Capability: Part 3– Subjectivity
Continuing on with Capability, I want to outline briefly the ideas in Subjectivity.
SUBJECTIVE (noun)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 relations3: 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
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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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.
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