Fresh Perspective: Leadership and Archetypes: A Conversation with Carol S. Pearson

Russ Volckmann

Carol S. PearsonRuss VolckmannQ: Carol, it’s a great pleasure to talk to you. I know of you primarily as the Director of the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland and have discovered that you have a very rich background in a wide variety of areas that I think are highly relevant to the study of leadership. I look forward to talking to you about that. Your Ph.D. is in what field?

A: My Ph.D. is in English.

Q: How did you get from there to being a Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy?

A: It’s a pretty strange journey. At the time I was studying English at Rice University, one form of literary criticism that was very popular was the “myth and symbol” school. It looked for symbols and mythic patterns in literature. I was reading C. G. Jung about archetypes and Joseph Campbell on the hero’s journey. I felt like I was “home”.

It’s not as strange as it might sound that I ended up doing work first in literature with archetypes and Jungian ideas and then in life and leadership. The intermediate step was the birth of the women’s movement. I became quite active with it and moved into leadership roles. I never thought of myself as a leader, but there I was. I was a professor in the English Department at the University of Colorado, and some students recruited me to start a Women’s Studies program, which I did, and to do all sorts of leadership things in the university, including confronting the President, the Chancellor and the Dean. We were having fun in a revolutionary kind of way, which was the energy of the time. In the process I got very interested in activating the leadership potential in women.

I actually shifted fields and became a Director of Women’s Studies at the University of Colorado. Then I came to the University of Maryland where I established a second area of expertise: Psychology, looking at psychological patterns not so much in literature as in the lives of real people. I continued doing faculty leadership and community leadership, and was eventually offered a job as a vice-president of a college.

Q: I know that you’re a friend of Barbara Mossberg, who is on the Leadership Council of Integral Leadership Review, but I also noticed in reading your work that there are references to Carol Gilligan and Riane Eisler. I imagine that your connection to their work goes back to that time.

A: It does. At the Academy of Leadership our primary focus is developing scholarship in education and leadership. Our secondary purpose is the leadership of historically underrepresented groups. Of those, the first group that the Academy was focusing on was women. Later there has been a subsequent focus on African-Americans, and more generally on other underrepresented groups. What began out of a concern for justice grew into a commitment to creating learning organizations and communities, very connected to Peter Senge’s work in The Fifth Discipline. Cutting edging thinking tells us that if we don’t have everybody’s talents and perspectives, we won’t have as high performing of a community, society, organization or classroom.

Q: So diversity is not just based on race, but on perspective.

A: Right, and perspective often comes from experience.

Q: Different life experiences and different languages, even, in the case of Hispanics and other underrepresented groups, because one’s language shapes so much about the way we think about things in life.

A: Sometimes we don’t have words for things in one language, but other languages do. The people who speak those languages find it easier then to have greater subtlety of thought in the arena where they have well-developed linguistic structures to express them. You, know, it is like Eskimo’s having more words for snow and Italians having more words for love than Americans. Some countries have no positive term for leadership and that is a problem.

Q: I’m still trying to make the connection from women’s studies to the Academy of Leadership.

A: I was very involved in developing women’s leadership as the Women’s Studies Director. Then I went on to a higher level of leadership myself and realized I didn’t know too much about that. At that point, I was reading about leadership in order to improve my ability to be a leader.

I moved out and started doing a fair amount of consulting after The Hero Within, which was one of Harper-Collins’ all-time best sellers. I got my fifteen minutes of fame and started doing consulting. At that point, I was asked to speak a great deal and to consult in organizations. I realized that the men had as many issues as the women. I started focusing on helping both genders to take action on their own behalf, and to change organizations to be more humanistic and better places to work.

