The New Johari Window #16. Quadrant One, External Locus of Control and the Movement  Between an External and Internal Locus

The New Johari Window #16. Quadrant One, External Locus of Control and the Movement Between an External and Internal Locus

Conformity and Authoritarianism

A little further back in time, we find the push toward conformity and collective identity as portrayed by many social critics. Many social critics during the 1950s and 1960s observed the emerging corporate conformity in Western society (particularly the United States). Critics such as William Whyte, David Reisman and Erik Fromm wrote about a retreat (or escape) from freedom and individual responsibility to a faceless diffusion of identity and purpose. Other social critics during the 1950s and 1960s such as Hannah Arendt, Theodore Adorno, Nevitt Sanford and their colleagues, and social activists and psychotherapists, such as Eric Hoeffer and Rollo May wrote about the dynamics of right-wing thought, stereotyping, and indiscriminate dependency.

Bringing these several analyses together (not hard, since some analysts such as Erich Fromm and Rollo May wrote about both organizational conformity and authoritarianism) and linking them to locus of control and Quad One, we find that there is a strong pull (what chaos theorists might describe as a “strange attractor”) toward the security of authoritative doctrine and simple beliefs. As I previously noted, Robert Kegan suggests that we are cognitively (and emotionally) “over our heads” in contemporary life, and seek out simpler forms. Perhaps the nostalgic retreat in our postmodern society is not just a return to earlier life styles and values, but also an escape to simpler concepts and a world without dilemmas or paradox—a world of readily defined and solved puzzles, rather than multi-discipline problems and awe-filled mysteries.

One obvious form that promises less stress and complexity is a fundamental assumption that our life is under the control of some external agency—be it God, Fate, leaders of an organization or charismatic messiah. I might be “over my head” in cognitive and emotional complexity, but the omniscient external agency fully understands what is happening. I might feel powerless, but the external agency is omnipotent. I shall be safe and secure!


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About the Author

William BergquistWilliam Bergquist, Ph.D. An international coach and consultant in the fields of psychology, management and public administration, author of more than 50 books, and president of a psychology institute. Dr. Bergquist consults on and writes about personal, group, organizational and societal transitions and transformations. His published work ranges from the personal transitions of men and women in their 50s and the struggles of men and women in recovering from strokes to the experiences of freedom among the men and women of Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Bergquist has focused on the processes of organizational coaching. He is coauthor with Agnes Mura of coachbook, co-founder of the International Journal of Coaching in Organizations and co-founder of the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations.

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