LeaderW@RE by LeadU.com


Capability: Part 3– Subjectivity


Continuing on with Capability, I want to outline briefly the ideas in Subjectivity.


1: of, relating to, or constituting a subject: as an obsolete :  of, relating to, or characteristic of one that is a subject especially in lack of freedom of action or in submissiveness b: being or relating to a grammatical subject; especially : nominative

2: of or relating to the essential being of that which has substance, qualities, attributes, or relations

3: a: characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent of mind : phenomenal — compare objective 1b b: relating to or being experience or knowledge as conditioned by personal mental characteristics or states

4: a(1): peculiar to a particular individual : personal a(2):  modified or affected by personal views, experience, or background b: arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs and not directly caused by external stimuli c:  arising out of or identified by means of one’s perception of one’s own states and processes — compare objective 1c


 1: a: relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy
     b: of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers :  having reality independent of the mind — compare subjective c of a symptom of disease : perceptible to persons other than the affected individual — compare subjective

2: relating to, characteristic of, or constituting the case of words that follow prepositions or transitive verbs

3a: c of a symptom of disease : perceptible to persons other than the affected individual — compare subjective

4c: d: involving or deriving from sense perception or experience with actual objects, conditions, or phenomena
      2:  relating to, characteristic of, or constituting the case of words that follow prepositions or transitive verbs
      3a: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations b of a test :  limited to choices of fixed alternatives and reducing subjective factors to a minimum.

Well, that is clear as mud right?

Now, you have experienced subjectivity!


Instrumented – animated

Institutional – self-authored

Interpersonal – other-directed

Inter-individual – self-aware

What has been made somewhat famous in developmental circles is the model of “subject-object awareness” by Robert Kegan, who wrote several books to outline the theory that he basically used from William Perry’s work on relativism.

“In his book The Evolving Self (1982), Kegan explores human life problems from the perspective of a single process which he calls meaning-making, the activity of making sense of experience through discovering and resolving problems. “Thus it is not that a person makes meaning, as much as that activity of being a person is the activity of meaning-making,” Kegan says.

Meaning-making is a lifelong activity that begins in earliest infancy and can evolve in complexity through a series of “evolutionary truces” (or “evolutionary balances”) that establish a balance between self and other (in psychological terms), or subject and object (in philosophical terms), or organism and environment (in biological terms). Each evolutionary truce is both an achievement of and a constraint on our meaning-making, possessing both strengths and limitations.

And each evolutionary truce presents a new solution to the lifelong tension between how people are connected, attached, and included, on the one hand (integration), and how people are distinct, independent, and autonomous on the other (differentiation).”  -From Wikipedia

Kegan identified essentially 5 different stages through which people can pass, or represent as a subject-object relationship. The first stage is not an adult stage and thus not represented in CAPABILITY for Leaders.

Some would argue that even the first three stages would not be present in Postmodern or what are referred to as “post conventional” development. However, we are all –believe it or not — instrumented by our BIAS, so I have included the 2-5 stages in our discussion of CAPABILITY DYNAMICS.


One could spend an entire lifetime studying each of the 8 components of CAPABILITY, and after doing that for the past 2 decades, I realized that you don’t have to know much except the words for the work to become psychoactive because our subconscious systems go to work on thoughts, ideas and possibilities, sorting, cataloguing, assimilating, discarding, etc. along the way as is the nature – it seems of growth, development, and learning.

You don’t have to go to school to learn. You don’t have to be, do, have, become, or contribute to grow and develop, so it’s a process independent of our consciousness… and sometimes it’s not such a bad idea. smiley  

For leaders, it’s another gambit, as a leader is chosen, or choose to be a fiduciary for others and therefore has no choice, IMHO to make it a conscious decision to take responsibility for their own development.

As a root idea here, the subjectivity is how we are currently making up our identity – who we are – and how we explain what we do, have, become, and contribute. This SELF-Description is why this particular model is very important for leader development in the context of CAPABILITY DYNAMICS.


Instrumented – animated

Institutional – self-authored

Interpersonal – other-directed

Inter-individual – self-aware



Actually this is my favorite level because in studying and researching in the developing world, this subject-object relationship gives me the most fun to watch. Dr. Graves while once illustrating the Values Level that seems to fit with this level of subject-object relations said, “when someone steps on a stick who is at this level, they say…”the stick hit me!”

They ascribe human attributes to the stick, which is why I included the term animation to this s/o relation. We are all played in some form or another, or instrumented by our BIAS.

So, this subject object relation exists non-consciously in all of us, whether we like it or not and it’s key to be able to talk about it in this regard, so that we can objectify BIAS and filters and projections, prejudices, themes, and archetypes that are already running us – we are subject to them.

So, there is a degree of instrumentation going on that we are unaware of as leaders, and hopefully just the mention of this idea creates psychoactive dialogue important to the whole idea of CAPABILTY, and even those ideas contained in all the 7 DYNAMICS.


