The use of power in leadership – challenging the status quo

27.1 Introduction

This chapter explores Shotton’s (2016) model of OKness in which he diagrams how the dynamic of the powerful and the powerless can be inadvertently maintained. Awareness of this for team leaders can powerfully shift their style of leadership to become empowering and enabling rather than leading in a style that merely reinforces hegemony. This radical awareness is crucial in the twenty-first century as we strive for equality and equal opportunities for previously oppressed groups of people. Awareness of this dynamic is modelled in the coach-coachee relationship as well as explicitly shared with teams as a framework of understanding power.

A new take on I’m OK, You’re OK

Chapter 2 describes the foundational Transactional Analysis model of OKness. Shotton’s innovative change in the spatial arrangements of the four quadrants (see Figure 27.1) adds a powerful dimension to using this model as a tool for awareness of unconscious hegemony, and once this dynamic can be seen, options for change can emerge. It can become a creative tool for use in team coaching.

Shotton labels the axes I count /I don’t count and You count/ You don’t count. This creates the four quadrants as before (I+U+, I+U-, I-U+ and I—U—) but with an interesting visual difference.

Life Positions map. Adapted from Shotton (2016)

Figure 27.1 Life Positions map. Adapted from Shotton (2016)

The horizontal line between 1+U- and I-U+ depicts the status quo between the powerful and the powerless. He describes these positions as the ‘ruling class’ and the ‘underclass’. This is how leadership works in many groups. Although they might be appalled to consider it in the terms Shotton uses, the reality is that the system is supported by an implicit or explicit threat of force and use of power to maintain the status quo.

The exclusive ruling class sets the standards, imposes rules and regulations, and inspects and regulates the underclass and keeps them compliant and conforming. The aim is to reinforce their dominance. This perpetuates the underclass who are powerless, waiting to be included and expected to show gratitude.

The closed triangle of the 1-U- position is in sharp contrast to the open-ended I+U+ position. The 1-U- is sealed off and represents stuckness and the lack of options and growth.

When there is a respectful and an inviting way of holding authority, from the I+U+ position, there will be buy-in, energy and commitment. Leadership from this position where people find their voice is open and expansive.

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