Posted on by Cindy Atlee
SPOILER ALERT: I’m about to reveal that the Harry Potter books and movies probably really tricked you—even if you never read or saw them. (Also, I’ll be giving away the ending to the entire series at the end of paragraph four!).
Everyone knows that Harry Potter was a magician, right? He had a wand, after all, and learned how to use all kinds of spells, and could summon fantastic creatures to help him, and demonstrated the magical powers he had time and time again. He transformed the world he lived in through enchantment and sorcery and conjuring, didn’t he?
Well, yes. But Harry Potter wasn’t a magician at his core. To truly be something, you have to be motivated by the role, by the quest and by the outcome of its inevitable story arc. Magicians want to enable transformative change or heal others or see a big vision realized.
Harry Potter didn’t particularly want those things. What he wanted was a family, a community, a place where he belonged and others did, too. He was exceptionally skilled at bringing people together in tough times and overcoming oppressive forces. He empathized with the people around him and desperately wanted things to work out for them, too. The last three words of the Harry Potter book series summed up exactly what Harry longed for and ultimately enabled through courage and magic that was motivated by his Everyperson self: All was well.
Leaders, coaches, consultants and professionals who want to make a real difference need to understand the critical difference between what someone can do and what actually motivates them to participate in a meaningful way. Harry had magical powers, but they weren’t at the heart of his best self. They were tools he used to be who he really was. If he’d been in a career development program, the best path for him would have been moving towards the most empowering levels of the Everyperson story (and to become aware of the disempowering side of that very same storyline, where he’d be most likely to falter).
Getting conscious about your impact on others
This is my third blog post on the empowering and disempowering faces of the most universally recognized story types in contemporary culture. I’ve been writing a separate post on each of the organizing quadrants included in Dr. Carol S. Pearson’s archetype system (which groups the 12 story-based types into quadrants that represent the most important tasks we have to accomplish in our professional settings).
We’ve reached a tricky spot in the series, because we’re moving out of the well-worn organizational terrain of making things work and producing results (the first two quadrants) into the definitively more fragile human ground of relating to others and developing a sense of belonging. I’ve seen this quadrant get very short shrift in a lot of organizational settings, and its importance likely gets under-estimated a good bit in American culture as a whole. After all, we tend to prize rugged individualism and often de-value anything that looks too much like dependence.
So, here’s the thing: organizational leaders ignore the relating quadrant at their peril. It may not shape American culture as much as the other quadrants–but it’s the most foundational of all human needs and has a huge impact on organizational culture. Relating is where commitment is most frequently born (and needs to be cultivated). It’s such a strong motivator for many people that it actually enables their capacity to produce results (think Harry Potter here, big time). And people who are operating at a disempowering level of a story in the relating quadrant can wreak absolute havoc in their interactions with others. So let’s take a look at what can happen at the empowering and disempowering levels of relating-oriented story types.
Lovers can make the most enthusiastic and passionate commitments, build the strongest connections across people and groups, and help everyone see what’s truly special about them. They can also play favorites, use their charm to wheedle favors and actively exclude people who aren’t part of their cliques.
Jesters can lighten up situations with their wit, help other people hear otherwise uncomfortable truths and model ways to reduce stress and increase presence. They can also goof off, use their wits to manipulate and actually trick or con others to get their own way.
Everypersons like Harry Potter can form deep and abiding loyalty to others, shape and build strong groups or communities, and ultimately stand very tall for human rights. They can also fall into complaining and blaming imagined “oppressors” and see the world in bleak enough terms that everything starts looking like a catastrophe. Harry Potter did that every now and then.
Getting back to your empowering ground
So the first step in claiming the most empowering ground in the relating quadrant (or to help someone else do that) is acknowledging the power and value of its story types. If this is where your core motivation lies, understand and own it. Consider the following questions:
- What important professional contributions do I make because I’m like the relating-oriented type that resonates most for me?
- What kind of environment do I need to flourish, and how can I help shape that for myself?
- What kind of situations trigger me and set off a disempowering downturn?
- How can I shift my energy back into a more empowering place when that happens?
- Who have I been under-estimating because they’re very much like one of these types, and what should I do differently about that?
And remember to use your magic wand in service of something that really matters to you.