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Interpersonal Needs and The Human Spectrum

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Proactive and Reactive Control

The dynamics of both proactive and reactive control often tend to be just as subtle as those of proactive and reactive inclusion. In both cases, these needs are sometimes explicitly addressed through the formal operations of the group. For instance, in the case of inclusion, there can be an actual vote to determine if someone is admitted into an officially formed group. This can be a vote taken by an external constituency (such as the election of congress people) or by those who are members of the group (as in the case of many social associations and fraternal organizations).

As we turn to control, In most cases we find that the role of manager, director, or chair is assigned by someone or some group operating at the higher level of the organization. Even when the leadership of a group is not formally assigned from outside, the decision to be made about leadership is often made in a public manner. The issue of control can sometimes be formally addressed through the selection of officers in an organization (often the case with the boards of nonprofit organizations as well as corporations). The leaders can even be selected by an external constituency (as in the case of elected officials who preside over a legislative body—such as in the case of the American Vice President who is selected by the general population rather than members of the US Senate).

The similarities between the dynamics of inclusion and control soon disappear, however, when it comes to the way in which proactive and reactive behavior is exhibited in the group – and the emotions that often accompany struggle for control in a group. First, proactive seeking for control usually shows up in a manner that everyone can see. While, the person seeking control might not be explicit about their need, the proactive search usually is manifest in a high level of verbal activity (even dominating the air time in their group), a high level (and ratio) of offerings opinions (rather than just sharing information) and generally a high level of energy and activity in the group while it is sorting out the control issues. There might be considerable maneuvering behind the scene, in the choose of a leader, but at some point the move toward identified leadership is explicit. It often moves rapidly if there has been significant work done “in the back room.”

The dynamics of proactive control doesn’t stop here. Even with the formal assignment of leadership has been completed, there are often continuing struggles regarding who is “really” in charge and how is authority being distributed in the group. Is this the “real” leader, or is someone else or some other cluster of people actually “pulling the strings”? And what about the “loyal opposition” – those people who do not feel that their perspectives or interests are being represented by those in authority. How are the divergent perspectives and interests being addressed in the group? Those members with a strong proactive need for control are likely to be quite sensitive to these issues, whether they are “in charge” or not. Finally, there is the matter of alignment with those who are in control. If I have a strong need for control, but am not in control, then I need to consider ways in which to work with those in charge. If I am successful in this alignment, then I have what is often called “referent power.” I have the leader’s ear” and can represent other members of the group in voicing their concerns and requests.

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