How did I end up at the University of Maryland in a Public Policy School? I was sitting in my living room a few years ago, reading the newspaper and worrying about the state of our government and America’s decreased status and reputation in the world. I thought to myself, “I think I could be of help.” I put that out into the universe and two weeks later I was having lunch with somebody and asked how the search was going for the Director of the Academy of Leadership, a job I had no interest in whatsoever. My lunch companion, who was the founding director, said, “Please apply for this job.” I started putting two and two together, and I thought, Perhaps this is the way I could be of help to my country. Of course, it also helped that I had a great values match with the Academy and its mission and some history with it as a Senior Scholar. Very soon, thereafter, I was offered and accepted the position. I’ve always just followed my interests. I’ve published in psychology and business and marketing, and now public policy, but the link that makes all this coherent is my interest in archetypal patterns and in leadership.

Q: I wish that I’d read more of your work; I’ve only read Awakening The Heroes Within. I see that you have things like Mapping the Organizational Psyche and The Hero and the Outlaw that involve branding and mapping the organizational psyche, which is a Jungian theory of organizational dynamics and change. I’m wondering from a leadership point-of-view if you could capture what the essence of the power of this Jungian perspective for thinking about leadership.

A: There are several aspects; it’s not one thing. Of course, there is Magic at Work: Camelot, Leadership and Everyday Miracles, which is all about leadership. What I was doing in Awakening the Heroes Within is really about how different archetypal stories help us develop different human qualities, all of which make us better leaders. If we’re living the story of a Caregiver because we have a baby, that can breed qualities in us that can make us more caring as leaders and more able to care for employees and clients. Customer service issues, for example, come into play. If we’re living a Warrior story because we are a soldier, or because we have to fight for ourselves in some way, it helps us develop strength, boundaries and the abilities to focus, commit and make something happen, even if it’s really hard and requires a lot of courage. That’s another leadership quality we need to have to succeed in tough times.

There are a variety of natural stories that we live in different parts of our lives that are essential to this piece of leadership development that’s very hard to get a handle on. That is, how do you develop the character or the quality of mind and heart that makes a good leader? So, that’s part of it.

Other parts of my work have focused on the interplay of the individual with a system. So, Mapping the Organizational Psyche and theOrganization and Team Culture Indicator provide people with theory, models and data to understand the collective life that we develop together any time that we’re in an organization, group or community. Virtually everyone knows that culture is important in organizations (and society), but it is hard to decode. One powerful way to understand this nebulous thing called “culture” is to look at the archetypal stories being enacted collectively.

My belief is that culture can be felt as a kind of undertow—positive, negative or neutral—that magnetizes us to think and act in a certain way. C. G. Jung called this the “participation mystique,” seeing this as primarily a negative force, undermining our individuality. However, I have observed that this same attractor field can actually pull out of us positive qualities we did not even know we had (as well, of course, of negative ones). When we are in an environment, there is a pull to act in a way that is relevant to the story being enacted in that environment. In fact, if you can’t act in a way that is relevant to that story, you can be booted out or exiled. If you were in an organization that’s primarily living out a Warrior story, like the military or a competitive for-profit company, the values in that culture are going to be about performance, focus and competitiveness. Being in such an environment has a way of building our strength, courage and discipline. With that, however, will likely come some downsides—like a tendency to a win-lose way of thinking and a certain stoicism, drivenness and even ruthlessness.

If you think of the Warrior story, you have the hero Warriors (who is the hero), the villain and any number of supporting roles–nurses and doctors who are nursing the wounds, sidekicks, mechanics, advisors, etc. You can be relevant to that story by starting to play any of them. What you don’t want to be is the enemy or wimp that everyone had contempt for. You also wouldn’t want to give comfort to the enemy in that story. Whereas if you were in a Sage story with a whole environment that values understanding, thinking and complexity, and you empathetically raised the question of, “I wonder why the enemy thinks that way,” people would be interested and wouldn’t assume you were a traitor. In a Sage environment, it’s okay to try and understand what’s going on. It doesn’t mean you’re being disloyal.

Q: What strikes me as I listen to you describe this is some similarity with Don Beck and Chris Cowan’s work based on Claire Grave’s research. They call it Spiral Dynamics. Are you familiar with their work?

A: Not so much that I have the details on the tip of my tongue, but I’ve read about it and remember the general idea.

Q: When you talk about “Warrior,” what comes up for me is the third developmental stage, which is labeled with red and is about the individual asserting themselves, primarily for their own benefit. The Warrior could also be thought of as another level—orange—which is someone who goes out to try and create or foster something in the world on behalf of more than just themselves, but it still may be very self-oriented. When we get to the Hero, we think about not just self, but community as well. Have you drawn any parallels in your mind with stage models?

A: Some of the parallels I’ve drawn are not 1:1, but they are important. The model for human development in Awaken the Heroes Within, is a developmental spiral. There are 12 archetypes that are developmental in the sense that some of them are more connected to early life, some more to the tests of middle age, and some more connected to later life. There are also levels within each of these stories, but they are developmental stages in an individual human life more than of the evolution of cultures. Nevertheless, some archetypes do correspond to some extent with the Spiral Dynamics categories. For example, Warrior, which is early in the Awakening system, is similar as you suggest to lower level Spiral Dynamics ways of thinking, while the Magician (at least in its optimal forms) is similar to the more advanced Spiral Dynamics ways of thinking, like coral and turquoise.

The archetypal system I describe is also spiral in the sense that you can move through each archetype at various levels. I think that within any of the archetypal stories, there are levels that may express themselves quite differently based on a person’s level of development. Here I’m very influenced by Robert Kegan’s work ( In Over Our Heads) in which cognitive development increases exponentially as we move out of being locked in our own thinking and driven by our own desires to incrementally understanding the needs and perspectives of other people and of social systems. Each archetype is expressed quite differently depending on where we are in our cognitive development. I have the sense that Spiral Dynamics provides another lens for looking at stages that define how an archetypal narrative unfolds. For example, the Innocent, which is the first one in my developmental sequence, is the innocence of a child that will basically believe in what the family stands for; what the tribe stands for, will take it all in, be dependent, but also not have very much autonomous self—

Q: Which would be equivalent to purple—

A: Yes, and indeed the lower level Innocent is quite childlike and dependent and traditional. However, at a higher level, if someone has gone through greater development, the Innocent could be the Mystic who sees, who’s independent and has a sense of differentiation, The mystic sees all the pain of life and yet has some transcendent sense of meaning and value and being able to have faith in the world. Many developmental systems can be used to help discriminate within the levels in any of these archetypal stories to tease out the increased sophistication of how we can live them out.

I’m particularly interested in the Spiral Dynamics’ second tier—advanced—levels. The second tier helps all the archetypal stories be expressed in ways that are needed in the world today.

It is important to note that the archetypes I work with are connected to universal, mythic stories, available to all peoples, at any and all levels of consciousness. Indeed, in living these stories we gain gifts and perspectives that help us evolve and grow—within the stories themselves. And living many different stories generally helps us to live any one of them at a higher level of consciousness. That is likely because as we awaken new parts of ourselves, we can better understand others and appreciate their points of view, thereby increasing our cognitive complexity.

I also like the second tier’s tolerance for understanding how all Spiral Dynamics levels can have a positive place in an advanced culture. What I’ve discovered working with the archetypal stories is that, in individual, getting to a higher level in one story often results from living many of the other stories. In the example you used of the Warrior emerging into more of a Hero as he or she fights for others, not just personal gain, we can see that adding the altruism of the Caregiver to the courage of the Warrior leads to advancing consciousness. And, in fact, individuals benefit from having access to many stories.

A thriving workplace is similar. Ideally it will have one or more dominate archetypal perspectives that provide the meaning for the enterprise, but to be successful, it should also be able to utilize and appreciate many other archetypal narrative perspectives as well.

