A Theory About Leadership & Life – Part 1

Well as you can tell the model presented in the previous post was a working model.  The more I thought about the name “Enlightened Leadership” the more I thought it sounded too fluffy and airy fairy.  Maybe you thought the same way, I don’t know.  However, to retain the integrity of the original formula eL = f(iC*aC*iC) I have changed the name to “Emergent Leadership” as well as adding and refining some of the constructs.

Life, here on planet earth, presents its inhabitants with myriads of problems and life experiences.  As a result of these experiences and problems we create self-schemas which provide the scripts and rules we use to make sense of ourselves, our place in the world, along with the roles and functions we accept and internalize as part of our identity.  In many ways our self-schemas serve us well, and at times they don’t because limited notions of ourselves and others can often continue to perpetuate behaviors and beliefs that do not awaken the soul and spirit of man/woman into its greater potential(s) of why we are here on this planet and realizing who we truly are.  So on a softer note, researchers have determined that we have “multiple selves,” or self-schemas, and to simplify things I will mention two–the real self, and the ideal self.  The primary theory that is used in social psychology to describe the notion of multiple selves is called “self-discrepancy theory.”  To clarify, the real self is simply how you currently define and see yourself, as you are.  Since this post particularly pertains to Integrating Character and its four sub-constructs; the ability to see ourselves “as we are” is connected with honesty.  Now, although honesty is related to speaking the truth within the context of the intention to not deceive, placate, or bend the truth for self-enhancing ways.  Honesty also refers to the difficult work of being honest with ourselves; honest about our true feelings, motives and intentions, beliefs about ourselves and others, honest about the incongruency of our thoughts with our values, words, and behaviors.  If we are honest with ourselves we will usually notice a gap between what we say we value and believe, and the corresponding words, thoughts, emotions, and actions we take.  This is commonly called the difference between “our espoused values and our values-in-action.”  This carries the overtones of the past post “Blinded by Vagueness.”  Therefore, this leads to the other self, the ideal self, which is the person you would like to become.  The striving for personal development is a core motivation in almost every human being, and because of this the ideal self is a common factor in many peoples’ lives.

In addition to honesty, the construct of vulnerability represents the contingent factor or as I like to think of it as the ‘precursor to humility.’  In order to be humble we must be honest about the truth of ourselves, others, and the life each of us lead.  Vulnerability means the ability to surrender our pretenses, masks, self-aggrandizement, and quips – and take the “Risk” of being real and to honestly “see” despite the consequences.  Similarly, vulnerability also means our ability to open up and empathize with others.  Thus, when we think about life, the problems and experiences we face in our careers, family life, personal lives, groups we are associated with, and our spiritual convictions – we all can readily see how the system we live in, namely here in the U.S., is designed to maintain competition, consumption, and acquisition as noted by Parker Palmer and other global justice visionaries.  When I was considering continuing my education to complete a Doctorate, I thought of a theory I would create.  The theory was called, “Risk to Lead Theory” (RLT).  Although, at this point in my life another 4-7 years of school to obtain a Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) does not sound appealing.  However, the whole notion of Risk to Lead Theory is based on the premise of vulnerability.  It means we must be willing to take the risk of being vulnerable **first** in order to help others to drop their pretenses and other false notions of their self-schemas.  The research conducted on psychological safety, has found that when (a) people are valued for their unique skills and contributions, (b) no one is penalized if they ask for help or admit a mistake, (c) people are not rejected for being different, (d) people are able to bring up problems and tough issues, (e) people acknowledge and honor the dignity of each person as having intrinsic value, and (f) when people express genuine respect, care, and curiosity towards others.  Then people are able to feel psychological safe within the current context to engage and give more of themselves fully.  Thus, the precursor to psychological safety, is *Risk*.

The last two constructs of Integrating Character are discipline and resiliency.  In short, discipline and resiliency represent the “muscle” (i.e. mental, volitional, emotional, and behavioral muscle) to execute honesty and vulnerability.  Discipline is a form of self-mastery and self-regulation.  Discipline according to the classic book, “The Road Less Traveled” is the (a) ability to delay gratification, (b) ability to accept responsibility, (c) dedication to the truth, and (d) the ability to balance or embody the skill of flexibility.  Discipline also means the ability of intentionally choosing one’s values or goal pursuits, and resiliency relates to this “choosing” of one’s values in spite of obstacles, difficulties, and discouragement.  Therefore, discipline is the conscious intention of choosing our motives and values, and resiliency enables us to carry out the task despite the challenges or unpopularity.

To recap, Integrating Character (iC) is about the active pursuit of integrating our character, or bridging together our ideal self with our real self and vice versa.  For the purpose of generating positive social change by reinventing ourselves, we should realize that the ideal self should ultimately embody the qualities of service and contribution for the greater good of humanity – thus fulfilling the implicit command, “Yes, you are your brothers and sisters keeper…”  Values not only represent what each of us consider to be important, but they serve and specify appropriate behaviors that each of us deem worthy in order fulfill our need structures.  However, as a footnote, discipline as the intentional choosing of one’s values cannot be accomplished without mindfulness, which is the ability to maintain intentional awareness while honestly assessing how we show up for our life experiences and problems.

Does the model of Integrating Character seem possible to express in this world, or is it too idealistic?  Share your thoughts…



Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383.

Higgins, E. T. (1987). Self-discrepancy: A theory relating self and affect. Psychological Review, 94(3), 319-340.

