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Theoretical Framework

Theoretical Framework

by Patricia Marlette Black BA, MEd.

from Women’s Leadership in Community-Profit Organisations,
Doctoral Thesis , Queensland University of Technology, 1999, pp. 24-42.
Republished on our website with the necessary permissions

2.1 Introduction

Chapter 1 identified discontinuous change as the contemporary context within which leadership in the latter part of the twentieth century is exercised. It was argued that this is a new kind of change, different from the accepted conception of change as a ‘straight projection of past trends into the future’ (Handy 1995a, p. 16).

The previous chapter also suggested that the contemporary context for leadership is a product of the profound social, cultural, political and intellectual developments which are occurring as part of a paradigm shift that is the wider cultural and historical context for leadership in Western societies. The recognition of this radical paradigm shift transcends current disciplinary and conceptual boundaries. The multisiciplinary context of the theories which support the concept of a paradigm shift from a mechanistic to a holistic world view signify its profound implications for human and planetary life. These theories include systems theory (Capra 1982), the science of complexity (Waldrop 1992), the partnership theory of cultural transformation (Eisler 1990), new cosmology (Berry 1987, 1988, 1993), quantum theology (O’Murchu 1997), new science theories (Bohr 1934; Capra 1975, 1982; Bohm 1980; Davies 1983, 1987, 1992; Prigogine & Stengers 1984; Gleick 1988; Sheldrake 1990) and organisational theory (Wheatley 1992, 1998; Block 1996, 1998).

This paradigm shift raises questions about how best to understand and exercise leadership. It emphasises the need for a new understanding of leadership beyond the bureaucratic managerial model which is the current dominant model in the Western world. A new understanding of leadership is a key element in the social transformation demanded if this present civilisation is to survive the bifurcation which it is currently undergoing (Colins & Chippendale 1995, pp. 193 - 201). As Handy (1995a, p. 56) has so aptly observed: ‘Understanding is a good lubricant for change’.

This chapter explores the paradigm shift from a mechanistic world view (section 2.2) to a holistic world view (section 2.3) with its new set of values and assumptions for restructuring social reality, including the social reality of leadership (Merchant 1980; Winter 1981; Capra 1982; Birch 1990b, 1993; Starratt 1993; Blank 1995; Colins & Chippendale 1995; Wheatley 1998). This chapter also presents the particular understandings of leadership within both the mechanistic and the holistic world views.

2.2 The Mechanistic World View

The central image of the mechanistic world view is the machine. The understanding of reality in the mechanistic world view emerges from the confluence of the dualistic rationalism of Descartes, the mechanistic physics of Newton, the biological determinism of Darwin, the individualistic philosophy of Locke and the materialistic psychology of Freud.

The mechanistic world view is based on several key premises. First, scientific knowledge can achieve absolute and final certainty. Second, in the material world and in any system, the dynamic of the whole can be understood from the property of the parts. Third, the world is a dualistic world in which mind is superior to body, human beings are superior to nature, the rational is superior to the non-rational, male is superior to female and objectivity is superior to subjectivity. Fourth, the common good is enhanced when the potential and material wealth of the individual is maximised.

Distinctive features of the mechanistic world view are summarised in Table 2.1. where they are compared with distinctive features of the emerging holistic world view. It is important to note that, while distinctive features of each world view are delineated, there is considerable slippage of features from one world view to the other. The holistic world view grows out of and incorporates many features of the mechanistic world view but places them within a different framework of interpretation. The linear tabulation of distinctive features of the mechanistic and holistic world views, while useful as a way of highlighting their distinctive features, cannot accurately represent the relationship between the two world views.

Table 2.1 A comparison of distinctive cultural, personal, organisational and leadership features of the mechanistic and the holistic world views





The universe understood as a mechanical system made up of permanent objects and immutable laws

The universe understood as a continuous field of changing patterns filled with processes, not things

We live ‘on top of nature’

We are embedded within nature’s finely balanced complexities

Empiricism and rationalism as the only real ways to truth

Knowing is also intuitive and symbolic and truth is metaphorical

Patriarchal and hierarchical social pattern

Gender mutual world of radical egalitarianism

Euro-centred, Caucasian-dominated world

Multicultural global village

Competition based on a belief in unlimited material progress achieved through economic and technological growth

