Home Leadership Avalon and Glastonbury: The Merlin Factor

Avalon and Glastonbury: The Merlin Factor

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Those who operate from Glastonbury, and treat people as things, pay a price in human energy, creativity, innovation and commitment.  Those who operate from Avalon, and handle people and things too gently, pay a price in productivity, focus, coordination, and results.

Trust in Glastonbury demands performance and results. Trust in Avalon requires emotional connection and caring. Both are needed in a vibrant and successful enterprise. It’s difficult to hold onto the paradoxical reality of a system that honors both realities at the same time.

However, a leader’s mind can be open to both realities at once. They can serve both as steward of their organization’s Avalon and guardian of their Glastonbury. When successful, what occurs is a fundamental shift in the corporation’s aliveness and effectiveness. If a corporate Camelot could someday become the norm, the same spirit could also extend to the families, communities, governments, and international relations.

The world needs a quantum shift in the way people think. This change need not wait for gradual evolution nor dramatic social or economic crises.

Glastonbury at its best

The optimum Glastonbury is an honorable place where all detail matters. Careful attention to physical detail releases people’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energies into great richness and variety. James W. Rouse was founder of the Rouse Company, which became one of the nation’s largest publicly held real estate development and management companies. He wrote, “I am committed that the lives of people and communities for generations to come will be affected by what we do; that the surest road to success is to discover the authentic needs of people and do our best to service them; that people seek human places of diversity and charm, full of festival and delight; they are degraded by tacky, tasteless places and oppressed by coldness and indifference; that they are uplifted by the creative caring which that demands; that we believe everything matters; that all detail matters.” (personal communication, 1995) In our view, Glastonbury is an organizational metaphor for such integrity.

As Glastonbury stands for the integrity of things measurable in a Corporation, so Avalon stands for the integrity of things non-measurable — harmony, cooperation, commitment, joy, presence, benevolent authority, freedom, truth, healing, trust, and so on.  Creating a unified purpose in a divided kingdom was King Arthur’s main job. It is also the job of most corporate leaders. For a corporation to undergo a transformation, leaders need to alter processes fundamental to improving customer focus continually in visible Glastonbury. At the same time, relationships need to expand and improve in unseen Avalon.

Avalon consists of all the genuine relationships within the company as well as relationships with those closely related to it, such as suppliers, distributors, customers. Avalon often fades into the mists unless you are creating and fostering relationships intentionally. Avalon doesn’t just happen. As soon as the champions of Avalon go away, so does Avalon. That is why so much wonderful cultural change management fades when the Avalon leadership changes jobs.

Avalon’s energies are all relational, connecting people to each other heart-to-heart. Certain Glastonbury energies are often mistakenly viewed as expressions of Avalon — smiles, handshakes, hearty greetings, polite conversations, lunches, holding doors open for people, ordering coffee or refreshment, pointing out safety cautions, being on time, showing patience, etc.  These don’t necessarily require commitment to a relationship nor to the success of another person.

Negative energies happen in Avalon as well. For example, while those who live in Glastonbury can find themselves enmeshed in internal competition, hierarchies of scarcity, and scapegoats. People who live mainly in Avalon can show little concern for results, set unrealistic goals, avoid measurement, and respond with passive aggression to people asking that they perform.

The Merlin Factor is the unblocked present awareness that lets you see that both Avalon and Glastonbury are real, and the intention to act on it.

* Adapted and revised from The Merlin Factor: Keys to the Corporate Kingdom.  Charles E. Smith, PhD.  Kairos Productions 1995 & Gower Publishing 1998 (available on request via CES email contact address for magazine)

Back to Home Page of Issue One

Table of Contents

High Performance Human Workplace [Dominique Guilini]

God is in the Neurons: Can We Rewire our Brains? [Athene]

What Would Homo Systemicus Do? [Barry Oshry]

To Flicker or Swing: The Fire and Pendulum of Leadership [William Bergquist and Agnes Mura]

Traffic Management and Business Performance: A White Paper [Ian Prosser]


Photo Credit: “Paris at Sunset” by G. Michael Smith


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