Q: I was very appreciative of the comment in Awakening the Heroes Within where you note that most people in the evolution through those life cycle stages would not fully develop or realize the potential of each of the archetypes as we were going through our life cycle stages of development and that we bring unfinished business with us. It seems to me that this is one of the lessons of other developmental psychology models—most of us in the world, including those in your model, are still carrying all the archetypes. Each is probably at some different level of development, perhaps corresponding to each of the ideas behind Ken Wilber’s lines of development. Have you given any thought to any of those approaches or models?

A: Tell me more about how you are using “lines of development”.

Q: There are potentially numerous lines of development that might correspond with Gardner’s multiple intelligences model and other approaches. Some are cognitive, emotional, spiritual, kinesthetic—there is a large variety of lines of development. Certainly the psychological types relate differently to those.

A: I don’t know if Gardner actually makes the argument that his learning styles are physiologically different—I think he does. There’s increasing belief that typology is genetic and has to do with how our brains work. The archetypes are like lines of development in the sense that they are discrete and there is development in each one, but they aren’t a product of brains being different.

Archetypes are more like morphogenic fields. They are energies that are in and around us that create a field that helps us develop certain qualities that we have innately within us as human beings. These can be expressed in good, bad or diabolical ways, depending on certain other factors. In Jung’s work, we know that the way an archetypal story will evidence itself in a person’s life will be impacted not only by their actual physical and social experience of that archetype, particularly in the early years, but also through their whole lives.

If you’re connecting with a Caregiver archetype, but most of your early models were martyrs in the way that they cared for others, then one of the places that your development will be skewed is that the idea of care will be tainted with the idea of martyrdom. As the ways that these archetypal energies get acted out are influenced by environmental factors, in early life, their healing can come from having new experiences where you come in contact with people who express the archetype in a healthier way. You might go to a therapist who is very caring, but has good boundaries. You might read biographies or see movies of caring, nurturing, healthy, individuated people. You might also work on living into the more self-nurturing version of the story, giving yourself the care you have previously lavished on others. The Caregiver field, as you experience it, then morphs as you move into a more developed version of that same story you have been living.

There is a contagion to it—books, movies, experiences, new choices that begin to connect you to the deeper richness that that archetypal field has potentially within it. In that way, this works differently than the “lines of development” such as learning style or type, which are physiologically based.

Q: One of the interesting things about your perspective from an integral point of view is that when you’re talking about archetypes, not unlike the way Don Beck talks about the spiral within, you cannot really talk about them without attending not just to the intra-psychic and the behavioral, but also to the cultural and systemic contextual aspects of any given occurrence or situation.

A: Absolutely. I don’t think I understood this as completely when I was titling my early books, because it’s really “the hero within and without,” not just “the hero within”. The archetypal story is inside of us and outside of us. We are being influenced from the outside as we also influence the world around us.

This inner/outer connection is also present in projection where we project our inner fantasies and fears onto others and, as a result, begin living in the drama that is not factually real. In a classic Jungian sense, whatever I don’t want to acknowledge about myself, or that which I’m repressing, I can project onto another person. Then I focus not on what I need to change, but on them, and changing them, and judging them. This phenomenon is at the root of racism, sexism, homophobia, and war.

I’ve been teaching a leadership public policy class, looking archetypally at how our leaders got us into Iraq, for example, and how similar the dynamic was similar to Vietnam. There are several arguments that suggest that neither country was actually a threat to us and yet we had a lot of projection coming from Warrior thinking that got us into two unnecessary and costly wars. One hypothesis is that our leaders led the country into a Warrior stance. I’m not suggesting any kind of duplicity here. What I’m suggesting is that when leaders tell a compelling archetypal story—in this case a Warrior story—those that believe them (and they themselves) will have trouble seeing the situation through any other lens. In one case we had the Cold War theory that divided the world into two camps: the good guys (us) and the bad guy communists. It was in this context that the domino theory appeared to make sense: if Vietnam fell all sorts of other small countries would become communist. However, when we left Vietnam and it became nominally communist, no dominoes fell. The theory simply was not true, yet it was compelling. Indeed, Robert MacNamara, Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, now talks (in the Fog of War) about how the North Vietnamese did not see themselves as allies with the Soviets or the Chinese, engaging in a global battle of communism versus capitalism. Rather, they thought we were just another invading colonial power.

