In Hawaiian legend, the Big Kahuna is the boss. But not the kind you probably have at work. In many high consciousness cultures, a Big Kahuna sits at the bottom of an inverted pyramid. They aren’t self-important leaders riding the top of dog-eat-dog corporate ladders…. they hold space for their people and assume spiritual responsibility for the growth of the community as a whole.
Do you know the difference between a Growth Hierarchy and a Dominance Hierarchy? There are many types of collective structure which design the flow and evolution of power, but it’s worth knowing the difference between these two, especially when navigating the quickly moving landscapes of today’s materially minded, yet spiritually oriented population.
All organizations, institutions, and families have elements of dominance hierarchies. The fundamental nature of this type of control structure is order through exclusion.
One person’s or group’s beliefs, values, and principles are used to categorize and direct consciousness and culture. It’s a linear system which asks individuals to align with a system’s elite strategy. Enforcement can be conscious, unconscious, or a mix. The greater one’s attunement and allegiance to the “right” values, the more resources one is eligible to receive (power, respect, love, education, etc.).
It is interesting to consider that even enlightened values ultimately become harmful if they enforced with dominance characteristics. Also, one particular difficulty in trying to modify or evolve these structures is that, once they establish themselves in the psyche, they influence the very thinking and decision-making abilities one might use to expand. In this regard dominance reasoning is particularly insidious.
It doesn’t really matter what dominates: it can be a brutal belief in “survival of the fittest” or a noble spiritual philosophy. Individuals in such systems are reduced to a benchmark value, a sociological marker for how well they compare to the ideal. Often this happens unconsciously and results as anxiety, isolation, and a harmful self-criticism.
Dominance hierarchies are valuable systems that help people organize, get things done, and create strength in numbers.
One thing they definitely are not interested in is free will: encouraging individuals to think, feel, dream, act, grow, and make decisions for themselves. A dominance model will always tell people the right way to walk and talk. They aren’t interested (and, perhaps more accurately, don’t know how) in supporting individuals to create meaning for themselves.
In any case, we might all agree that it’s hard today for people to find the space, energy, and clarity to harness the incredible power of their own free will. It’s much easier to adopt the opinions, values, hopes, dreams, and fears of other. It’s much harder to take the time to decide what it is, deep inside, what we truly desire and what we truly fear.
Of course one reason for this is that everyone around us is always telling us what to do! What to think! What to believe! Our very civilizations are structured in accordance with dominance hierarchy thinking. Whole generations are encourage to squabble over prescribed opinions, rather than dive deep into the process, the journey, the evolutionary rhythm of creating meaning for oneself.
Even in a very enlightened dominance hierarchy, the emphasis will eventually be placed on the bending of an individual’s will toward the highest achievement of the organization. In this way too one’s very ability to imagine beyond horizons is retarded. In non-enlightened dominance hierarchies, free-will may in fact be obliterated!
But let’s take a break from all that, both because its decidedly unpleasant and because you’re probably quite familiar with the dealings of dominance-minded political, corporate, educational, and family models… let’s look instead at what a growth hierarchy might be.
The fundamental nature of the growth hierarchy is order through intelligent inclusion: the evolution of free will for the individual is paramount within the structure and operation of a group or organization. The organization may at times proceed or struggle, yet the individual will always be supported, empowered, and educated.
Intelligent inclusion leads to free thinking, and vice-versa. The process of constantly keeping our perspective fresh, flowing, informed and authentic–within the limits of a shared organization–is difficult. Yet free will, the fruit of personal evolution, becomes a trustworthy, essential building block which facilitates progressive, shared realities. In this way cultivation of the individual weaves together a cultivation of collective thinking, feeling, dreaming, acting…
The vehicle which steers the growth hierarchy is free will, and this precious element is one that must be home-grown and cannot be forced.
It may not seem efficient or practical at first (and, if we’re being honest, there’s a significant learning curve where industry is concerned), but conducting a community, business, or group in this way generates a unique and powerful center. This magnet spine contains within it a current of flowing energy, looping back and forth between collective education and individualized decision making. A strong magnetic generator, fueling innovation while also manifesting new environmental potential, becomes more efficient than the traditional production-eccentric model.
How best to give individuals the space, training, and support needed to learn and choose for themselves? What if you invest resources, time, energy, care into a person or a group, only to empower them right into the hands of a competing organization or relationship? The growth-mindset sees no loss in such cases. It’s game plays to a much longer, more sustainable, global rhythm and reason.
Admittedly, short-term, this can feel confusing, especially when weaning off dominance-based reasoning and decision making. In fact it can feel like allowing, even enabling confusion and error in the lives of those we are responsible for.
Will we have the patience, caution, and vision to see the growth-hierarchy through? It is interesting to consider, especially where leadership is concerned, that role models in growth-minded fields need a well developed IQ and EQ. A gifted EQ within the dominance model may be a plus, but it ultimately only requires active intellect to steady its course.
This might be why dominance-designed alternatives, perhaps more effective when trying to “get stuff done” in the moment, have serious long-term consequences. Forcing someone to grow, evolve, or simply learn on terms that aren’t their own results inevitably in pain, anger, fear, stagnation, conflict, crises, and backward movement.
Dominance models force themselves to grow unsustainable traditions, out of control cultures, divorcing emotional mastery from the equation. Whether a family, a school, or a major industry–from the start its progress is doomed to advance unilaterally until its inevitable collapse.
Letting people learn for themselves is a difficult outcome to aim for. Surely there is a fine balance between keeping individuals in-tune with larger organization momentum and sensitively cultivating their innate gifts, abilities, maturity, and potential.
Yet growth systems themselves are not difficult, especially when considering how much work it takes to dominate an individual or group–and to clean up the mess along the way. Perhaps the real difficulty is in adjusting our worldview, our daily thinking, and what we truly see when we look into the personal lives of those we lead, educate, and care for.
This is why growth hierarchies are easier, at least for sentient lifeforms and not robots or automatons. They reflect our own spiritual nature and more closely resemble the frequencies of ecosystems in equilibrium. Participating in a growth-hierarchy should feel fresh, balancing, and calming to our biological systems. Out-of-tune systems might feel overly stimulating, overly comfortable, anxiety producing, or sickening: all feelings that traditional hierarchies must inevitably produce.
So, if our organization’s long-term, sustainable success depends on its effectiveness at supporting individual personal growth, how might we be proactive and better change ourselves to role-model citizenship in such enlightened atmosphere?
Wherever we may be along the upward spiral of our own evolutionary journey, we must be willing to meet ourselves where we’re at, not where we (or our organization and its values) may wish us to be.
Growth Hierarchy Directives
- Get better at growing, know where you’re growing to, and create a rhythm which transcends and includes present understanding
- Feed the realities of others by valuing intrinsic meaning-making; whether other’s ideology or way of life is “ahead” or “behind” of your own is irrelevant
- Cultivate skillful ways to guide both parts and wholes, and the synergy between: intention and invitation become dynamic tools to weave together collective expansion and individual will
(In the classic book, Spiral Dynamics by Christopher C. Cowan and Don Edward, this might be called being a Turquoise Wizard, which is pretty rad.)
Dominance models enforce, dictate, silo. Growth models soften, open, energize. Dominance commands with sharp notes. Growth inquires with steady rhythm. Sometimes a combination of both is needed, but certainly the most effective, cutting-edge businesses, organizations, families and communities of the future will favor models more harmonized to the pace of life itself.
Do you practice growth or dominance?
Here are 6 questions for reflection, which should hint at how proactively you are utilizing evolution as a resource, and/or unconsciously excluding the realities of others.
- Are you really good at helping people do the right thing? Or do you prefer to listen, understand, and harvest authenticity?
- What is your favorite way to use conflict to create connection? In what ways can personal and collective development be evoked through constructive inquiry?
- When’s the last time you had a really big personal breakthrough? What skills or abilities do you use to share your quantum leaps and new paradigms with others–without disrupting free will?
- How are others, who’s beliefs are less evolved, less intelligent, more rigid, or fear-based, valuable assets for your own personal evolution? What goals do you set for yourself than can only be achieved by the raising of the collective whole?
- How do you celebrate growth individually? Collectively? Ritually?
- How important is free will to your own evolution? How “free” is your perception and sensation? What have you created lately that was born from a truly unlimited worldview?
In a growth hierarchy, there’s actually a lot less to do and a lot more to be. Of course, there’s more just being with each other and having fun too. Creating a rich, sensitized, highly networked space that encourages reflection and inquiry-based learning is helpful. In the end, taking personal growth seriously, playfully, and methodically is the safest way to ensure whole-system-improvement.
Anxiety, stress, numbness, isolation are inevitable byproducts of dominance hierarchies. This can happen across entire societies, at the family dinner table, or in our heads each night when we sleep.
Fortunately, the antidote is relatively simple: get growing again. Plants, animals, and children do it easily enough. Mind you don’t go out and try to “learn something”. Simply getting curious, even about little things, will suffice.
It is only when we subscribe to societies and production formulas that divorce individualized learning from collective progress that, quite strangely, growth becomes foreign to our nature.
Perhaps this is why growth hierarchy, nature not production based, might be called a spontaneous event, a natural externalizing of our own decision to live in harmony with evolution’s authentic journey. It is likely that wherever there is meaningful discourse, honest debate, and a catalytic exchange of language, culture, and ideas…. a growth hierarchy emerges.
So please, if you really want to help, pull back on the doing and invest a little more time and love into simply being bigger: ask fantastic questions, make sure your dreaming sees the light of day, and learn to listen profoundly to the story of life emerging through your choices, decisions, and commitments.