Interdependence and collaboration requiring a just sharing of limited resources

Violence - relations of domination

The part



Nonviolence - mutually enhancing relations

The whole






Individual rights



Developmental psychology


Community of subjects

Corporate responsibility



Depth psychology


Corporate man



Systems of control



Power as control

Delegating power

Stability as source of growth

Collaborative individuals in partnership



Organisation of energies

Collaborative network


Power as realisation of possibilities


Change as source of growth


Leadership is a person or a position

Leadership influence is based on authority or force - command and control

Leadership focus is on the leader who tells subordinates what to do or delegates responsibility to them

The purpose of leadership is order, stability, productivity and organisational transformation

Leadership is an interaction, a process or a field, an influence relationship among leaders and followers

Leadership influence is based on interaction and connectedness

Leadership focus is on the interaction between leaders and active, willing followers who share the process of leadership

The purpose of leadership is social transformation and promotion of social betterment of communities and organisations

The mechanistic world view is characterised by a patriarchal and hierarchical social pattern which is maintained by systems of command and control at all levels of the hierarchy. The idea of progress is integral to the mechanistic world view and is the basis of much of the legal, economic, social and scientific progress that has characterised the modern era of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Closely associated with the idea of progress in the mechanistic world view is the centrality of human control over nature, especially through the use of technology. The reductionism of mechanistic thought reduces the complex interconnectedness of the natural world to its component parts, and sets up a powerful paradigm of relations of domination (Merchant 1980).

Another related concept, central to the mechanistic world view, is that of productivity. The purpose of an industrial society is productivity that is achieved by the use of science. The contexts for production in an industrial society are the factory, the shop or the office. In an industrial society work and earning a living are the centre of the average person’s life. Because industrial society is mechanised, the worker is separated from the end product of his or her activity and, at least in Western industrial societies, work is segregated from private life. In an industrial society, social life tends to be impersonal and almost every aspect of people’s lives is influenced by large-scale organisations. The modern obsession with economic, technical, industrial and institutional growth and competition is the result of the preoccupation with productivity, and has led to the modern phenomenon of some companies, multinationals and corporations having greater assets than the gross national product of some countries.

Progress, human control of nature and productivity in the mechanistic world view are possible because of the liberation of the human mind by reason. At the heart of the mechanistic world view is the image of the ‘rational man’ - the product of the eighteenth century Enlightenment - throwing off the shackles of barbarism, superstition and authoritarianism and reinterpreting, reordering and reinventing ‘himself’ and ‘his’ world. The emphasis on the individual, freedom, rationality, science, progress and technology has resulted in the delegation of the supernatural and the symbolical to the private sphere, in the control and exploitation of nature and in the myth of progress which asserts that technology, capitalist industry, representative democracy and science can bring people happiness.

The benefits of the mechanistic world view have been great in terms of providing knowledge and technology to control nature, to organise mass production and to promote better housing, health, transportation and education. The personal features of the mechanistic world view as summarised in Table 2.1 are of great value to the human enterprise with their emphasis on human dignity and human rights and their expression in equality and liberty. The cost has, however, been high. Winter (1981, p. xii) argues that the mechanistic world view has placed almost insuperable roadblocks before the ongoing inquiries about the purpose of a human world as it reduces ‘work, politics, marriage and education to a technical means-ends process which flattens the world, suppressing the symbols that found and orient human life’. The mechanistic world view has proved damaging to the environment, to the development of communal life and space and to the development of the creative and artistic capacities of human beings.

Absolute faith in the capacity of science and technology to solve human problems is being eroded by the human dilemmas about ethics, values and purposes which are the remnants of the exhaustion of modernity (Birch 1990b, p. 118). The distinctive features of the mechanistic world view summarised in Table 2.1 are being challenged with the emergence of the holistic world view. Kung (1991, p. 21) emphasises, however, that one world view does not replace another, and that the specific values of industrial modernity:

diligence (industrial), rationality, order, thoroughness, punctuality, sobriety, achievement, efficiency - are not just to be done away with but to be reinterpreted in a new constellation and combined with the new values of postmodernity: with imagination, sensitivity, emotion, warmth, tenderness, humanity.

Leadership in the Mechanistic World View

The review of relevant literature in Chapter 3 of this thesis presents an overview of the dominant leadership images and dominant agendas for leadership, as well as issues raised by leadership research. The purpose of this section is to show the way in which the central images and values of the mechanistic world view are incorporated in the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership which is the dominant understanding of leadership in the mechanistic world view.

