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.