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Effective Leadership: Vision, Values and a Spiritual Perspective

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Finally, we find a related analysis of postmodern challenges offered by Robert Kegan (1994, p. 185) who suggests that the relativistic perspective is indeed quite challenging when we are engaged in making decisions and acting on these decisions:

“When we look into this collection of expectations for success at work, we discover that each actually demands something more than particular behavior or skill. Each is a claim on our minds for a way of knowing. Each amounts to a slightly different way of demanding or expecting a single capacity for psychological authority. This capacity . . . represents a qualitatively more complex system for organizing experience than the mental operations that create values, beliefs, convictions, generalizations, ideals, abstractions, interpersonal loyalty, and intrapersonal states of mind.

It is qualitatively more complex because it takes all of these as objects or elements of its system, rather than as the system itself; it does not identity with them but views them as parts of a new whole.  This new whole is an ideology, an internal identity, a self-authorship that can coordinate, integrate, act upon, or invent values, beliefs, convictions, generalizations, ideals, abstractions, interpersonal loyalties, and intrapersonal states. It is no longer authored by them; it authors them and thereby achieves a personal authority. Despite the surface differences between the various work expectations, they require a common underlying capacity, a common order of consciousness.”

Thus, when seeking spiritual commitment in the midst of relativism, we must assume a broader integrating sense of self and a broad system-based appreciation of the contributions being made by each part (each simulacrum) to the whole.

Sources of Light: Kegan (1994, p. 50) offers an optimistic perspective regarding the challenge of relativism. He presents this perspective through the use of a lovely metaphor regarding sources of light:

I”f five lamps are lit in a large living room, how many sources of light are there? We might say that there are five sources of light. Perhaps the maker of each lamp, genuinely committed to bringing us into the light, will be partial to his own and bid us to come to that source. Or at best, some generous spirit of eclectic relativism may obtain, and the lamp makers may concede that there is a benefit to our being exposed to each of the lamps, each separate source having little to do with the other except that, like the food groups of a well-balanced diet, each has a partial contribution to make to a well-rounded, beneficial whole.”

It is at this point that Kegan offers his key insight:

“But quite a different answer to the question of how many sources of light there are in the room is possible—namely, that there is only one source. All five lamps work because they are plugged into sockets drawing power from the home’s electrical system. In this view, each lamp is neither a contender for the best source of light nor a mere part of a whole. And if the lamp maker’s mission is not first of all to bring us to the light of his particular lamp but to bring us to the light of this single source, then he can delight equally in the way his particular lamp makes use of this source and in the way other lamps he would never think to create do also. His relationship to the other lamp makers is neither rivalrous nor laissez-faire, but co-conspiratorial: the lamp makers breathe together.”

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