Foster (1989, pp. 40-48) summarises the two traditions of leadership research which have informed social scientific definitions of leadership. One tradition is the political-historical model which focuses on the role of significant individuals and how they use power and resources to transform their social milieu. James McGregor Burns (1978) makes a special contribution to this tradition by looking at the idea of leadership from a moral and value-driven basis instead of reducing it to a management tool. The political- historical model of leadership is expressed in the ‘great man’ and trait theories of leadership which reflect several of the values of the mechanistic world view. This model of leadership, exemplified by names such as Churchill, Ghandi, Kennedy and Packer focuses on leadership as a property or possession of an individual because of the traits ‘he’ possesses. The mechanistic world view values of individualism, personalism and autonomy are reflected in this individualistic understanding of leadership.

The second tradition of leadership is the bureaucratic-managerial model. In this model ‘the concept of leader has been chewed up and swallowed down by the needs of modern managerial theory’ (Foster 1989, p. 45). The main components of this leadership model are that leadership is a function of organisation position and is goal-centred, the goals being driven by organisational, not societal, needs. The centrality of organisations with their distinctive features as summarised in Table 2.1 and of organisational leadership in the mechanistic world view is highlighted by Clegg (1990, p. 5) when he describes the importance of organisations as the form of our modern condition:

Without a plurality of complex organizations there would be no possibilities of civility and citizenship, because it is only through organizational representation that the majority of people can achieve any form of interest articulation in a large scale, modern and mass society. Unions, parties, councils, governments, firms and other private and public organizations are the means through which we participate in modernity in other than the occasional drama and ritual of the formal political process. Public life is organizational life for most people.

The leadership focus in this model is on performance and on the effective pursuit of organisational goals (for example, in Taylorism and task orientation theories), while at the same time attending to the needs of people in the organisation (for example, in human relations theories and consideration orientation theories). White, Hodgson and Crainer (1996, p. 16) comment that this tradition of leadership has created leaders ‘whose only benchmarks are quarterly results and whose touchstones are market analysts’. In this tradition leadership is equated with management, which is presented as ‘a symbol of authority, order and control, the powerful means of improving the performance of anything that the energetic manager touches’ (Rees 1995b, p. 17). The values of the mechanistic world view reflected in the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership include rationality, competitive individualism, productivity, specialisation and progress.

In spite of the new agendas for leadership put forward in the management literature and the Women in Management literature and described in Chapter 3 of this thesis, the fundamental assumptions and images of the mechanistic world view remain as the foundations of the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership. Certainly there has been a shift from the traditional bureaucratic emphasis on following the rules to a more entrepreneurial emphasis on getting results. This is especially evident in the present management revolution called ‘managerialism’ (Muetzelfeldt 1995, p. 95). Much, however, has remained the same. What Senge (1995, p. 231) refers to as ‘the holy trinity of Western management: planning, organizing, controlling’ are still firmly entrenched leadership expectations.

Two key images of the mechanistic world view dominate the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership: the machine and the pyramid. At the beginning of this century Frederick Taylor (1911) proposed the metaphor of the machine as a model of efficiency that organisations should emulate. The Taylorist emphasis on control and efficiency in the interests of an organisation and of a country remains strong (Rees 1995b). So, too, does the continued emphasis on rationality, even though bureaucratic rationality has been replaced by market rationality (Davis 1995). There is still the continued emphasis on competition (Hilmer 1993), profit and efficiency, even though there has been a shift from ‘the pursuit of profit to the pursuit of BIG profit’ and from ‘the pursuit of efficiency to the pursuit of BIG efficiency’ (Bremner 1995, p. 244-245).

Mintzberg (1983, p. 489) describes the organisational model of the mechanistic world view as the ‘machine bureaucracy’. The organisation is envisaged as a machine and the leader as the ‘servo-mechanism’ that drives it. As reflected in Table 2.1 the management or leadership style in the machine bureaucracy is characterised by command and control exercised by those at the top of the bureaucratic hierarchy who are charged with the responsibility of articulating and promoting the vision, of strategic planning for the future, of maximising resources and profits and of controlling and directing the workers and the work. Assumptions which support the desirability of command and control leadership include that the leader is the dominant member of the group, that loyalty, effort and change can be commanded successfully and that progress comes from discipline, order and obedience (O’Toole 1995, p. 87). Within this machine bureaucracy the leader is typically a male who holds a degree in business administration, finance or marketing and is typically left-brain focused (that is, logical, quantitative, analytical, rational). He has ‘advanced on the corporate ladder by delivering cost, revenue, and earning results, and by making smart decisions in a variety of general management positions’ (Katzenbach and the Real Change Leaders Team 1995, p. 17).

