One of my friends who reads a lot of my stuff often comments that even though it’s only been the last 10K years that we’ve had this very stratified, hierarchical social system, that’s still a long time, and what is most recently in our evolution. I’m going to quote some of what I’ve already written about the potential to shift just because that’s easier than writing it all out again. The following paragraphs are excerpted from this.
“In a pyramid-shaped hierarchy like patriarchy, only a few elites can occupy the apex and everyone else vies for the highest position in the hierarchy that they can attain beneath that. Competence and ability may play some small part in ranking, but in general, these hierarchies are based solidly in traditional power. As recently as 50 years ago, the strata of the hierarchy were pretty well fixed, with white men at the top, white women below them, men of other races, including blacks next, and women of color at the bottom, with homosexuals and other marginalized groups in there somewhere near the bottom also.
It’s not quite that cut and dried anymore because we now have more women, non-whites, and gay people with wealth, education, and positions of power. However, this in itself has created tension because some people are reluctant to give up the old rankings. I personally know several people who were downright incensed when Barack Obama was elected because it was inconsistent with their sense of proper hierarchy to have a black man as the President of The United States.
But even if we can readily see the issues with a dominance-based hierarchy, what are the alternatives? Hierarchies based in domination tend to rely on coercion, violence and the threat of violence, but they also maintain order. It used to be said in Italy that under Mussolini, at least the trains ran on time. Authoritarian structures mean that everyone knows who to look to for leadership and safety, even if it also means that they get stepped on and bullied in the bargain.
But hierarchies of domination aren’t the only kind of hierarchies or the only kind of leadership. Nor are they the only way to be in relationship with others. The establishment of some kind of pecking order is not necessary in order for society to function.
Partnership-oriented organizations have trust and reciprocity-based cooperation; achievement-based (rather than conflict-based) competition; and use conflict as a tool to arrive at solutions, rather than a zero-sum win at all costs mentality. “Leadership is based on power to (woman or man who nurtures and supports productivity and creativity) AND/OR power with (encourages and participates in teamwork).” (emphasis mine)
Business is one of the main forefronts for partnership-oriented shifts in our culture today because it leads to greater agility and responsiveness, which in turn, contributes to the bottom line.
One of the reasons for her immense popularity is that Brene Brown brings us concrete ideas and strategies for living in a kinder, more cooperative, and better functioning world and she does it in an engaging, funny, no-BS style. Dr. Brown has worked extensively with the US military, Silicon Valley business leaders, and law enforcement agencies to teach tools of leadership based in partnership systems rather than dominance-based ones.”
So, that was a long answer, but I don’t think we can easily change how our society is organized because it’s pretty entrenched but also that there are significant initiatives afoot that are trying to shift it anyhow. I see Donald Trump as the champion of the old hierarchical system and I think most of his supporters are attracted to him for that reason; they want to keep it too. And, if most of the partnership-oriented initiatives are happening in the business world, that has real potential to change the social landscape as well, because money talks.
How does this track for you? Looking forward to hearing what you think.