Similarly in Iraq, President Bush’s quick substitution of Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden as the nation’s chief enemy made no rational sense—which many people who were not possessed by the Warrior archetype pointed out at the time. Moreover, even the evidence of the threat of weapons of mass destruction turned out to be erroneous. Yet when our President talks as if all terrorists were alike, and makes a dubious link between bin Laden to Hussein—how does that happen that people believe what he says? And, why does he believe it?

From the outside, this looks to me like another example of archetypal possession in which a certain story has enough people captured in it that they can’t think outside of it, whether or not it made actual sense. If you are locked in a lower level Warrior mode of thinking, it seems natural to divide groups into two camps: the good guys and the bad guys, friends and enemies. In this view, one enemy must be like another enemy. All terrorists are considered bad, so the different goals and cultural contexts of various terrorist groups are obscured and they are seen as more alike than they are. At root is the simple projection of evil onto an enemy, a strategy that fairly reliably will distract people from seeing what their part is in creating a threatening situation or making it worse. It also keeps us from understanding the actual motivations of our antagonists and what they can realistically do to effectively protect ourselves from them. Worse of all, there is a tendency to become like what it is you despise, to become your own shadow, as we see with defenses of torture by some American leaders and the absence of public revolt against those leaders.

Q: This plays out in all sorts of human systems. It’s fascinating to think about how we can understand leadership differently using these kinds of constructs. Since you are in a hotbed of international leadership thought these days, can you say anything about how these ideas have been received in that environment?

A: Actually, pretty well. There’s a hunger to understand how we get into these situations. One of the things about looking at the world this way—and I think it’s true in terms of looking at the world in an integral way—is it’s not about good versus bad, or how much we hate one leader versus another. This dualistic tendency is a trap that is related to how the human mind works. Any of us could fall into it at any time. As I mentioned before, I’m very influenced by Kegan’s work and the idea that if we don’t learn to think more complexly, we’re in trouble. Wilber’s work is also teaching us that if we don’t learn to understand the level of consciousness that is governing our thinking, we get stuck at that level and our possibilities become very limited. We tend to get locked into ways of perceiving that seem to be reality, but they are really stories our mind is projecting onto the actual events in the world, connecting the dots in a habitual way.

If we can start to just peek around that a bit and become aware of our thought processes, however, greater possibilities emerge. The Lover archetype is strong in me, so I want to bond and be friends with everybody. As you can imagine, if I don’t break out of that, I can be prey to devious or manipulative people. For you, it might be some other archetypal story you like to live. Moreover, any time we form a group, we have to find a way to connect with each other. Very often we connect through communicating through the rules of a story that we unconsciously learn to live together. While we’re together, we very often put on hold other things we might see, other world views, just to get along and fit into the flow of conversation.

When the wrong story is collectively held, it’s very hard to move out of it. At one point, I was part of a college that folded for just that reason. People literally could not step out of their story, and face that they were part of their own problem. Why is it so hard for us to do so? I think the reason is that we are always protecting the individual and collective ego. Our egos get identified with our stories and they never want to admit to being wrong. That’s where we need to connect with something deeper than the Ego—connecting with our souls and personal sense of mission and purpose. This gives us a stronger sense of identity than the ego can provide. From there, connecting the level of Self with the greater whole, while still holding onto a differentiated sense of identity, is critical to be able to face our problems and limitations. In the individual life, the task of mid-life is to be able to do that—realize that we haven’t been perfect. When we do this, it is easier to recognize how others are also a mixture of good and bad. I think a lot of companies in the U.S. are in a sort of midlife stage and our government will need to be, if we are to develop a more realistic and grounded foreign policy. That’s the challenge of having a strong enough sense of identity and connection, not to have to move into denial to protect our sense of our worth.