At this level, what has been playing us becomes object, and thus from “things” or parts of ourselves (BIAS) we move onto people as a way to make up our identity. Our identity is formed at this level by how “other people” describe us, in concert with how we describe ourselves – the mutual set of ideas become part of who we are.

In some ways, we are OTHER-directed.  We do not yet have the object relationship with ourselves to evaluate other’s opinions as such and often hold the notions of powerful, or respected “who-saids” as reality.

MOST leaders, I have found, are in transition between this level and the next.

Word about Transitions: Kegan noted that there are basically 5 transitional stages noted by the system as: stage | stage (next stage) | stage/next stage | next stage (stage) | next stage so for stage 3: 3 | 3(4) | 3/4 | 4(3) | 4 would be the appropriate way of denoting transition from stage 3 to stage 4.


This stage represents subject object relations which describe who we are from a set of self-authored principles, or values – you might say.  Self-authoring means that we have made up who we are over time and believe it to be durable, not as said by others, and not instrumented entirely by our BIAS (although just a note here, we are more instrumented by our BIAS than we or others give credit!).

We become “institutionalized” in that we are separate from the relativism brought about by others. We often are VERY open to the opinions of others, using them to test out current “institutionalized” values. I will say, over time, I have begun to wonder if there are not a lot more personality dynamics related here than I think most would mention. 

For example, if I am closed in my orientation to the world, I have already institutionalized and become self-authoring, but it may be at a relatively unsophisticated level of complexity!


This stage of “s/o relations” is excerpted from a really nice overview of the Kegan Theory here by Peter W. Pruyn.

The Self-Transforming Mind is the highest level of consciousness in Kegan’s model.   The Self-Transforming Mind is able to take a step back from the act of self-authoring and hold it as object.  From this point of view, one is able to regard multiple ideologies simultaneously and compare them, being wary of any single one.

But It’s Not That Simple

At this point, you might well have some very valid concerns about what the hierarchy in this theory implies, as well as be wondering where you and others you know might fall on it.  We live in a society that frequently assumes that “bigger is better”, but I don’t think that’s the way we should approach theories of human development. 

This theory is not about intelligence, IQ, or whether a person is “good” or “bad” – or even happy.  All it describes are varying degrees of complexity of thinking. As one of my professors, Richard Reilly, liked to say, “The problem with theory is… it’s theoretical!”

In other words, no one theory can hope to explain the multi-dimensionality of human experience.

Hence, it is critically important to understand any one theory’s limitations. Kegan likes to make the analogy of comparing drivers who can drive a stick-shift with drivers who only drive an automatic.  Can we say that someone is a “better driver” simply because they can drive a stick? 

Of course not – any more than we can say that they’d be better company on a long trip.  Now what we can say is that the driver who can drive a stick will be able to drive certain cars under certain conditions that the driver who can only drive an automatic cannot.  But if someone’s driving their automatic to and from work everyday, there’s nothing wrong with that. 

As Jennifer Garvey Berger has written, this isn’t a theory about “bigger is better”; it’s a theory about “bigger… is bigger”.  – Peter W. Pruyn

I believe this theory gives us insight into additional attributes of CAPABILITY and more so, provides a way in which to explain, and predict the way in which leaders are behaving and why. This theoretical language also becomes important in being able to nuance one’s own description of self.  For instance, when I say that we are “played by our BIAS”, instrumented by our prejudices, you understand now what I’m saying.

The lexicon of development is so critical for leaders who must discover, explain, predict, design, and scaffold their own behavior as well as the behavior of others in the leaderscape! Our next part of the discussion of CAPABILITY relates to Ego Complexity, in and of itself a fascinating way to understand being, doing, having, becoming, and contributing as a leader.

If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or need some additional help, please use the form below to submit them.  Someone will get back to you within 48 hours.  Or if you prefer, at the bottom of this page leave your comment and someone will get back to you.

    Your Name (required)

    Your Email (required)

    Subject - You may check more than one box. (required)


    Your Message (required)

    If you are not yet a Gold Member, consider becoming one today and begin accessing all of your FREE information on LeaderW@RE.  Many people ask, “What is LeaderW@RE and how will I benefit by learning more about it.” 

    To answer that question, the first thing you will be given access to is the paper titled: “What is LeaderW@RE”.  Next you will receive my Exposé in Leader Development.  Depending on when you register, there may be more content to share with you as we are adding content on a regular basis.

    Register HERE now.

    We hope you pick up valuable insights, ideas, and tools during this process, which you can use for your own development as well as your work and leadership with others.

    You, Me, and We @F-L-O-W

    Mike R. Jay is a developmentalist utilizing consulting, coaching, mentoring and advising as methods to offer developmental scaffolding for aspiring leaders who are interested in being, doing, having, becoming, and contributing… to helping people have lives.

    Mike R. Jay
    Leadership University

    © Generati

    Learn how you may become a member of our Inner Circle and receive the cutting edge on the most current thinking in Leader Development.  Visit http://LivingAtFLOW.com/innercircle

    Speak Your Mind


    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Disclaimer | Terms Of Service | Earnings Disclaimer | Privacy Notice | Contact Support | Buy the Book | Media Disclaimer