John G Bell
Reflective Practicum 1
Spring '04 - Hormann

Weekly – What Roles Do You Play?

In Chapter 10 of her book, Truth or Dare, Starhawk discusses groups, including their purposes, stages in their growth, and leadership roles. She identifies five roles for individuals in groups (crows, graces, snakes, dragons and spiders). When you are in a group, which role(s) do you tend to play?

In the Williams Issacs article, he speaks of a dialogical leader being one that balances the four possible “moves” by taking each strategy as necessary within the dynamics of a group. This is a dynamic equilibrium of the four strategies introduced from Kaplan. Issacs also speaks to the way in which these styles are related to the ideas of inquiry and advocacy.

In Starhawk's model, Kaplan's four strategies and Issacs' fifth, balancing strategy are represented. Kaplan's four styles correspond to Starhawk's model in this way: bystand is north, move is east, opposer is south, follow is west. Issacs' fifth strategy of balance or dialogical leadership is in the center, although he doesn't place it there. These also correspond to the tools mentioned in a previous quote from Wilson, with the addition of the fifth tool I mentioned.

When Issacs talks about dialogical leadership being the balance in Kantor's four-player model, he conflates the notion of balance with the notion of dynamic equilibrium. The center position does not necessarily take on the other roles as necessary, but holds on to a strategy that the roles must be balanced. This may be a subtle distinction. In one, the role of the dialogical leader is to take on other roles which includes a center role of balance, which creates a necessary imbalance, which is a distinctly different strategy than maintaining a balance between the other strategies. When imbalance is necessary, extreme strategies might be taken to un-stick the existing state of the group and this is different than a strictly balancing strategy.

I would suggest that if a group has achieved a stable state that does not include an apparent element of, say, the opposer South; then the whole must be exhibiting South-ness, opposer-ness. If they do not do this, then they have not created a stable relationship within the group.

So, there can be either stable or unstable relationships between these strategies. The actors that embody these strategies within a group or organization may also be willing, unwilling, able or unable. They may be willing to work toward dynamic balance. They may be able to work toward dynamic balance. The actors in the group may also be unwilling, unable or both. Those that are unable may be able to learn, become able. The unable may be inadvertently damaging to the group, but not usually with malice. Those that are unwilling, however, are likely to be overtly or covertly hostile.

Each of these positions may also be taken too seriously or not seriously enough. For example, in the Reclaiming tradition, there is the notion of a gilded pentacle, a rust pentacle and an iron pentacle. These pentacles represent a relationship between each of these strategies. The five strategies are points on the pentacle, or star. The gilded and rust pentacles represent extremes of the iron pentacle. This implies that each position or strategy has a relationship with itself as well as with the others. Each strategy maintains its balance, and participates in balance with the others. The best kind of balance in all cases is dynamic, not static.

I see myself in this not at a particular spot, but on a journey. I speak of the Safari as a quest for the Elephant. The map I developed of these relationships is what I call the Safari. The project of loving the enemy is one of crossing the threshold from my community, the West, of Giraffes toward the opposite, the East, a pack of Dog like Others, the Jackals and Hyenas. The Jackals are the willing, but still dangerous actors in the East. The Hyenas are the unwilling, and very dangerous Other that will be covertly or overtly hostile. How can I cross the threshold toward that Other when there is so much danger and when it is so difficult to tell the difference between the kinds of Dog-like Other?

This is the Journey. I must travel through all the elements, maintaining a dynamic balance between them and within them or I will fail. Setting forth from the west, I take the gift of society and law, but I must leave because I cannot let myself withdraw from the project. I must travel to the North for the gift of wisdom, but I cannot let order rule the day. So, I must travel to the South for the gift of passion, but I cannot take creativity go so far that I am left with nothing solid. With these two as either companions or new elements of my Self, I can now meet the East for the gift of power. However, even still I cannot stop. I must not let intellect rule in the end. I must recognize that there is a fifth element, that of balance, the Center. When I can maintain each of these strategies with its reflection, a balance and imbalance of each, I have the chance to bring these gifts to the world. I can become like the goddess Inanna bringing the Me (pronounced: may), the gifts of civilization, to the people. My liberation is tied to the liberation of each and the whole.

I am in the west, seeking the light. It's a long journey ahead of me. I try to put myself, like Issacs' dialogical leader, in the roles that are necessary. I wear whichever of DeBono's six thinking hats is not present within the group. I tend to gravitate toward leadership or creativity. In Starhawk's model, I would tend toward the North or South, These are roles, however, and I will tend to stay in the West until I know what role is necessary or appropriate. I wish I were more in the Center, or I should say that I reside dynamically in the center, instead of starting from the West.

When entering a new group, like my MBTI story about my first words, I observe. I want to get a feel for the beat of the group, to see where the other players are on the board and what people do that reflects understandards as well as standards. When I see a space, I'll move into it, if I'm ready. I tend to most quickly move into either a vacant leadership position or a vacant position of monkey-wrenching, of creativity and joking. I do keep an eye on the group as a whole, and those way those connections are made. I also keep an eye on individuals and seek out those that need more support out of band. I suppose that's the role, in Starhawk's words, of the spider.