Bremner (1995, p. 245) describes the way in which the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership, even in an environment of discontinuous change, is imbued with the mechanistic world view values of control, productivity and efficiency:

The context of certainty, simplicity, objectivity and the logic of Taylor’s era has been replaced with uncertainty, complexity, subjectivity and contingency. Still, the most popular current model for organisation is predicated on the assumption that an information-rich environment, which increasingly refuses to reveal itself with any definition, can be controlled. The popularity of this model comes from its capacity to paraphrase Taylor’s metaphor of machine-like efficiency using new, apparently non-hierarchical, terminology under an apparently democratic image (thereby erasing the old hierarchical pyramid image but leaving the structure intact).

Davis (1995, p. 127) concurs with this position in his analysis of the new public sector management whose success, he says, is measured by ‘the extent to which economically rational behaviour is installed throughout the organisation, in manager, clerk and professional worker alike’ and where:

comparing evaluative standards that might impose alternative logics on the practice of professional work, such as notions of duty, rights, collegiality, service, obligation, care, compassion, or even need that once provided the rhetoric for public service are eliminated, as all share the same cultural ideals as the economically rational manager.

There is no doubt that the values of the mechanistic world view underlie the bureaucratic-managerial model of leadership which dominates organisations in Western society. Chapter 3 of this thesis, a review of the relevant literature, will further explore this model by examining its dominant images of leadership and its agendas for leadership.

Some Challenges to the Mechanistic World View

The limitations of the dominant mechanistic paradigm are highlighted by a number of challenges to it that have come from within the paradigm itself. The theory of evolution poses a major challenge to the image of the world as a machine constructed by the Divine Mechanic. With the theory of evolution the world is understood as an evolving and ever-changing system in which all living things under the pressure of their environment evolve from simpler to more complex life forms. This movement from the simple to the more ordered and more complex is at odds with the understanding of the world as a machine made up of solid matter.

The second challenge to the mechanistic world view comes from the emergence of the concept of evolution in physics. Whereas in biology the evolutionary movement is toward increasing order and complexity, in physics the movement is toward increasing disorder. The formulation of the second law of thermodynamics which poses that any isolated physical system will proceed spontaneously in the direction of ever increasing disorder, and the introduction of the quantity ‘entropy’ to measure the degree of evolution of a physical system, present a grim picture of cosmic evolution at odds with the image of the stable, ordered, mechanistic universe imagined by Descartes and Newton.

A third challenge to the mechanistic world view is the new physics (Bohm 1980; Davies 1983; Prigogine & Stengers 1984; Griffin 1988; Griffiths 1989; Sheldrake 1990; Davies & Gribbin 1991). The new physics culminates in relativity theory and quantum theory which demonstrate that not only are the sub-atomic particles nothing like the solid objects of classical physics, they also have a dual nature. Depending on how sub-atomic particles are viewed, they can appear as either particles or waves. Similarly, light can appear as either electromagnetic waves or as particles which Einstein called ‘quanta’ (Capra 1982; Davies 1983; Prigogine & Stengers 1984; Polkinghorne 1986; Honner 1987). The fitfulness of a quantum theory based universe breaks the bonds of the deterministic and controllable universe of the mechanistic world view. The theory of non-locality in physics and in biology shows that ‘there is a wholeness in the physical world in which, in some sense or other, everything is instantaneously connected with everything else’ (Honner 1987, p. 17). Chaos theory gives us the image of the ‘strange attractor’, whose effect is to provide a particular and recognisable inherent order within a chaotic system without immobilising it. Modern physics has shown that as matter is penetrated it appears more as a web of relationships between its various parts than as building blocks. The new physics has challenged the tendency of science to study organisms as objects, not subjects. The heart cannot be reduced to a pump; the brain cannot be reduced to a computer. Knowledge cannot be reduced to the pieces of a jigsaw which fit side by side but do not overlap (Birch 1993, pp. 54- 55).

