Home Leadership Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

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As young men and women, we tend to view our world in a dualistic fashion: there is a reality that can be discerned and there is one right answer to the complex questions we are asked. Those in authority can be trusted to reveal the truth. There are also those people who are inherently evil or stupid, and they are not to be trusted. There are indeed people with white hats and black hats. Our job is to determine which color hat they are wearing.

Dualism: While many people spend most, if not all, their life viewing the world from this dualistic perspective, there are often events or people who disrupt this simplistic frame. We soon discover that there are multiple sources of credible information and multiple sources of potentially valid interpretation of this information. It is not clear what is true or what is real. According to Perry, the initial response to this disconfirmation is often a sense of betrayal. We were told by people we trust and respect that the world is to be seen in one way. Suddenly we see that this might not be the case.

Multiplicity: Given that there is no one right answer, then any answer will do. Perry coins a new word–“multiplistic”—as a way to identify this stage (that is often over-looked). In many ways, multiplicity is simply another form of dualism: if there is no one truth or reality then there must be no truths and no realities. If there are multiple truths that are always shifting, then why should we ever trust anything that we experience or are told? The world is composed of nothing but expedient storytelling and fake versions of the real world: those who possess the power are allowed to define what is real and important.

Perry proposes that this multiplistic stage is common among young adults who are first exposed to a world that is expanding in size and complexity – they are seeing the multiple images on the wall of their cave. This sense of betrayal is likely to remain if the young adult is provided with minimal support and finds very little that is to be trusted in the world. We certainly see an abundance of multiplicity in our current world – along with the dualistic perspective. Perry is optimistic, however, regarding the capacity and willingness of many adults to move beyond multiplicity, especially if they are fortune enough to live in a supportive and trusting environment.

Relativism: Perry suggests that there is a transition to what he identifies as a relativistic perspective. We now see that within a specific community there are certain accepted standards regarding truth and reality. We can appreciate the fact that other communities adhere to different standards than our own. While adhering to a relativistic perspective, we are likely to avoid making any value judgments regarding competing versions of the truth. We live in the cave and sit back to witness (perhaps even savor) the multiple images on the wall and multiple interpretations of these images.

Commitment in Relativism: Unfortunately, we can’t live forever in this suspended state of relativism. We must somehow engage—and even provide leadership—in this world of multiple and often contradictory perspectives. As mature and responsible adults we must make decisions and act on the basis of these decisions. Perry identifies this fourth perspective as commitment-in-relativism. We recognize that there are alternative standards operating in various communities, but also recognize the need to pick a specific standard and base our life around this standard. We might change our secular standards over time and might be able to live in a different community and embrace their standards while living there—but come back to our base of commitment.

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