Q: Let’s explore that a little bit. Starting with the field of leadership studies, it seems historically—and even currently—that the field is characterized by competing paradigms, models and theories. I don’t see a great amount of effort to try and transcend and include in that competition—and there are some notable exceptions. The project that James MacGregor Burns launched—the quest for a general theory of leadership—was one such effort. The work we’re doing in Integral Leadership Review is very much aimed at that. It’s comprised of the same effort to say that the perspective that you’ve offered in terms of the integral aspect of what leadership is about is right on. We’re not trying to say that a transformational or situational or other leadership model is superior to the other, but we need to be able to find the ways that we can include the critical variables and perspectives that all of these different approaches bring to our being able to comprehend leadership in a way that’s going to help us be sustainable in the world.

A: I obviously agree with you, and it’s no accident that we named the Academy after Jim Burns who is very much a part of the Academy, as was the quest for a general theory of leadership, which came out of Jim’s work with Academy founder, Georgia Sorenson and others. The value that you’ve described is not just my personal value, but a major interest of the Academy.

Many of the people doing leadership theory exist in research universities. At a research university, you are in competition with everyone else to publish more and to develop a sterling reputation so that you can get tenure and become a full professor. Then you get better offices, better teaching hours, better pay, etc. I may have the Spiral Dynamics color wrong, but I think this level of operating is what Beck labels Orange. This dynamic of very cognitively complex people being pulled backward by the demands of their environments can be seen as one of the proofs of the theory—that it is very difficult for the consciousness of individuals to triumph over the influence of the systems in which they find themselves. Most everybody in the International Leadership Association talks about collaborative leadership—we’re all for it—but on the other hand, we all have to excel to rise in our field in a way that requires us to publish in our own name, avoid too many collaborations (as single-authored work count more than co-authored work in most departments where leadership scholars work), and establish that their work is better than others.

But I see more and more scholars who understand that while it may be their calling and their work to articulate a particular way of viewing leadership or psychology, their own work is a piece of the whole and it isn’t in competition with the work of others. I would say, for myself that I have felt very strongly that it is my job, essentially, to promote and develop the archetypal way of seeing the world, because it’s something I understand and can do in a particular way that I don’t see other people doing. Yet, I don’t see it as a competitive system; I see it as part of a whole. It is a focus on developing that isn’t competitive. It’s just doing my part. Similarly, when I go to ILA meetings, in reality more people express enthusiasm at the work others are doing than try to compete and cut them down. We are in this together, after all, trying to construct the much-needed fields of leadership studies and leadership development.

Q: What is the role of the International Leadership Association? What do you see the Association doing to try and promote transdisciplinary or integral perspectives?

A: ILA is a project of the Academy of Leadership, born here and housed here. We see ILA as serving all the scholars, educators and practitioners who are trying to understand and develop leadership excellence and in that way creating the preconditions for a fully realized theory of leadership. ILA does this through offering a variety of platforms for people to share ideas with the premise that out of the sharing will come synergy that’s beyond any of the individual ideas. They do this through the annual conference, as well as through Member Interest Groups and virtual learning communities. The trust is that out of all this dialogue will come not only an integrative theory of leadership, but all sorts of theories, models and tools that help us not only understand leadership, but equip leaders to make the difference required to meet the challenges of the world today.

Q: I know that in November, you have the eighth or ninth International Conference coming up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Are there specific kinds of activities that are designed into the conferences to try and bring about the kinds of conversations we’re talking about?

A: In the last two years, we’ve used Harrison Owen’s Open Space technology for some of the discussions, and we’ve used Global Café for others. Both are wonderful for harvesting the ideas of a group. Many workshops utilize dialogue techniques to encourage deep listening, genuine exchange and learning, and discussions that lead to integrative understandings. In addition to The Quest for the General Theory, my sense is there will be many individuals and groups attempting to create integrative theories. Time will show which ones are seen as most useful in certain contexts.