Finally, the insights of depth psychology have challenged the emphasis on reason in the mechanistic world view by showing that we are more than rational egos (Polkinghorne 1986, p. 4). The unconscious component of the human mind is a rich source of creativity and symbolic power that demands attention in both its personal and cultural expressions.

These challenges to the assumptions of the mechanistic world view are rendering it unstable enough to cause the fluctuations that leave the way open for a new way of viewing reality. This new way of viewing reality is from the perspective of a holistic world view.

2.3 The Holistic World View

The central image of the holistic world view is the holon. Holons are subsystems which are both wholes and parts. Each holon has two opposite tendencies: the integrative tendency in order to operate as part of the whole system and the self-assertive tendency in order to retain its autonomy within the system. In the mechanistic mindset, the whole is equal to the sum of the individual parts. The holon provides the basis for a new principle in the holistic world view, namely, the whole is always greater than the sum of the parts and, paradoxically, the whole is contained in each part while no whole is complete in itself. Wholeness is the primary reality in the holistic world view. O’Murchu (1997, p. 58) notes that the universe itself is holographic:

Everything in the cosmos is made out of the seamless, holographic fabric of the implicate order. An electron is not just an elementary particle; it is a name given to a certain aspect of the holomovement, one of the several dancers in the great cosmic sequence of movement and pattern. Despite the apparent separateness of things at the explicate level, everything is a seamless extension of everything else, and ultimately the implicate and extricate orders blend into each other.

A second key image of the holistic world view is that it is ‘artistic’. What is meant by the term ‘artistic’ as applied to the holistic world view? The challenges to a mechanistic world view indicate a movement toward a world view which sees reality in terms of relationships and which is more concerned with the subjective, with feelings, with values and with consciousness (Capra 1982; Birch 1993). As the personal features summarised in Table 2.1 show, this world view sees the world as a community of subjects that includes all living beings which share the planet with humankind. Dunn (1987, p. 76) suggests that in this new world view the universe is not random or purposeful in the Aristotelian sense, but groping and this ‘takes us into a new sense of design, not mechanical, but closer to artistic processes’. Winter (1981, p. xi) also highlights the artistic nature of the emerging holistic world view with his description of paradigm shifts as ‘transformations in the root metaphors which furnish clues to the encompassing world’ and of the present paradigm shift in terms of a move from the root metaphor of the megamachine to an artistic root metaphor.

The holistic world view takes its distinctive features from the dimensions of any artistic event. It is productive, but its productivity is a bringing forth or a letting come forth rather than the violent process of breaking things down in order to reorganise them as in the mechanistic world view. It is organised, but its organisation is the organisation of energies rather than the system of control characteristic of bureaucracies in the mechanistic world view. It encourages the exchange of energies in a reciprocity of organism and environment, and there is an interplay of human life with nature. Finally, it is holistic, just as a work of art elicits the quality of being a whole which is part of a larger totality, the universe itself (Winter 1981, chapter 2).

Distinctive cultural, personal and organisational features of the holistic world view as compared with distinctive features of the mechanistic world view are summarised in Table 2.1 in section 2.2 of this thesis. Distinctive features of the holistic world view are still emerging, but the researcher has identified several shifts of consciousness out of which distinctive features of the holistic world view summarised in Table 2.1 emerge.

The first of these shifts of consciousness is the growing recognition world wide that the myth of progress needs serious reassessment. Simons (1995, p. 272) identifies the cause of this shift of consciousness:

The richness of human consciousness has, in its institutionalised and economic forms, been reduced to utilitarian perspectives in the service of technology. Technological mastery, guided by largely narrow economic values and an exploitative ethos, has become vulnerable to the priorities of unrestrained economic growth and an inadequately accountable managerialism.

More and more it is acknowledged that economic progress as an end in itself has not brought human happiness and has, in fact, led to inhuman consequences, ‘often dismissed by scientists as “side-effects” of scientific progress and by economists as “external effects” of economic growth’ (Kung 1991, p. 13). The destruction of the natural environment which is the result of this myth of progress is not simply a passing upset or a minor error in our thinking and acting. Not only is it one of the most devastating experiences that has happened to the planet in four billion years; it is, according to Berry (1993, p. 46) ‘the most decisive moment in the course of human affairs since the beginning of the neolithic period some twelve thousand years ago’. The cultural features of the holistic world view summarised in Table 2.1 reflect the end of a belief in the myth of progress and the demand that humankind enter into an integral relationship with the life systems of the planet.

