptive Leadership), people aren’t afraid of change, per se.  They are afraid of losing something.  Therefore, when they sense change is approaching, they become emotionally attached to what is, not what might be.  A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Best to listen and learn and leverage the good already occurring and be changed yourself.

The first thing to do in terms of self-change is to take a back seat, listen, and learn. The more you know at the beginning, the better you will be prepared to deal with what comes later. What you will want to know in the beginning is the culture of the organization, and the leadership styles of those in power over you. What you want to develop is greater emotional intelligence and an understanding of what it means to be a leader. Then you can develop a short-term and long-term plan for making a difference.


Soon you will be second-guessing your decision to choose the company and job you did.  Why?  One reason is the culture of the organization.  It may not be what you expected or are accustomed to.  So it is good to understand it.

To understand the culture of your organization, begin by mapping it.  Consider Cameron and Quinn’s “Competing Values Framework” (in Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture and Organizations serve different purposes.  They  vary in terms of their values.

  • “Clan” cultures value the “development” of people and therefore seek to practice collaboration and emphasize “human relations.”
  • “Market” cultures are diametrically opposed to “Clan” cultures and value “performance.”  People within them “compete” against themselves and others.   They emphasize achievement and “rational goals.”
  • “Adhocracy” cultures value disruptive innovatation and utilize “open systems.”  They are organizations without permanent structures.  They seek “breakthroughs” — that is, disruptive innovations.In them people jump from project group to project group to understand and solve problems.
  • “Hierarchical” cultures are diametrically opposed to “Adhocracy” cultures.  They value “incremental” change” and seek to “control” or reduce chaos within their organizational boundaries.  Instead of utilizing open systems, they utilize internal processes to standardize and drive efficiency.

Generally, organizations are each a unique combination of several cultures.  Even so,

Thus, if you are a person who likes to innovate and implement fast, you will be frustrated in collaborate or control cultures.   If you are a person who likes to work closely with people in a slower-paced predictable environment, you will be frustrated in create or compete cultures.

Leadership Styles

A second reason you may be guessing your decision is your supervisor’s leadership style. Cultures tend to be influenced by and to influence leadership styles.  To some extent, the CEO influences the culture of the entire organization.  But the influence of the leader is more salient in sub-units.  Thus within sub-units, cultures can change depending on the style of the leader.  Best to understand your leader’s style of influence. Parker (in “Leadership Styles of Agricultural Communications and Information Technology Managers: What Does the Competing Values Framework Tell Us About Them?” in has a helpful framework. For instance,

Likewise, Goleman (in “Leadership That Gets Results” and has a useful model for understanding leadership styles.


Goleman’s styles reflect Parker’s findings.

  • “Pacesetting” corresponds to the “director” or “producer” roles.  “Market-oriented” supervisors influence people by “telling” them to do what is needed by setting high goals.  They say: “Here’s the goal.  Beat it.”
  • “Affiliating” corresponds to the “mentor” and “coach”  roles.  Affiliative managers ask  “How do you feel?” and “Why do you think you feel that way?”
  • Being “democratic” corresponds to “facilitator” role.  “Clan-oriented” supervisors influence people through “participative” strategies — inviting people to contribute their unique gifts to understanding and solving problems, and at the same time seeking “buy-in” or “consensus.”  They ask  “What do you think?  What is your opinion about this issue?”
  • “Visionary” corresponds to the “innovator” role.  “Create-oriented” supervisors are “transformational” and strategic in nature, because they lead people to a new place that, one that “transcends” old ways of doing things in order to more closely align the organization to fundamental values.  They ask “How can we get there?”
  • “Commanding” corresponds to the “monitor” and “coordinator” roles because it involves compliance with one “right” way.  “Hierarchy-oriented’ supervisors “force” or incentivize, positively or negatively, people to “comply.”  They say: “Here’s the process.  Follow it.”