What people are saying right now is that, we are not there yet. The quest for the general theory is a quest—it has not happened. Jim Burns, for example, has said we’re close, but have not quite nailed it.

Q: One of the things that struck me about the book, as well as Georgia Sorenson’s or Richard Couto’s work, is that all through these works were the pieces, but what was missing was the integrated framework.

A: They’re working on it. It was very interesting to hear them talk about their process, because what they discovered was that the ways of thinking about leadership from their different disciplines were so different that an awful lot of their time together was getting clear about that, and articulating very strongly-held differences. There is a huge value to that, because I think if you push towards integration before you’ve actually gotten all the differences, you get a false integration. You can always add other pieces later.

Q: Perhaps. One of the things that I would love to see happen more in places like the University of Maryland, where there is a strong effort at building theories, models, concepts and research around leadership, is starting with a framework, with the idea that this is not the ultimate end. For example, Ken Wilber’s AQAL is just that—it’s a mapping methodology. In work that I and others are doing, we’re going beyond his approach, and trying to address aspects of it that are still very much in need of development and evolution. This is an evolutionary process, and it seems unfortunate to me that they can’t find at least a place to start from as a way of mapping these things.

A: I don’t know if you presented on integral approaches to leadership development at ILA, but it would be great if you did. I think it’s important for people who are doing leadership work. I’m presenting on my work on archetypal approaches to development as one way to map the leadership terrain, and even called the book on the organizational psyche, Mapping the Organizational Psyche. I do believe that developmental psychologies provide a major and underdeveloped key to leadership development efforts. At present I’m working on a three-year project on the inner and outer, theoretical and practical, elements of transformational leadership, a project that just might meet your objective in creating an integrative theory of leadership. It is funded by the Fetzer Institute and is organized in partnership with them.

Q: One of the areas that you do talk about that relates to your introduction of the soul is Carol Gilligan’s work. Can you reflect on her work and how it applies to what you’re doing?

A: As I said, I started with a focus on women, and have had a sense as a Jungian—or a Pearsonian—that the culture needs more of the feminine, both in men and women. I mean this in the Jungian sense as a quality of consciousness in men as well as women. Yet there are some things that actually women know from their experience that is very helpful to the culture and to leadership, just as men’s experiences help them think in certain ways that help us too. I was particularly taken with Carol Gilligan’s work on moral development in women. Both Gilligan and Kegan spend a lot of time—and I know it’s there in the integral focus as well—on the dialectical movement back and forth between differentiation of the creation of the self and connecting up with others. Healthy development happens in a way that neither of those get short-changed. The archetypal polarities that I have worked with provide that as well. Carol Gilligan’s work is very interesting for her insights on how forming communities of connection is particularly important for women, and that women know a lot about the ways that problems emerge when people fail to care for one another.

An early mentor of mine, Ann Wilson Schaef, used to talk about women operating in a state of slight transcendence all the time because of balancing my good with your good with the collective good. How are the kids doing? How is Aunt Mary doing? There are negative things about that if it interferes with individual development. That can lead women to be under-actualized and even resentful. But there are also positive things about that, too. In today’s world—which is such a “me first” world—where leadership has been hijacked by “leadership for my own good” and “leadership for the good of my group,” people can forget to care about what happens to others or the environment as a result of our actions. We need feminine wisdom as a balance. I’m not saying women cannot be self-centered and selfish, it’s just that women’s socialization reinforces some of the strengths of a feminine consciousness. Jung saw the feminine as associated with Eros, the principle of connectivity and relatedness. I have observed that women in general are drawn to the more affiliative archetypes and, hence, we balance out an individualistic culture so that we create genuine caring relationships and communities.