A second major shift in consciousness which heralds the emergence of a holistic world view is the swing from the emphasis on the ascendancy of human control over nature to a realisation of the catastrophe that results when nature is disrespected and to a search for an affective kinship with the extended family of the cosmos (Merchant 1980; Berry 1987, 1988; Suzuki 1990; Capra & Steindl-Rast 1992; Ruether 1992; Birch 1993). This shift in consciousness demands the rebuilding of communities in which people can take responsibility for the ecosystem of which they are a part, the development of just relations between humans and an equitable distribution of resources, and a compassionate solidarity between peoples instead of the alienation of competitive individualism (Ruether 1992, p. 201).

The emerging holistic world view is characterised by a third shift in consciousness from clear and distinct ideas of universal reason to an understanding of the limits of reason. Because it has made itself absolute, analytical reason is being questioned by the development of a holistic approach in psychology, medicine, education, science and religion. With the gradual erosion of the mind/body dualism, there is a growing search for wisdom in the plurality and ambiguity of human consciousness, ‘sensitive to the difference that difference makes according to one’s social location in class, gender and race’ (Johnson 1994, p.19). The critique of the Enlightenment concept of rationality has destroyed the assertion that knowledge must be grounded in absolute truth or privileged discourse. Postmodernists such as Gadamer (1975) and Foucault (1980) reject metanarratives with their themes of rationality, science and progress as unnecessary and undesirable and argue for a plural definition of truth to replace the unitary definition of the mechanistic world view.

The shift from a focus on the ideal of the autonomous, self-determining self to a realisation of the limits of individualism and a sense of the sad isolation of the unconnected individual is a fourth shift of consciousness that heralds the holistic world view. With the exhaustion of modernity and early capitalism we are witnessing the disappearance of rugged individuality. The demise of the self-contained individual directed by his or her solitary ego has left the way open to develop new ways of essential connectedness and solidarity untrammelled by competitive egos. The key features of this shift of consciousness as summarised in the personal features of the holistic world view in Table 2.1 include interconnection, communion, corporate responsibility and inter-independence.

One final shift of consciousness that gives a hint of what the holistic world view will be distinguished by is the shift from seeing the world as a patriarchal and hierarchical social order to seeing the world as a gender-mutual world of solidarity. Patriarchy - the universal political and social structure in which the males of the society, the institution or the system own, administer, shape or control a major proportion of all facets of that society and control and profit from women’s reproductive capabilities - not only oppresses females, but every other group that does not fit the norm of male, propertied and educated (Schussler Fiorenza 1984).

The movement away from hierarchy towards more gender-inclusive structures is underpinned by an analysis of patriarchy in which patriarchy is understood as an inevitable stage of social evolution which is biologically determined, as an historical crime deliberately perpetuated by men who are intrinsically oppressive, or as the expression of the will-to-power of the male ruling class. Feminism has largely been responsible for that undermining of patriarchy which is an essential element of the transition to a holistic world view (Capra 1982; Berry 1987; Eisler 1990; Kung 1991; Colins & Chippendale 1995). Primarily the activity of giving women a voice and access to power, feminism has never been a coherent movement. According to Thom (1992, p. 25) it includes many different sorts of political argument:

it encompasses Mary Wollstonecraft’s feminism, her ‘wild wish’ that women should no longer be subordinated to their bodies and the passions which their bodies encouraged in them; the existential determinism of de Beauvoir’s ‘second sex’; Christabel Pankhurst’s radical feminism which placed women’s interests against heterosexual sex, and the contemporary argument of suffragists, that women’s sex or sexuality was an irrelevance compared to their lack of citizenship.

Although ultimately feminism is about women’s ‘estate’ (Mitchell 1971), about ‘judging women’s interests (however defined) to be important and to be insufficiently represented and accommodated within mainstream politics/academia’ (Oakley 1981b, p. 335), feminism is also fundamentally about social transformation which will create a better world for both men and women. The different feminist responses to patriarchy have been like the different strands of a rope which, when intertwined together, are strong enough ‘to bind the evil power of patriarchy’ (Schussler Fiorenza 1989, p. 15).

