Psycho-analytics

Too much, too Jung

I had a therapy session today. First for a while. A tough week prompted a revisit with someone who knows my psychology well. All is fine, just a mental MOT.

Plenty in the news to take in. All testing my resolve as I approach two years in full lockdown. My psychology MSc also made for some interesting things to discuss. Exams passed – a few challenges to the academic process – all ending in smiles.

Principally, the therapy discussion enabled a comparison of teaching vs practice. The psychology I am studying almost completely ignores psycho-analytics, and the works of the likes of Jung and Freud. They will feature at some point, but they have historical interest rather than contemporary lessons to teach. Yet as soon as I need to reset and relate, these are the taught lessons and schema that help me the most. I see commonality between some of the analysis and explanations, for example Jungian archetypes have some level of connection to the typology of brain types currently being argued by the likes of Simon Baron-Cohen. Not that he will thank me for connecting the two.

I am delighted I get to think in such diverse terms. And that my reading invites wider perspective beyond. It is my moments of greatest inner dissonance that I find myself thinking with the most lateral connection. Offering my greatest challenge to whatever system of cognitive schema I am temporarily most reliant upon. It is also when my reading becomes most diverse. All aligning to a questioning of everything. Thankfully, that is no longer a source of self-doubt.

My learning advises me that people who regularly manage depression are amongst those most able to rebuild mental schema. With the most desire to challenge what may otherwise be accepted as true. This is primarily because a depressed state requires heightened awareness of what may not quite be so. Whether that is true or not, I find myself grateful of these moments. It means I get to regularly revisit, reform, and refine.

Em-pathetic leadership

Is empathy the first leadership quality to nurture in us all?

In this blog, I argue that both misery and empathy love company. But that does not mean the Company should blindly love more empathy, or assume misery is therein opposed.

This blog is inspired by a response I posted on LinkedIn this weekend. Aimed towards a fabulously thought provoking article advocating more empathy. The premise of which was the celebration of what empathy presents as the most important power tool of leadership.

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Tracey Brower, writing for Forbes, is a Sociologist. She writes terrific pieces – this one included. Sociology is one of those many subject areas our future research in projects’ needs to look at more closely. Look no further than the first people to identify the impending global financial crisis for evidence of that. This article, “Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research”, gives a series of accounts of what better empathy looks like. And what harm a lack of empathy fosters. It makes a compelling case, but does it apply equally to us all?

My worry is not to those who lack empathy. My worry is to those that rely on its niceties too much. Specifically the imbalance possible when leaning too far into – opposed to not far enough toward – an empathetic perspective.

A second worry occurs to me too. What of the accomplished empathiser with less interest in benevolent cause – what separates the motivator from the master manipulator when it is only empathy that we seek to call?

The King and Queen in us all

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This was another chance to explore a little of the King and/or Queen Archetype theorising of the Jungian psychoanalyst, Robert Moore. A little psychology to compliment the sociology – perhaps the two perspectives offer us a little more.

Our inner relationship and the outside world

My experience of management training, in the big corporates that have invested in my training over the years, is a focus on ensuring each of us was able to both understand our own traits better; and crucially, to then understand how different others under your charge may behave or think. Yet despite these sanguine lessons, our blind spots endure, as witnessed at every honest appraisal thereafter performed. We are all human after all.

Much more recently in my learning, this is where I have found the archetypal outlines of Jungian psychology helpful. I am far from convinced this mode of psychology is the pinnacle of this science in modern times. However, this is modelling that can still help explain our relationship to ourselves – the persona we present to the world, plus the active but hidden part we know, or the repressed part within that we may not be aware of at all. The Archetypal traits in their less welcome forms are outlined below as Tyrannical vs Weakling leaders, and used here as an oversimplified but recognisable range of relationship and traits we may knowingly or unwittingly take out into the world.

Self vs Other as a target of more love

There is upside potential to both self and other focus. I present below what good might come of each, and what Jungians would call the shadow archetype sitting at each pole. Applying to our relationship with ourselves, but perhaps also influencing how we engage with others.

Upside when in balance

Downside when imbalanced

Self focus

driven, confident, outcome orientated, present to priority and optimisation of tasks

Tyrant King or Queen

arrogant, self obsessed, divisive, elitist, entitled. Arenas of fear, stress, and oppression. Teams of the silent and compliant, offering only good news and hiding the rest.

Other focus

inclusive, people acuity, present to wider team impacts and playing to strengths

Weakling Prince(ss)

indecisive, reactive, naïve, no discipline or boundaries. Lack of vision or singular aim. Team inefficiency, apathy, tolerance of selfish others, and loss of team morale.

