Dan Sankowsky: from the inside
art | writing | teaching
Leader/Follower Meta Matrix: Page 2 (pdf version)
Further explanations, column by column:
EDUCATION: Instructors often tacitly assume they must stick entirely to the content, utilizing their schooling and expertise. They thus follow a paradigm of instructional delivery that is discipline-based. This may inadvertently limit resources for students, who frequently need structural and psychological aspects of learning factored in – especially in technical courses, as several essays will discuss. Thus, I argue that students need an instructional delivery that is development based (meaning that it operates on all three levels).
While this is going on, students tend to box themselves in with expectations of learning and problem-solving: "I either get it or I don’t"; the assumptions listed underlie this. Instructors can help them get unstuck by using the 3I’s: informing, identifying, and intervening. The essays will elaborate on this issue, as do several articles previously published.
In the interpersonal sphere, some instructors have an implacable stance; they are, to be sure, the experts. They expect students to come to the discipline eager to learn. When this does not happen, especially in quantitative methods courses, instructors can turn hostile or withdrawn. I believe it is incumbent upon us as educators to investigate students’ anxiety and lack of interest about the course as a whole and about any errors in problem solving they may commit along the way.
MANAGEMENT: When I indicate projection and standardization of resources as typical managerial stances, I am noting the inherently political nature of most organizations. Projection manifests itself in this setting in managers’ feeling that the resources they had received along the way should also suffice for their subordinates ("no one should get more than I got"). Politically, managers see their advancement opportunities within informal networks and from their own bosses. The result is a tendency to treat subordinates as a group with a standardized set of resources for individuals. How can they reorient so as to help their charges more effectively? Colette Dumas and I have proposed a customized paradigm of leadership, one that reflects the diversity of follower needs. This paper is included as one of the essays.
Subordinates tie themselves in knots when they are ruled by preconceptions about the workplace in general and about their organization in particular. They need information to dispel these beliefs. What works quite efficiently is informal mentoring, with just in time knowledge.
Managers typically adopt the Model I values alluded to earlier in dealing with problem situations. These include follower non routine requests, follower poor performance, and general follower dissatisfaction. If they can be trained to go the Model II route, much of the usual rationalization of organizational dysfunction is circumvented.
COUNSELING: When therapists are rigidly applying one school of thought in their practice, they may miss opportunities to help clients, effectively denying the existence of diversity of client need as well as closing themselves from learning. I experienced the one size fits all approach in learning primal therapy, a clinical treatment method. The great failure of the Primal Institute to integrate with the mainstream of psychotherapy reflected its position of being the only "cure for neurosis." I found, however, that many clients could not "do" the therapy unless they could connect to other avenues of treatment as well, i.e. unless they put primal therapy in a wider context.
As far as restrictive self-imposed assumptions go, nowhere is this more apparent than in counseling. In this setting, barriers to growth are ultimately rooted in childhood adaptations to parental rejections. The way out involves a host of methodologies. I discuss two that are common to many schools of therapeutic thought: setting up or taking advantage of critical incidents in which an intervention moves the client away from a maladaptive automatic response to a fuller experience of a scenario typically perceived as threatening. A concomitant issue that emerges from managing such incidents is the balance between growth and comfort within the treatment setting. Two essays on counseling develop these ideas in greater depth.
Therapists have the power to turn client thinking upside down because of the power of the transference: not only are they typically perceived as having expertise in an almost mythical domain, but the nature of their interaction with clients makes clients hunger for their approval, often to get what a parent failed to provide in terms of understanding and caring. The boundaries here are very tricky. For example, therapists who withhold something the client thinks s/he needs may do so in the interest of the client, to bring the old psychological wounds to the surface. On the other hand, the therapist may do so out of his or her own needs, hiding them behind the counseling "cloth." The way out? Physician, heal thyself. Many counselors seek to work on their own issues with their own therapists. In an article on the reference list, I suggested that counselors go beyond the norms of the profession, on occasion, and acknowledge their contributions to difficulties within their relationship with a client.
THE ARTS: A standard model for teaching in the graphic arts is the technique-based Apprentice Model. The idea is that one must master the basics first. I have found from my own struggles and triumphs in this venue that more flexible sequencing may be more helpful. In my case, as some essays will indicate, I let the medium guide me, with technical mastery coming later. In general, tuning into the student is as powerful for the artist qua teacher as it is in other venues.
Apprentice artists (or art students) can tie themselves in knots with their expectations of self and other assumptions. They look at great artists’ work and either become paralyzed or turn into copy machines. For the master/teacher, encouraging them to find their own voice without becoming impatient or judgmental often proves difficult: the master qua mentor may feel that the student’s accomplishments reflect on his or her stewardship and may share some lofty preconceptions. Teaching in this context requires letting students in, humbly sharing one’s own fears while refraining from over critiquing.
Nowhere perhaps is there a greater leader need from a protégé as in apprenticeship models in general and the arts in particular. The battle of the egos may consume both parties. It is incumbent upon the artist/teacher to reign in his or her approval seeking when relating to the student.
These issues and others are the subjects of the following essays: