Do you trust people to want and choose to be caring, and accountable without coercion? Do you make it your mission to develop their initiative or to control them instead? Consider today’s research quoted in an article entitled The Rise of American Authoritarianism written by Amanda Taub, describing why we are seeing an increase in popularity for candidates like Donald Trump. My article is not about Donald Trump or politics; it’s about authoritarianism and my experiences with it in client sites, especially its negative impacts.

Authoritarianism — not actual dictators, but rather a psychological profile of individual voters that is characterized by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders. People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.

Authoritarians are thought to express much deeper fears than the rest of the electorate, to seek the imposition of order where they perceive dangerous change, and to desire a strong leader who will defeat those fears with force. They would thus seek a candidate who promised these things. And the extreme nature of authoritarians’ fears, and of their desire to challenge threats with force, would lead them toward a candidate whose temperament was totally unlike anything we usually see in American politics — and whose policies went far beyond the acceptable norms.

Authentic power is the real deal. You can’t inherit it, buy it, or win it. You also can’t lose it. You don’t need to build your body, reputation, wealth or charisma to get it.

– Gary Zukav

In my work, I see a polarization of ideologies when working with various leaders. Some are eager to find an alternative to authoritarianism and others cling to it with a death grip. At LifeWork Systems, we provide an approach that sets aside authoritarianism in favor of a mentoring model that promotes the fostering and guiding of personal power in adults and children as early and fully as possible. Leaders are asked to hold a positive view of those they lead and develop their initiative because of a belief that people are and want to be great. To some, this approach evokes fear, resistance and hostility because it challenges long-held fearful beliefs about the nature of people, and the idea that they need to be managed using control-driven methods. We show them the high price paid for the authoritarianism approach, the negative effects, and a viable alternative.

In the article referenced above, researchers from Amerherst and Vanderbilt shared findings and predications back in 2009 that a presidential candidate like Trump would surface at this time. What I found particularly significant is that in order to identify authoritarianism they asked four parenting questions. Consider them to see if you are prone to an authoritarianism bent, where developing compliance in people is a higher priority than encouraging commitments from internal motivation. The questions include: Which are more important for a child to have –

  1. Respect for elders or independence?
  2. Obedience or self-reliance?
  3. To be well behaved or to be considerate?
  4. Good manners or curiosity?

Your answers to these questions help you recognize your preferred psychological paradigm, including your beliefs about how life works and how you will lead others. If you chose the first option in each question, you likely favor authoritarianism and will use external motivation (fear, incentives, judgment) vs. development of internal motivation (purpose, values and emotional and social intelligence.) We call the latter a responsibility-based approach and it is the only one of these approaches that leads to consistent accountability, integrity and care for others even when no one is there to over-see behavior.

Why does this matter? Putting down control systems and choosing to adopt systems designed to develop leadership in others enables the very collaboration and problem solving needed in our world. In a responsibility-based culture, everyone is positioned to build courage and create conditions where every adult and child feels empowered, lovable, connected and contributing. It is my joy to help leaders master development of personal responsibility in others so that each can effectively manage their relationships, work ethic and passion for life. When they do, commitment to trustworthiness, and proactive, caring behaviors becomes the norm. These leaders develop other leaders who strive to make all their interactions conscious and loving, and it’s evident in words and deeds.

If you want to promote authentic power in your workplace, home or school, call me at 314.239.4727 or write me at judy@lifeworksystems.com. Together, we can fulfill my purpose to create a world where people love their lives!

Why People Hire LifeWork Systems

Business owners, community leaders, and educators hire Judy Ryan and Lifework Systems because they want the advantages of an extraordinary workplace. For a limited time, Judy’s book, What’s the Deal with Workplace Culture Change? is available FREE at www.GetMyCultureBook.com

This article is published in the St. Louis Small Business Monthly, April 2016