While patriarchy is certainly a gender issue, Thomas Berry points out that it is also ‘a pervasive and surely a controlling aspect of the entire earth-human process’ (Berry 1987, p. 105). He identifies the political empires, the institutional church, the nation-state and the modern corporation as the four patriarchal institutions which have profoundly affected what has happened in the development of the human process. While acknowledging that these institutions have achieved much, he asserts that ‘their patriarchal plundering processes are devastating the natural systems of the planet’ and that the consequences of their exploitation may ‘soon be something akin to nuclear winter’(Berry 1987, p.106).

It is hard to describe a world view that is still coming into being. What can be described are the shifts of consciousness that have been outlined above from which are emerging distinctive features of the holistic world view as summarised in Table 2.1. It is important to note that the holistic world view is not totally distinct from the mechanistic world view. Just as a work of art is made up of the interplay of parts in organic wholes, so the holistic world view incorporates organicist and mechanistic elements in ‘a world more human than anything human history has yet revealed’ (Winter 1981, p. 27).

Leadership in the Holistic World View

The goal-oriented, rational model of management and organisation and the cause and effect understanding of management which are imbued with the values of the mechanistic world view have been questioned over time (Weick 1979; MacIntyre 1981; Lincoln 1985; Foster 1989; Hames 1994; Block 1998; Wheatley 1998). Because a holistic world view is still emerging, it is difficult to clearly identify its features let alone show their presence in new forms of leadership. However, a new theoretical understanding of leadership is emerging, and its broad strokes can be identified in the works of several writers (for example, Wheatley 1992, 1998; Rost 1993; Block 1996, 1998).

Bremner (1995, p. 247) suggests that ‘the technical-rational machine of efficiency and its dependence on the traditional scientific model could be replaced with a new metaphor emphasising sensuous, aesthetic and “artistic” aspects of corporate behaviour’. Within this metaphor the leader is not simply a manager who is responsible for increased efficiency, productivity and profit, but rather an artist. Kay (1994) emphasises the artistic creativity, the insight and the expressiveness of leaders in the community-profit sector. The role of the leader as artist, according to Bremner (1995, p. 247) is equivalent to that of the conceptual artist who:

utilises extensive communication systems in the creation of the work so that extremely complex signs, symbols, images, text and various forms of media are designed to include the viewer-consumer in sharing or completing, or consuming complex codes of meaning or services.

The leader as an artist is more concerned with insight, symbolism, intuition and stories than with economic performance (De Pree 1989; Senge 1990; Hames 1994; Bremner 1995). Senge (1990, pp. 341-345), in a related concept, describes a new view of leadership where leaders are designers whose essential task is to design the learning processes whereby people in an organisation can deal productively with the critical issues they face, and develop their mastery within a learning organisation.

This does not mean that there is no concern for goals or productivity or profit; as indicated previously, the holistic world view does not reject every aspect of the mechanistic world view. The contributions of science, rationality and technology will remain critical elements in the holistic world view but they will not be the only elements nor will they dominate the holistic world view. Leadership in the mechanistic world view demands a high degree of technical competence and instrumental and interpersonal skills. Hames (1994, p. 238) believes that, as well as these skills, ‘the postmodern network of the future, invariably displaying considerably higher levels of psychological maturity, will demand from the organisation’s leaders conceptual and systems skills such as scenario development, ethical climate setting and paradox-resolution of a very high order’.

The leader in the holistic world view recognises the limitations of rationality which can solve some problems but cannot ground reasons why one solution is preferable to another in a creative and multidimensional view of organisational and social life (Starratt 1993). Holistic leadership cannot limit creativity by a narrowly rational approach and is obliged, according to Hames (1994, p. 267) to facilitate the organisation’s ‘capacity for learning for predictable change and a variety of possible alternative futures’.

As summarised in the leadership features section of Table 2.1, in the holistic world view interconnectedness, partnership and relationship are key elements reflected in understanding leadership (Eisler 1990; Montuori & Conti 1993). This concept as applied to leadership addresses Foster’s (1989, p. 49) concern that leadership is not a function of position, but rather ‘represents a conjunction of ideas where leadership is shared and transferred between leaders and followers, each only a temporary designation’. In the holistic world view leadership is not a position, nor is it a possession. It is rather a process, a relationship, a field of interaction (Blank 1995), in which everyone must learn when it is appropriate to exercise the following part of leading and the leading part of following (Smith, D.K. 1996, p. 204). Hames (1994, p. 249) describes the process of leadership when he states that in the holistic world view leadership ‘will not be a role played out by a small number of charismatic people’. Rather, he says, it will be ‘a process of sharing and appreciation - of creating meaning and communicating purpose’; a process shared in by both leaders and followers. Rost (1993, p. 102) agrees that leadership in a post-industrial world is neither position nor possession; for him it is a relationship, ‘an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes’.