The other piece that I like about Carol Gilligan is that there is a huge danger in developmental models—as much as I believe in them. We have to evolve and have categories and concepts to help us develop. It is also helpful to see where others are either to help them develop or to know what not to expect from them. But there is a particular danger that whoever creates the model unconsciously assumes that they, and people like themselves are the ideal. Frankly, I’ve also seen too many systems created by white males that categorized the ways of thinking of women and people of color as deficient. I appreciate that Gilligan is careful to recognize the limits of her system—that it is not universal. Rather it reflects on gender in this country and at this time.

Q: The notion that those at a stage of development cannot really see the higher stages—

A:—Right! Or rather it might also be hard to tell what is higher and what is just what we think is higher. Certainly, when Europeans came to the Americas, they viewed the native populations through the lens of their values and could not see what might be actually higher or better in the Indians way of seeing the world—such as their spiritual connection with nature. I think Carol Gilligan’s work is very important because she was critiquing Kohlberg, not in terms of his general theory, but his applicability to women. I do think that any of us who do developmental theories need people to critique what we’re doing to help us see our biases. Particularly where we have groups of people that may have been undervalued in a culture, we need to be careful that we don’t stereotype the way they think and the way that puts them lower down on the developmental hierarchy.

That’s not the same thing as saying “anything goes,” or that we have to tolerate all kinds of harmful behaviors or to say that every culture is equally valid. But I am saying there is a certain quality of critical analysis that was informed by care and empathy that Gilligan articulates that I particularly like . As a leader at the Academy, I encourage discussion of how easy it is for us to be judgmental of others in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. If we actually want to raise people up, it’s important to find a way to actually empathize with where they are. From a Jungian perspective, we need to find that place in ourselves rather than seeing ourselves as above or beyond it.

Q: In order to be able to communicate from that place in ourselves to them—

A: Right, which is part of what I like about the second tier in Spiral Dynamics. You do get there and recognize that all the stages are in you, as well as in the culture, and you actually can utilize them all. What Abraham Maslow (in his concept of the “hierarchy of needs”) gives us is the understanding of the way that environmental factors influence which one of those shows up.

Q: What is it about the systems and the cultures that light up those places in us?

A: We each have all the needs Maslow identifies. If person is living in a very insecure situation and worries about where his next meal is coming from, and hence to focus on issues of survival—even though in a situation of plenty—the same person might care more about belonging, self-esteem, self-actualization or transcendence.

Q: The partnership model that Riane Eisler is promoting in her work on leadership and the caring economics that she’s fostering very much falls in line with what you’re talking about in terms of a stronger emphasis on the feminine.

A: Right, and of course, she’s always presented it that way. This also relates to Hazel Henderson and her approach to economics. She talks about classical economic theory, which tells us that people work for self-interest. She then looked at the behavior of women in many countries where they are unpaid or underpaid, and yet they work hard out of duty, love and care. Again, that’s something that women have to offer that’s really beautiful. I hope as we move globally into having the same rights and abilities as men that this sense of motivation by love and care won’t be lost. My hope is that feminine values can be integrated with the whole “partnership” society in the way that she talks about.

Q: In your work, you say that this is “the real androgyne.” The idea of integration is not about one dominating the other, but finding the qualities in each that are going to support our sustainability.

A: Right! And Jung said that the task of truly mature life is to become androgynous. That’s true of society, organizations and individuals. There was one period of my life—I was only 30—when I thought that if women ruled the world, all the problems would be solved. I no longer believe that. One thing I’ve seen is that organizations that are too far into the feminine are as unbalanced as those that are too far into the masculine. We need to value the good that comes from there being two sexes, besides whatever fun we have loving each other. Both bring something of importance and value. What Riane is talking about in terms of a partnership society would be integrating the best of both in a way that, theoretically, at least, would lead to something beyond either, but certainly beyond patriarchy.

Q: I get that your work is moving us in the same direction. Thank you, Carol.

A: Many thanks, Russ, for this interview and best wishes and congratulations on your good work at the Integral Leadership Review.