Thus it is important for you to know your personal leadership style and the styles of others in your sub-unit.  People change faster than culture does, therefore the culture of sub-units change faster than the culture of the entire organization.  Better to be in sub-culture and work for a person whose leadership style fits you best.  Also, better to know yourself emotionally in case you don’t.  If, for example, you crave vision and strategy you will be frustrated in a affiliative, clan culture.

One of the least valued yet most important skills is managing your own emotions and positively influencing the emotions of those around you.  But first you must see and understand them.  Doing so will prepare you to alleviate a lot of frustration later. Understanding your own and the emotions of others is the art and science of emotional intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence

Becoming more emotionally intelligent involves:

  • Becoming more aware of what frustrates you and what gives you energy and why (self-awareness) and what frustrates others and gives them energy (social awareness) and why.  It means coming to grips with your competing values map and the competing values maps of others.
  • Becoming more emotionally intelligent means managing your emotions (self-management)  so that you can see and take things in perspective.  So that you can step up to the balcony to gain a better understanding of what is going on all around you.

Here are some signs of a lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

  • It seems the followers don’t get the point and it frustrates the boss.
  • The boss is surprised when others negatively respond to their comments/jokes and he/she thinks they’re overreacting.
  • The boss believes it doesn’t matter if he/she is liked at work.
  • The boss weighs in early with assertions and strongly defends them.
  • The boss finds others to blame.
  • For more, see Muriel Maignan Wilkins’ “Signs That You Lack Emotional Intelligence” (

The point is that you don’t want to be an emotionally-toxic person. The other is that you need to be able deal with someone who is.

Leader or Manager

One helpful framework for understanding your cultural situation and emotional intelligence is to understand the difference between a leader or manager.

  • A manager focuses on systems and structure, a leader focuses on people; a manager maintains, a leader develops; a manager relies on control, a leader inspires trust (Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader: “Leaders don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for.  They use passion and ideas to lead people as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them” (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 22).  “Managers manage by using the authority the factory gives them.  You listen to your manager or you lose your job” (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 22).

  • Managers administrate, leaders innovate; a manager has a short­-range view, a leader has a long-­range perspective; a manager asks how and when, a leader asks what and why (Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader: Thus, leaders are curious persons who explore first and then consider whether or not he/she wants to accept the ramifications (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 63).  Managers are people who consider whether the fact is acceptable to his religion before he/she explores it (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 63).  Leaders ask for  forgiveness (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 70).  Managers ask for permission (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 70).
  • Managers have their eyes on the bottom line, leaders have their eyes on the horizon (Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader Leaders have faith (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 80).  Managers have religion (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 80).
  • A manager imitates, a leader originates (Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader:  Leaders respond (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 86).  Managers react (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 86).  Leaders do things (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 87).  Managers have things happen to them (Seth Godin, Tribes, p. 87).
  • A manager is a copy, a leader is an original (Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader:

You will find more leaders in Collaborative (Clan) and Create (Adhocracy) cultures. If you and your boss make decisions by imitating what your competitors do, both you and your organization are on a path to slow death.


So how does one lead from the bottom?  In the short-run:

  • Know the culture of your organization and sub-unit.
  • Know your own leadership style and the leadership styles of those around you.
  • Understand the basis of your frustration.
  • Begin to build relationships by learning from and loving your new neighbors.


If you believe in eternity, lead for the long-run:

  • Be the type of person you wish others to be.
  • Seek to do the right thing more than doing things right.
  • Be creative and collaborative across bureaucratic silos; build a tribe.
  • Grow into a “Level 5 Leader,” a person of “personal humility and professional will” (Jim Collins, Good to Great).
  • Become more spiritually mature — a person of character.  For the long run, think of Servant Leadership as a good EI strategy.  (See 
  • Empower others to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling.

When you are in your first full-time job post-college or starting over, it can initially feel as thrilling as walking on water.  But the storm and waves will come. And soon you will sink. You may find yourself drowning.  Just remember that whatever happens God is in control.  Ground yourself in him and don’t worry. Easier said than done.