Leadership skills in a holistic world view take a relational rather than a situational focus. As Wheatley (1992, p. 144) points out: ‘Leadership is always dependent upon the context, but the context is established by the relationships’. And the web of relations in which organisations and leadership are grounded in the holistic world view extends to the whole universe. Leadership needs to recognise the complex ecological connections that exist in the postmodern world (Wheatley 1992, 1998; Starratt 1993; Hames 1994).

Leadership as a process or relationship demands a new understanding of power. The power required in this understanding of leadership is the power associated with the principle of subsidiarity. Handy (1995a, pp. 41-57) defines subsidiarity as the reverse of empowerment, as the principle whereby a higher order body does not take unto itself the responsibilities which properly belong to a lower order body (Handy 1995a, p. 41). Subsidiarity is not abrogation or delegation of power. Instead, ‘power is assumed to lie at the lowest point in the organization and it can be taken away only by agreement’ (Handy 1995a, pp. 41-42). The assumption in the concept of subsidiarity is that power is redistributed because no one in the group has all the wisdom or all the competence; ‘most of the energy is out there, away from the centre, and down there, away from the top’ (Handy 1995a, p. 55).

Leadership in a holistic world view focuses on both social and global transformation. Social reconstructionists and critical theorists have been very critical of leadership in the mechanistic world view which has as its focus the achievement of organisational goals, and they insist that leadership must be oriented toward the transformation of consciousness and social change (Angus 1989; Foster 1989; Watkins 1989; Rees & Rodley 1995; Solondz 1995). Foster (1989, p. 48) sums up the position of the social reconstructionists and critical theorists when he says that ‘leadership is fundamentally addressed to social change and human emancipation, that it is basically a display of critique, and that its ultimate goal is the achievement and refinement of human community’.

Other leadership writers concur that the task of leadership within a holistic world view is to promote the common good over and above the making of profit or the gaining of power. Charles Handy (1995a, p. 62 & p. 75) makes the point that to say that profit is a means to other ends ‘is not a semantic quibble, it is a serious moral point’, and he insists that ‘the bottom line should be a starting post not a finishing post’. Socially responsible organisations will no longer be defined by their profit margins, their products or their strategic plans, but rather by their roles in society and their contribution to social betterment (Parston 1997). Leadership can no longer be contained within organisational boundaries and focused on organisational products and profits alone without some recognition of and focus on the community, including the global community, in which it operates (Starratt 1993; Hames 1994; Handy 1995a). Starratt (1993, p. 108) warns that the driving ideology of leadership cannot be the promotion of individual or organisational goals at the expense of the environment, community, public involvement and civic responsibility, ‘especially when that happiness and freedom are equated with unbridled commodity consumption’. In order to meet the new accountabilities of their organisations, leaders are required to be social activists who have a vital role in clarifying the social agendas of their organisations and to ensure that the benefits of their leadership are manifested in social communities and institutions (Work 1996; Parston 1997).

To exercise leadership from the perspective of a holistic world view is to traverse new territory without the advantage of a map for direction. The contours of the terrain traversed by leaders is shifting as machines and pyramids give way to circles, spheres and fields. Leadership in the holistic world view is characterised by collaborative partnerships rather than by competition, by process rather than productivity, by learning rather than efficiency.

2.4 Conclusion

As an underpinning to this research the concept of a major paradigm shift from a mechanistic to a holistic world view has been presented in this chapter. The implications for an understanding of leadership arising out of each paradigm were considered as a way of providing a theoretical framework for the research problem outlined in section 1.2 of this thesis. Chapter 2 makes it clear that a new world view, the holistic world view, is providing increasingly larger numbers of people with a new set of values and assumptions for restructuring social realities, including the social reality of leadership. The tentative outline of an understanding of leadership within a holistic world view outlined in the chapter demands further exploration, especially in the realm of practice, a demand toward which this research contributes. The theoretical framework outlined in this chapter allows the findings from this research to be located within a wider social and cultural context. The next chapter, Chapter 3, presents a review of the relevant literature in order to further clarify issues and questions within the research problem, and to show the links between the research problem and the wider body of knowledge encompassed within literature dealing with leadership, management and Women in Management.

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