Peck, M. S. (1988). The road less traveled: A new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Leadership & Life

In looking at my life and the lives of others – I have come to discover that all life is about relationships, communication, and perception.  Relationships with family, friends, co-workers, children, colleagues, finances, career, God, oneself, health, government, groups, etc.  Since communication (verbal, nonverbal, and internal dialogue) serves as the primary interface for connecting with our relationships; then it naturally follows that perception is the primary filter for (a) what we see and (b) how we see it, and then (c) how we generate meaning and express ourselves [i.e. communication] in our relationships.  So you may say, “that’s great Ra, all life is about relationships, communication, and perception….so what.”

Well, yes – in a very abstract sense all life is about relationships, communication, and perception; however, in a practical and concrete sense life is about much more than this.  Having studied leadership theory and practice for nearly two years now, it has become clear that leadership and life are inextricably wedded together.  For example, the fundamental aspect of all leadership practice….is dun, dun, dun (drum beat…………….) Self-Leadership.  Below, you will see a model that I have created which in some ways is a culmination of leadership theory and practice.  This model has not been empirically tested, nor have double-blind experiments been conducted to determine the validity or reliability of this model in order to determine its robust nature.  One caveat to remember is that something does not have to be true [or at least proven true] in order for it to be effective and useful.

Below you will notice the formula… eL = f(iC*aC*iC).

This formula is written in light of Kurt Lewin who was responsible for the famous theorem of B = f(P,E), as noted in the mission and for many formulas and theorem’s in his writings.  Essentially, eL = f(iC*aC*iC) stands for Enlightened Leadership [eL] is the function of Integrating Character [iC], Adapting Competence [aC], and Inspiring Communication [iC].  I specifically left these modifying verbs in process formation [ex. -ing] in order to indicate an ongoing process of unfoldment.  Now what does all of this have to do with life, relationships, communication, and perception.  In short, it has to do with our personal ability of leading ourselves, while being able to effectively engage with the world and the situations we find ourselves in.  In the following posts, I will be expanding on these concepts – so share your thoughts and ideas.





Shared Meaning

Effective communication is based on many principles, and one particular principle is shared meaning.  How often do we simply nod our heads in agreement, without fully and deeply listening to what someone is really saying?  We nod our heads while we are forming our response in our minds while the other person is still speaking.  The late Steven Covey (2004) urged the need for empathetic listening saying, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” (p. 239).  This notion of nodding in agreement with our heads when other people are still speaking is connected with the blog post of The Potential Tyranny of Generalities, because that nod, or that verbal agreement of “right, yeah, okay, etc.” is sometimes based on the generalized idea of what the person may be saying.  Yet, how often have we then replied from our generalized notion only to find out that we in fact were not listening carefully because of the new distinction or clarification the person made that somehow eluded our conscious awareness?  I am tempted to say that this happens fairly often, but we are good at deleting those memories.  Now what does listening carefully have to do with shared meaning?  If we are not carefully listening to others, do we really know what they mean?  What happens in organizations when deep listening is not valued?  What happens in our relationships when we do not listen intently – I am sure husbands can relate.  I know from experience that it usually does not work out so well.

Now this is not a one sided story where only those who are not carefully listening are at fault.  What about the communicator, what if they are speaking ambiguously, or not repeating important points, or clarifying what certain words mean, or rephrasing the main themes?  This points to the systemic nature of life, and in particular – communication.  Both the speaker and the listener must be able to be sensitive enough to each other by gauging and reading the context they find themselves in.

How do we listen more intently and mindfully?  How can we communicate more effectively?  How can we better generate shared meaning?


“The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing”

~ Steven Covey


Covey, S. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic. New York, NY: Free Press.

The Potential Tyranny of Generalities

This is the first “official” blog post of Ra Talk.  Since the mission of Ra Talk Blog is focused upon personal development, moral development, and spiritual development and how these three lines interface within ourselves and the social world – I think it is fitting to recognize that each person is unique, special, and talented in ways that transcend even the greatest of talents of others.  Because of this inherent dignity and uniqueness of each person there are times when we make generalities about ourselves, about other people, and about the world; and, because of these generalities we can form conclusions based on significantly limited information.  If I were to ask you, “In what ways do you form conclusions about other people without knowing that much about them?”  Now we are all guilty of automaticity, that is, cognitively processing information based on implicit categorizations from our beliefs, experiences, worldview, ingroup and outgroup distinctions, etc.  This is a natural function of the brain and mind at work; however, how often do we redirect these quick assessments about others, about ourselves, and about the world to higher-order principles of honor, respect, empathy, and understanding?

Psychology offers a simple way that it distinguishes theories of human behavior.  It is called the nomothetic and idiographic approach.  Simply put, the nomothethic approach looks a large patterns and generates generalized theories whereas the idiographic approach looks at cases to get an in-depth understanding of individuals within their full context, hence personalized theories are formed.  Now, what does all this theory stuff have to do with real life?  Well, Chris Argyris, arguably one of the great innovative thinkers, stated that people have all types of “mini-theories” and that these “theories” serve as governing principles for human behavior.  Although, this mini-theory idea is a common thought and has correlations in personality psychology called “implicit personality theory,” or social psychology calling it “implicit theories,” or leadership studies referring to this idea as “implicit leadership theories” the fact remains that we all form mini-theories about life – and often times these mini-theories are formed from incoherent and incomplete maps about the world.  Now I am not suggesting that we can or even should have “complete” maps, but I am suggesting that we stretch ourselves to arrive at a more comprehensive map.

If this seems like a useful idea – share your thoughts and insights about your experiences, and how we can stretch ourselves to arrive at more comprehensive maps about ourselves, others, and the world…