Empathy and misery both love a company

We all know what a tyrannical boss looks like. The self confident, self obsessed. me first, leader. Robert Moore presents this as the tyrant within. It need not be the person we typically see, this could be the momentary burst of rage to an otherwise docile soul. Or it maybe the accepted persona that then interacts this way in a leadership role.

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What I present above is that there is an upside to being self orientated. The driven, focused, outcome orientated, energy that gets us through. We may not like it, but we can look back at successful outcomes and at least see what it was intended for.

We all know what the weakling boss looks like. The other-first carer, who is attendee to everyone’s needs. A good friend, but as the bastion of your career, is that any better than the tyrannical boss?

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The committee decision maker, the indecisive ditherer. The more data please, consensus driven, enemy to none – enemy to none except the clarity of what is to be done.

Moore’s trick up his sleeve

An unsuspecting third may lurk here too. The master manipulator, turning empathy into self-serving need. Robert Moore would argue there are other energies in play here. Other inner archetypes taking a lead. Specifically he presents the learning and calculating part of us he calls the Magician.

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He puts this archetype as opposing the King or Queen. If we have failed to balance this archetype then we have an imbalance of a different type. The needs of this Archetype are less interested in the service of leadership. But learnt empathy offers a means to know how to get more of what it wants.

Regardless of how Jungian we are prepared to relate, my point here is that empathy has more than possible benevolent use. Perhaps we need to think to whom we gift it to. Or how we bring more of those naturally gifted with it, more effectively to the fore.

The uneasy balancing of the two

Accordingly whenever I see a celebration of empathy I am cautious in my cheer. Sure, let’s be better at our knowing how to apply empathy. Especially to those of us who find it necessarily hard. But if empathy comes naturally, do these people so easily get to lead? Do we unwittingly mingle tyrants with sociopaths? Do we encourage benevolent empaths to think more of themselves?

I think we need to give this more attention than simply celebrate a trait. More empathy in the boardroom? Yes please. But perhaps our leadership training needs to bring more empaths towards the self, and less sociopaths above us all. This does not come from just training existing leaders with a retrofitted trait. This comes from careful understanding of the deeper psychology in play. And ensuring our critical control environments can rein in whatever comes our way.

Can projects of mind inform projects of management?

This is another strand of enquiry I am taking back into project thinking. Can the projects of self-improvement and self-development, including our individual developments into leadership, be shown to contribute to the outcomes of the projects this leadership is intended to serve? The modelling of psychology, and neuroscience, and beyond these Jungian ideas that not all agree.

The many and varied focuses on communication and modelling; coordination and collaboration; processes intended to preserve or change; conflict, distract, or renew. How much of this reflects these same organisational and management needs in the bigger projects of cooperation in our everyday lives? How well can one inform the other? And inform the controls and tools to compliment both. Projects | within projects, that define and connect us all.

Subscribe here, if you want to read a little more of this every day. I am currently blogging daily. As I return to university once again, this is part of my attempt to apply learning. And share it as I go. Influence, and be influenced by you.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

Leading is control

Being a leader, not having the badge

Who else needs to know?

Leadership is made, not purchased, not born.  Yesterday I posted a challenge as to why we only look at the leader and not the controls.  Today, I wear the other shoe, and seek to show them as a pair.  I happened upon a book someone else was reading last weekend.  I made a comment on LinkedIn, and I was soon in discussion directly with its author.  Surprised as I was with the one to one access, it is completely in keeping with the man.  Communication is all, he says.  Oak McCulloch, a military leader, living up to both title and first name.

His book “Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be”, was, courtesy of very polite prompt, ordered on the Tuesday – Oak’s influence and follow up both said and seen here too.  The book arrived on the Thursday afternoon.  It was read in a few hours there and then.  Another brief discussion accommodated as I concluded this learning project.  His words and influence are now sitting between my last blog and this.

Understanding the concepts of what it takes to be a leader is not that difficult. Actually doing the things required of leaders, day in and day out, is another story. Thus, the dichotomy … It’s Not About You; It’s All About You

Oakland McCulloch, in summarising the key sentiment of his book

Leadership or controls?

His view is that leadership is all.  I have just blogged that we need to take a closer look at the controls, and not just the leadership.  Yet, I think we both agree.

