The pyramid trap
The pyramid represents hierarchy. This notion of hierarchy is inside us and this hierarchy within -- this pyramid perspective, as I like to call it does strange and unhelpful things to us. It causes a focus on winning & losing, in or out, up or down.
The good news is there's an alternative -- the constellation mindset, a mindset that lets you to stand out as your own. But also fit into something greater than yourself.
Stand out and fit in
The United States Seal, designed in 1776, has two major features, the phrase, "E Pluribus Unum" or Out Of Many, One - and an image of 13 stars with radiant beams shining out the back of it -- called the constellation.
This was a symbol of interdependence, how you could at once be your own self and yet connected to others, how you could achieve unity without demanding uniformity or put another way, how you could get the energy from diversity without succumbing to division.
In a constellation, you can stand out and fit in. In the pyramid world, you have to fit in or be left out.
Mary Parker, who Peter Drucker revealed as his guru asserted that there’s only one good outcome to meetings. She had a lot to say about giving away power, and she asserted that there are essentially 4 potential outcomes. And only one of them is good.
Your idea prevails over all others’—but everyone else loses. So why even have them at the meeting?
You say, “John seems super pushy, and it’s not worth the fight.” That’s not okay because you’ve deprived the group of your unique perspective.
For Follett, that was just the sum of partial wins and losses. You only got part of what you wanted, but nothing more.
Make something together. That should be the aspiration of every meeting, in which everyone contributes a smart part, and the combined, bigger creation at the end is forever part of you.
Light up the room
We say that great leaders “light up a room.” We think of this great, glowing leader all alone, beaming their light onto and off of each of us. The image is so representative of our instinct to isolate—to factor out our interdependence, to think we can do things all by ourselves. But like real-life light bulbs, people need energy and a connection to work. So when a leader “lights up a room,” that should be because they have made connections such that everyone’s individual lights turn on.
That’s how leaders can “light up a room” in the right way.
We tend to think that every action is either selfish or selfless, but there’s a third option that we need more of right now.
After a grueling four-day trek to the headwaters of the Amazon to meet with a tribal chief there, Lynne Twist sits down with the chief to see how she can help the tribe that is threatened by deforestation. The chief listens respectfully through an interpreter and replies: “I think I understand. If you’re here to help, please leave.”
“But… if you’re here because your liberation is inexorably tied up with our liberation, then let’s see if we can work together.”
That story points out an alternative to this trap of selfish vs. selfless. This is a third alternative—mutual liberation.
What we really want and need isn’t total freedom or total togetherness—it’s “freedom together.”
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The Power of
Giving Away Power
How the Best Leaders Learn to Let Go
Learn the principles of the Constellation way, and how you can learn to stand out and fit in at the same time.