Outcomes are steered home or put to the rocks by the clarity of vision, purpose, and execution.  The first thing this leader did in each assignment he was set, was check what this vision was intending to be.  Next was to check that the control framework was fit for the changes required.  The control framework that enables the visibility, the behaviours, and the trust to be aligned.  All this within the wider framework of the wider control environment within which he served.

Without a leadership interest in the controls, I conclude we are being presented with neither.

Objectives and Guideposts – building trust

There is reference to Oak’s constant journaling of what leadership is.  Journaling that he began from his first cadet days.  I really like that.  It immediately adds an authenticity to the read.  There are quotes from other leaders throughout this book, as a positive reinforcement.  They fit perfectly to the first-hand experience and anecdotes.  Each seems to have been a message lived by, not retrospectively sought.  The book therefore reads as by someone who has lived a life in leadership, reflecting upon its duty, but also diligently seeking more knowledge from others.  The mentors.  The experiences.  The sage words written and passed on.  But also recording the pithy sentiments, learned meaning that transformed something more within. Kept accessible to reflect upon and re-apply.  That is the dedication to becoming the bastion of the role, not just the title it bestows.

This is the essence of the being mode.  Aiming to be more, and not just owning knowledge but seeking it out to apply it.  The being leader, leading by example.

v | b | t

He further enshrines the necessity of teaching and being taught.  The terms used here I equate to the visibility | behaviour | trust categories I am advocating elsewhere. To delegate by increments of trust, that are backed up by the clarity of what is expected and enabling the recipient to feel empowered to do so with their own flare.  Compare that to how we in construction delegate in contract.  Low trust, defensive scopes of service intended to have ambiguity to wiggle around our own lack of clarity of prioritised goal, and a tendency to over burden method and dictate behaviours via reporting but ignore the necessary checking and presence to help or intervene. What lessons does each attitude reflect and teach here?

The relevance to projects, and of psychology

I am reminded of the work of Jungian psychologists like Robert Moore or Jean Bolen, in explaining the necessary maturity required to be the balanced leader.  Frameworks of personal development can be built from these theories.  In Jungian Archetype language leadership is the King or Queen archetype.  Moore argues this inner part is in everyone, but that it is the last to develop fully, and only if other key parts have matured first.  Only then can the tyrannical petulance and demands of the spoilt child be avoided, or the weakling child be countered along with its passive aggressive apathy.

Moore suggests many never advance beyond this stage because to advance means to find balance to many conflicting but necessary needs.  Our instincts and need to train, the warrior preparedness for fight or flight.  Our caring and nurturing side, as reflecting our ability to love.  Our need to develop ideas and tools to explain and do more, and be less beholden to chance, as our means to teach, mentor, study, discover, and learn anew.

It is this hard-won inner balance within each of these archetypes; the balance between each of their competing desires; that we then take all our delicately balanced parts into the outer world.  It is here we attempt to keep our own balance, and account for the imbalance of others toward shared objectives, shared obstacles, as intended changes to what is otherwise just chance.  These are all projects | within projects.  But they all start with you.

Father figures

I will admit a bias in my enjoyment of this book. One known to any who know me at all.  My father was a military leader.  The Royal Navy has a history of its own heroes to boast, as do I.  He had to learn all these lessons of leadership from a standing start.  Both through experience and later found academics. From his first CSEs at 30 years old, to an MA in Military Strategy in his mid-forties.  Working his way up from the most junior rating at 16, to then retire a Commander.  A rare story indeed.

There is much in this book I no doubt reflect upon as strengths acknowledged in my own first leader.  A tall shadow from which to emerge without some reflective doubt. It is only later in life that I was able to acknowledge my unfinished business with developing my inner King.

From mind to management

With that in mind I will conclude with a final psychological observation.  It is with an open mind we should look to understand what leadership is intending each of us to be.  Personality and trait theory would argue there is no single flavour of a better way to be.  It is therefore our first duty to know ourselves.  Our weakness’, our strengths, and our blind spots to both.  As with all learning it is then the application that counts. Reading of how others did something well is not a text book to learn by heart.  It is a glimpse at what it meant to them, to be.  Blindly following another’s formulae is, by its very nature, not to understand what it is to lead.  To be, is to apply ourselves to better ends.

Be your own mind

I recommend this read.  It is a perspective worth seeing.  Reflecting upon behaviours worth applying.  Presented from an authority and institution of some trust.  It has the clarity of word Oak tells us Napoleon always sought.  At around 50,000 words it is a decent single sitting meal.  One of those I think Francis Bacon would have offered to be slowly chewed and digested.

Your Leadership Legacy : becoming the leader you were meant to be” by Oakland McCulloch.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: