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Two Leadership Failure Patterns: Paternalism and Exploitation

In this episode Tim and Junior introduce the two leadership failure patterns found in The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™ model - paternalism and exploitation. This is a very practical episode for managers and leaders but applies to anyone working with other humans.

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Episode Show Notes

In this episode Tim and Junior introduce the two leadership failure patterns found in The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety™ model - paternalism and exploitation. This is a very practical episode for managers and leaders but applies to anyone working with other humans. Progressing through The 4 Stages of Psychological safety requires balancing a combination of respect and permission while avoiding these two failure patterns.

(03:11) Where did The 4 Stages of Psychological safety come from? While studying psychological safety Dr. Clark worked to identify how psychological safety is developed. During the research a pattern emerged, a sequence through four successive stages. Psychological safety isn't something you have or don't have. Every organization has a level of psychological safety it's a matter of degree.

(10:16) The failure pattern of exploitation. Exploitation is the combination of low respect and high permission. Simply put exploitation is " treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work." All organizations are exploitative to some degree. "Think about, not, do we have exploitation in our organization, but to what degree and in what forms do we have exploitation?"

(21:15) The failure pattern of paternalism. Paternalism is the combination of high respect and low permission. "I care about you, I value you, but please sit in the corner and don't touch anything." Paternalistic leaders are micromanagers and yet they're well-intentioned. If you want to overcome paternalism you need to learn how to transfer accountability and the critical thinking.

(36:53) These patterns exist on a spectrum. In some cases there are blatant acts of exploitation as well as intentional acts of paternalism. Our intentions and motivations matter. "We need to have some time for reflection, and we need to think about the way that we're interacting, and it goes back to what we said before, let's examine our motives and our intent, is it clean, is it pure?"

Important Links:
The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety - Book
What is Psychological Safety - Introducing The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety
The Complete Guide to Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety Podcast Series
Stage One: Inclusion Safety
Stage Two: Learner Safety
Stage Three: Contributor Safety
Stage Four: Challenger Safety
Overview: What is Psychological Safety
Bonus: What Psychological Safety is Not

Episode Transcript


0:00:00.0 Producer: Welcome back, Culture by Design listeners. It's Freddy, one of the producers of the podcast, and today is part two in our three-part mini-series on leadership. Today's episode is on paternalism and exploitation, which are the two failure patterns that you'll find in The Four Stages of Psychological Safety model. Today, Tim and Junior will get to add some color to paternalism and exploitation, which is a question we get often about the Four Stages model. If you are new to the podcast or new to the Four Stages, you may check out the book, The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety, or our podcast series on The Four Stages of Psychological Safety, that we'll include in this episode show notes. But if you wanna take it a step further and start measuring psychological safety on your team, then reach out to us at Thanks again for listening. Thank you for your reviews. Enjoy today's episode on the two failure patterns, paternalism and exploitation.


0:01:08.0 Junior: Welcome back everyone to Culture by Design. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark, and today, we'll be discussing the failure patterns inside the four stages of psychological safety, paternalism and exploitation. Tim, how are you? 

0:01:21.0 Tim: Doing great. Really looking forward to this discussion. This is going to be, I think, something that is very practical for anyone who is managing other humans.

0:01:32.3 Junior: Or who knows another human.

0:01:33.7 Tim: Well, that's true, you don't even need to be managing them. You just need to be interacting with them, so I guess that includes all of us.

0:01:39.8 Junior: Yeah. So how about this, if you are a human, today's episode will be relevant.

0:01:44.2 Tim: It's for you.

0:01:45.1 Junior: It's for you.

0:01:45.8 Tim: That's right.

0:01:46.6 Junior: So we hit a milestone that I wanna call out just this last week, which is listeners in over 100 countries. That's pretty remarkable, if you think about where we started with the podcast and where we are today. So a big thank you to all of you who tune in regularly to share, to listen and to interact with us on the podcast. We really appreciate you and your listenership. So Tim, I wanted to start off today with a quote from Robert Heinlein, who's a sci-fi writer, and here's what he says, "No matter where or what, there are makers, takers, and fakers."

0:02:20.8 Tim: Incredibly insightful quote. It really is. It's so true to life.

0:02:25.7 Junior: It is, and we're gonna be talking about those three categories today. I think it's an appropriate umbrella for today's discussion. So if you're familiar with the Four Stages model, you may recall that there are two areas on the model that we wanna stay away from. We call them the failure patterns, and they include paternalism on one side, and exploitation on the other. But in order to understand them, it's important that we first understand the basics of the Four Stages model. So for those listening who haven't seen the model, or if you have, we'll link a copy of the model in the show notes so you can follow along as we describe it. So Tim, in 30 seconds, can you describe the origin story of the Four Stages? I feel like that's an appropriate place to start. Where does this come from? 

0:03:11.5 Tim: Well, it comes from an anthropological study that I did over a period of years with many organizations trying to answer this question, if psychological safety is so important, if it's the enabler for so many positive outcomes and for human flourishing itself, how does it develop? It can't be arbitrary. There's got to be some pattern to it, and so that was the question that drove my research, and out of that came the identification of this pattern, this sequence through four successive stages of psychological safety, basically where it came from, Junior.

0:03:51.7 Junior: So you also saw it... Very quickly, you saw that it wasn't binary, right? There was more to it than its presence or its absence.

0:04:00.8 Tim: Oh, sure, it was a matter of degree. Yeah, you don't have it or not have it. It's a matter of degree. And by the way, every social collective, every organization has a level of psychological safety, and it's not permanent, it's perishable, it's delicate, it's dynamic, it changes, and it exists at the level of a micro-culture. It could be, so think about it, it exists in your home, it exists at school, it exists at work, it exists at the restaurant, it exists at the gym. Everywhere you go, there's a micro-culture, and that micro culture can be characterized with a certain level of psychological safety.

0:04:41.2 Junior: And we found that it develops based on or it's a function of two variables. So these are the axis to the model. So if you're looking at the model, on the one axis, you'll see respect. Do I respect you and value you as a human being? And on the other axis, permission. Do I give you an appropriate level of autonomy and allow you to contribute and create value? And as Tim said, psychological safety develops across four stages that mirror the sequence of natural human needs. So in an environment, as respect and permission increase together, you'll move, kind of diagonally if you're looking at the model, through these four stages. So as respect and permission increase, we move through the four stages. First stage is stage one, inclusion safety. Do I belong? Am I included? And there are social exchanges that go along with each of the stages. The first is inclusion in exchange for human status in the absence of harm. Now, I want you to think about that because it's easy to gloss over. If you're human and you're not presenting me with harm, then I'm obligated to include you, and I use the word obligated very intentionally. This stage one, inclusion safety, is something that every human is owed. This is not a stage that we earn.

0:06:04.1 Tim: That's a strong word, Junior, owed.

0:06:05.7 Junior: It is.

0:06:07.0 Tim: So entitled? 

0:06:07.9 Junior: Entitled. That's not a word that we use very often. It's not a word that I use very often. We use it sparingly and intentionally, but we're using it sparingly and intentionally here. This is where it all starts. This is arguably the most important stage. It's the foundation. If this doesn't exist, it's going to be very difficult to sustain the other stages of psychological safety. This is what anchors us. It's what we build on. And inside stage one, I wanna take a detour for a second. It's not really a detour. It's more of a deeper dive into the fact that humans have inalienable rights, and these inalienable rights are universal. They are non-transferable. Often, we just gloss over this when we're talking about stage one, and we immediately go through the stages, but I wanna spend some time here. These inalienable rights are pre-political in the sense that they're not created by people, they're not created by society. They set the standard for politics. So that's what I mean when I say that they are pre-political. They're not born of politics. They owe their existence not to authority or tradition or culture, but two basic, fundamental innate features of our humanity. They're not founded on custom, they're not founded on law, they're not founded on preference.

0:07:33.8 Tim: Or the regime under which you live or anything like that.

0:07:37.8 Junior: No, and they don't vary place to place. These are innate to every human regardless of when or where or how you lived.

0:07:47.6 Tim: And they're portable, Junior. You take them with you.

0:07:50.6 Junior: That's right. We never lose these rights because they're essential to our dignity, our capacity for freedom, and those things that are woven into our human nature. So that being said, we mentioned that they're portable, they're inherent, that doesn't mean that they can't be violated, and that's where we're gonna spend some time today. I want all the listeners to think about these failure patterns in the context of Stage One being an obligation, being an entitlement. If we don't get this far, if we don't recognize those inalienable rights, if we don't recognize them as part of our shared humanity, we're in trouble, and no other part of this conversation even matters. So we need to start there and get on the same page. It's worth asking the question. This may seem obvious, but do we believe this? Do you believe this? Do you believe that humans, that all humans have rights that are inseparable from their humanity and that are not part of when or where or how they live, or based on some custom or law or preference? What do you think about that, Tim? 

0:09:03.9 Tim: No, I think that's exactly right. So that's why it makes sense to stop and take some time to think about Stage One, inclusion safety a little deeper. By the way, what Stage One implies is that there is a sequence, and the answer to that is, yes, there is. That is what the Four Stages framework is all about, is the sequence in which humans seek to satisfy their basic human needs, and if you look at the sequence, they want to be included and accepted and belong before they want to satisfy their needs.

0:09:40.0 Junior: Precisely. So we move on from Stage One, inclusion safety, to Stage Two, learner safety. Can I grow? I'm not gonna go through the social exchanges, but you can look at them later. Stage Three, contributor safety. Can I create value? And Stage four, challenger safety. Can I challenge the status quo? Can I be candid about change? So if you wanna learn more about those four stages in detail, we did a five-part series that you can go and listen to. We'll link in the show notes. So the crux of the issue here is that we have these two axes and they're respect and permission, and different combinations of those two variables create different environments.

0:10:16.1 Junior: So let's consider for a second the possible combinations, and this is simplistic because it's always on a spectrum, but we have low-low, low respect, low permission, that's exclusion. We have high respect, high permission, that's high psychological safety, Stage Four, and we're not gonna talk about those two. We're gonna spend some time on these next two. Here's a combination for you, low respect, high permission. This is failure pattern number one. I don't care about you, but I care about what you can do for me, and this is exploitation. So what is exploitation? It's treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work. It's making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage for oneself. Bill Watterson, the cartoonist, said something I really like, he said, "If people could put rainbows in zoos, they'd do it."

0:11:04.5 Tim: Why, Junior? Why? Why would people want to go grab a rainbow, and then put it in a zoo? 

0:11:14.3 Junior: Because rainbows are beautiful and zoos make money. How about that? 

0:11:18.8 Tim: Okay.

0:11:20.1 Junior: Anything that we can corral, anything that we can domesticate, anything that we can monetize.

0:11:30.0 Tim: Cage the rainbow.

0:11:31.8 Junior: Cage the rainbow. That's right. At least that's the pattern of humans and why the quote is striking, because there's element of truth to it. We tend to cage things. We tend to monetize things, and history is rife with examples of exploitation, more than examples. That's the story of humans. From the beginning of time, we have subjugated each other. Why do we do that? Greed, financial gain, we're making revenue from the zoo tickets, power, abusive relationships, political oppression, sometimes it's ignorance. Not often, but sometimes it is.

0:12:09.4 Tim: Sometimes it is. Sometimes it's a lack of skill or ability. I'd say not as often, but that can be the case sometimes.

0:12:18.3 Junior: That can be. You have to allow for that possibility. You have cultural norms. Sometimes, in society, certain forms of exploitation may be considered acceptable, maybe they're even encouraged. It doesn't take a lot of engine power to go through history and find examples of that.

0:12:35.8 Tim: Junior, let me give an example that I think is really interesting. I am continually astonished at how when new people come into an organization, they will pretty quickly and often without questioning, they will adopt and then perpetuate the prevailing norms in that organization, even when those norms are exploitative. Let me give you an example. I was once in an organization doing some work and it was a put-down culture, that was the norm, that you would put each other down. And it was seen as funny. It was apparently done in humor, but actually it was not good humor. It was hurtful, it was destructive, it was a form of exploitation. But this put-down culture had been perpetuated over years, and what was astonishing to me is how new members of the organization would come in and in a very short amount of time, adopt and then perpetuate the norm of putting down their colleagues. Isn't that interesting? 

0:13:50.8 Junior: Yeah.

0:13:51.1 Tim: And so I think we have to realize that humans have a real tendency through, I guess it's social pressure to adopt and perpetuate the norms that they inherent, even if those norms are abusive or oppressive, but they still do it. It happens all of the time, especially with norms that are not flagrantly or overtly destructive, but are a little bit more subtle and mild.

0:14:18.6 Junior: It's also interesting to acknowledge though, the ones that are overt and flagrant can still be normalized...

0:14:24.0 Tim: That's true.

0:14:25.2 Junior: Through the same fashion.

0:14:25.8 Tim: That's true.

0:14:26.1 Junior: And so some of them are more pernicious than just put-down culture.

0:14:30.8 Tim: Yes.

0:14:31.3 Junior: You look at some of the things that have happened through history that have become normalized during that era, and it's scary. So degree, the power, the normalization of cultural norms, the ignorance, these things produce several outcomes. Here are some examples for you; sexual exploitation, forced marriage and sex trafficking, that happens today, industrialization brought labor exploitation like crazy, child labor, sweatshops.

0:14:57.9 Tim: Yeah, sure did.

0:15:00.2 Junior: We have slavery today, 2023, domestic servitude, forced criminality, authoritarian oppression through imperialism, colonialism, we have class discrimination and exploitation. This is all around us, not just throughout history, but today, these things show up. And we have to acknowledge that those things that I just mentioned are clear and present, they have not been eradicated, and they are functions of the failure pattern that we're talking about today. So when you see it on the model and you see this shaded area of a box that says exploitation, it's a little bit ethereal, it's a little bit abstract, it's hazy, it's gray. But when you look behind that, you peel back that layer and you see, Okay, there are enslaved humans, there are X, Y, and Z things that are happening today that are preventable and solvable problems, not that they're easy, but if you don't think that they're solvable, then again, the rest of the conversation is a moot point.

0:16:06.1 Tim: Oh, Junior, there may be people who are listening right now and saying, "Well, hang on a second, this part of the discussion is not relevant to me because I work in a very modern, civilized, enlightened organization."

0:16:23.2 Junior: Good point.

0:16:23.9 Tim: May I suggest to you that you look at exploitation on a spectrum. First of all, it is a pathology in human interaction, and some level, some degree of exploitation exists in, I dare say, every organization. So may I encourage you to think about, not, do we have exploitation in our organization, but to what degree and in what forms do we have exploitation? That may be a more accurate question and a more helpful question to ask ourselves, because we're looking at the health of the organization and we look at a spectrum, another spectrum that runs from health to pathology, and we're talking about a universal pathology, it's just a matter of degree. For example, if we ask the question, "Is my organization dysfunctional?" The answer is yes. It's always yes. The only question really is, to what degree is it dysfunctional? All organizations are dysfunctional. It's just a matter of degree. All organizations are exploitative to some degree. It may be a minute amount, and if it is, that's absolutely the most wonderful news you could ever share with me. It's a matter of degree. We're talking about the common pathologies of human organization. So please don't listen to this part of the discussion and say, "Oh, that's about ancient history. That's about the Roman Empire." No. "That's about the industrial revolution." No, it's about 2023. That's what we're talking about.

0:18:06.8 Junior: Well, and if you notice the common thread across the eras, it's humans. So we say that all organizations are dysfunctional to some degree. Why is that? It's because they're made up of humans who are all dysfunctional some degree. And so, bringing it down to that level, I feel like is appropriate, because even still, the organization can seem amorphous, it can seem big, it can seem un-influenceable, it can seem distant in that you're not a part of it, but if we bring this down to the level of ourselves and say there is some level of pathology in my own behavior, then I feel like we can really start to unpack what's going on and take control and take responsibility for our own behavior. So in addition to the organizational invitation, I would make a personal invitation and reiterate the definition of exploitation, which is treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work, or making use of a situation to gain unfair advantage.

0:19:11.7 Junior: Are we doing this? Am I doing this? Are you doing this? Because it's likely that we're doing this to some degree. From zero to 100, maybe it's one or two, but it's probably still there, and what opportunity do we have to root that out? Because those individual decisions and those individual behaviors are what will roll up into an organizational change or an institutional change or a communal change, those are the types of things that we have control over, is our own behavior. And so the more people adopt that mentality, the better we will all be. And if we adopt this mentality as leaders, eventually, these organizations will start to change. As we become better, we become more competent, we become more ethical, hopefully that will roll up through the organization and we can steer some of the ships in different directions.

0:20:08.0 Tim: Well Junior, as you say, this really is the first acknowledgement, you begin with yourself. And so as you ask yourself the question, to what degree do I exploit others? That's a hard question to ask yourself, but as you ask yourself that question, where does your mind go? Does it go to denial? Does it go to blame? Does it go to excuse? Where does it go? Because what we're testing here at the beginning is we're testing the purity of your motive, we're testing how clean your intent really is as you interact with others. How clean is that intent, how pure is that motive? Do you have ulterior motives? Do you interact with an eye toward your own reward? Is your self-interest appropriate? These are tough questions, but this is where we start. And thanks Junior for saying that, and we need to start in an individual level.

0:21:15.2 Junior: We do, we do. And so if we ask ourselves that question and quickly dismiss it, we probably have a problem, and like I said, it could be very mild, and in many cases it is, but it's still something that we need to pay attention to. That's failure pattern number one, exploitation. Now, let's look at this other combination of respect and permission. High, low. High respect, low permission. I care about you, I value you, but please sit in the corner and don't touch anything. This is paternalism. Paternalism can be defined a bunch of ways, but most simply, it's the interference with the liberty or autonomy of another person with the intent of promoting good or preventing harm to that person. It's the interference, here's another one, of a state or an individual with another person against their will and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm, I think that's really interesting. The next thing I wanna share is a quote from John Stuart Mill, and here's what he says, "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will, is to prevent harm to others, his own good, either physical or moral is not sufficient warrant."

0:22:35.1 Junior: I love this quote. And if you remember the social exchange for stage one inclusion safety, it's inclusion in exchange for your membership in the human family, your humanity, and the absence of harm. If you are human and you don't present me with harm, as we said, I'm obligated to include you, so I wanted to share that quote, Tim. It struck home with me.

0:22:58.0 Tim: It does, because we've always said, Junior, that the only justifiable grounds for exclusion would be the threat of harm. Your demographic, psychographic and cultural makeup cannot provide grounds for exclusion. If you make a claim or if you make the case that you can exclude someone on their demographic profile or their psychographic or cultural profile, then you're making a claim of superiority based on what, a grand illusion of superiority, what else can it be? There are no grounds for exclusion based on demographics and psychographics and cultural attributes and so John Stuart Mill is right. And we need to sit back and ask ourselves the question, again, at a personal level, are we paternalistic? Do we unnecessarily interfere with the autonomy of other people? Do we get in the way? Do we hold people back? Are we the obstacle? Are we stunting the growth and the development and the flourishing of others? Now, sometimes people... Well, they do it and they do it in the name of helping. [chuckle] They do it in the name of guiding a misguided person. We have to be very careful here. And again, paternalism is the second pathology, a universal pathology, which can be seen across virtually every organization on the planet, it's just a matter of degree.

0:24:32.9 Tim: Now, for this one though, Junior, I think there's an important distinction. I do come across leaders who are paternalistic, they micromanage others and yet they're well-intentioned, good, benevolent people. So, don't you think that there's gotta be some ability or skill component to this one? 

0:24:52.9 Junior: Absolutely, it's interesting question because why is paternalism so dangerous? It's not just dangerous from the moral perspective, in that we're encroaching on someone's agency, it's dangerous to the organization because we're teaching dependence and we're teaching learned helplessness. How does that affect the adaptive capacity of an organization? It cripples it, absolutely cripples it. It puts it on ice, so our goal as leaders should be to transfer accountability, to transfer critical thinking, and that is a skill. That's not something that most people are born good at. I don't know of a single person who does this well that never worked on it consciously, that developed the skill set. They are very specific and sometimes difficult things that we need to do to successfully do those two things, to transfer the accountability and the critical thinking. If we don't, then what do we do? We keep our people close to our chest, we put them in the corner, we don't allow them to touch very much. I also wanna call out that this can be a symptom of incompetence. Sometimes people feel like they'll be found out if they let their people go, and if they're not micro-managing and if they're not doing those things that cripple them. Pretty interesting, I like your question.

0:26:16.4 Tim: I see it, I see people who, they don't transfer accountability, they don't transfer critical thinking very well, they're holding their people back unnecessarily. That's what paternalism is all about, you're holding people back, you're micromanaging when they have the demonstrated capacity to do more, the track record is there, the evidence is there, and yet we continue on, we just keep going with this mode of paternalism. We're not granting to them an appropriate level of autonomy, an appropriate level of control, which by the way, is a deeply seated human need. They need that in order to reach their potential, in order to flourish. But we're not giving that to them.

0:27:01.7 Junior: And for those who lead leaders or train leaders, it's important to look at the motivational profile of those people that are demonstrating some paternalism. Because like Tim said, maybe it's well-intended, maybe it's just a skill gap, and that's much easier to overcome because we can go help develop the skills, if they're willing and they are well-intended, then we can do that. Next, I wanna share a story, Tim, about Michelangelo. We recently stumbled upon a quote that we integrated into a couple of our slide decks for some trainings. And I did some more digging and this story fascinated me and I felt like it was appropriate to share in the context of today's conversation. So, Michelangelo and in 1505, a little while ago, he was 30 and he was commissioned...

0:27:52.5 Tim: Is that all he was? He was 30 years old.

0:27:54.5 Junior: He's 30 years old in 1505, he's commissioned to build a tomb for the newly elected Pope Julius II in Rome and the whole process was very arduous, and it was marred by constant interruption and interference by the Pope who was a bonafide micromanager.


0:28:17.9 Tim: Julius II was... Okay.

0:28:20.2 Junior: Julius II the micromanager.

0:28:21.4 Tim: Michelangelo, it was so frustrating for him that we have this story today.

0:28:26.8 Junior: Precisely. This project was supposed to take five years, it took 40 and it was never finished to the Pope's liking before he died, so it wasn't even finished until post-mortem. Which is kind of ironic. Anyway, at some point, Michelangelo leaves Rome and goes to Florence to work. So he decides that he's not gonna come to the office anymore, he's gonna work remote.

0:28:49.7 Tim: Yeah, he's going back to Florence.

0:28:51.6 Junior: Yeah. During this time, during that 40-year period, he paints the Sistine Chapel, we'll talk about that a little bit too. But he's working on this tomb and he's so frustrated because there's this paternalism that's coming from the Pope, that he writes a letter directly to the Pope and to that point, he'd been communicating through the Pope's chief architect, and he decided to go right around him and send a letter.

0:29:21.5 Tim: Let's go direct.

0:29:23.0 Junior: Let's go direct.

0:29:23.9 Tim: Let's dis-intermediate.

0:29:25.8 Junior: At this point, Julius II had died, and now we have Medici Pope Clement VII, and so he kinda overtook the oversight of this project, and here's what Michelangelo says.

0:29:37.8 Tim: Well, and this is interesting though, Junior, because the Medici family is the great ruling family of Florence, they commissioned so much art during the Renaissance, were the patron family. So, Michelangelo is very... He's worked with the Medici family for many years.

0:29:54.4 Junior: So, it's a little bit lengthy, this entry, this letter but I feel like it's worthwhile. Here's what he says, "Since intermediaries often cause serious misunderstandings," I love his insight, "I make bold to write directly to Your Holiness about the tombs here in San Lorenzo. I must say I do not know which is better, the ill that helps or the good that harms. Witless and unworthy I may be, but I am certain that if I had been allowed to carry on as I started, all the marbles for these works would be in Florence today, blocked out as I need them and costing much less than they have so far, and they would be of admirable quality like the others I brought here." So he's saying at this point, just, I need some space, I need some space. If I would have had some space, we would be done already.

0:30:34.5 Tim: We made a lot of mistakes.

0:30:36.3 Junior: Yeah, we made some mistakes. He goes on. "Now, I see that it is set to be a long business, and I do not know how it will go on. If therefore, something happens that displeases Your Holiness, I beg pardon for I do not feel that I can be guilty where I have no authority," but I thought that part was particularly interesting because we talked about...

0:30:56.8 Tim: Read the last line again, Junior, that's central to this.

0:31:01.0 Junior: If therefore something happens that displeases Your Holiness, I beg pardon for I do not feel that I can be guilty where I have no authority.

0:31:11.3 Tim: So, that is a central finding here that connects directly to the issue of paternalism.

0:31:17.4 Junior: Exactly.

0:31:18.2 Tim: If you don't give the accountability, if you don't give the responsibility, well, if you don't give the responsibility in the first place, you can't... The accountability, you haven't transfered the accountability.

0:31:28.7 Junior: That's right, and as we said, the most effective leaders are transferring those two things, critical thinking and accountability.

0:31:35.9 Tim: That's right.

0:31:36.9 Junior: And he continues in the letter, "And if Your Holiness wants me to achieve something, I beg that you should not set other men over me in my own art but have faith in me and give me a free hand. Then Your Holiness will see what I can do and what account of myself I shall render." I love that. I absolutely love this letter.

0:32:00.3 Tim: He's confident, he's not overbearing, he's not arrogant, he's not unrealistic, but he knows what he can do and he's being reasonable in his request. Because of his ability, he's asking for an appropriate level of autonomy.

0:32:20.7 Junior: You mentioned a few minutes ago, holding people back that have a demonstrated track record to do more. Think about his body of work. He's got a demonstrated track record, if anyone ever had one, and so it's very interesting. There are a few principles at play here, the transfer of accountability, I think is very interesting. I think it's fascinating that he's saying, "Hey, I want to do more, I want to contribute, I want to make a meaningful contribution, I want a little bit of... A little bit more autonomy, I want a longer leash." And the social exchange for stage three, we didn't talk about it at the beginning, but I love this one. It's autonomy with guidance in exchange for results, that's the social exchange for stage three. The autonomy that we're talking about is not owed, it's not an obligation or an entitlement like stage one was, stage two, either, we're now in a different place where we need to deliver, we need to create value, and as we do that, our autonomy becomes more and more as we earn it.

0:33:33.7 Tim: Yeah, now Junior, we're not saying that everyone is entitled to outcome level accountability, which is what Michelangelo asked for. We're not saying that even though he would be entitled to outcome level accountability because he was a master. What we're saying is that, give people an appropriate level of autonomy based on their ability to perform today, that's what we're saying. It may be task-level accountability, it may be process-level accountability, but it could be Michelangelo level outcome accountability, make it appropriate to the track record, the performance, the results of the individual. If you're not doing that, if you're restricting that person, if you're getting in the way, then that's paternalism. Get out of the way.

0:34:29.2 Junior: And it could be true that some of us work with Michaelangelos that don't have the courage to write that letter and are never given enough room to really show what they can do, so that's an important point. The potential of every person is great, and we do not want to get in the way. So Sistine Chapel is another good example, I mentioned that at the beginning of the story. He's commissioned by same Pope Julius II to paint the 12 apostles on the triangular pendentives which support the vault.

0:35:05.3 Tim: The 12 apostles.

0:35:06.8 Junior: Yep, I think this is several years later after the tomb commission, so he probably had some data, and at this point, he's like, look. And I don't know if this is all true, but I'm gonna do this the way I'm gonna do this. And so he demanded a free hand in the pictorial content of the whole scheme, and so he painted not just the 12 apostles, he painted a series of nine pictures, what we know today, God's creation of the world, God's relationship with mankind and Mankind's fall from God's grace. And so, you look at the Sistine Chapel and you see, okay, there was some more autonomy here that was maybe even demanded, but look what it created, and look what we wouldn't have if that autonomy wasn't given. I love both of those examples, I think that they depict some of the principles that we're talking about today.

0:36:04.0 Tim: So Junior, the project was emergent.

0:36:08.1 Junior: It was.

0:36:08.8 Tim: The scope changed from the original agreed to scope, but if you're working with someone that is at that level of ability and has that kind of track record, then you work with them and you have more flexibility and you come back and you revisit the scope and you revisit the content, and it is emergent. Is that not the way that so many projects are? Is that not the nature of innovation overall as an applied discipline. This case study, the story that you're sharing, Junior, is so instructive for us as we are working with each other.

0:36:48.8 Junior: It is, almost 600 years later, 550.

0:36:52.9 Tim: That's right.

0:36:53.8 Junior: So, here's another reflection at the end of this, which is failure pattern number two, paternalism. Do we demonstrate any patterns of paternalism because the patterns of paternalism can be subtle, just as the patterns of exploitation can be subtle. I think that the moral obligation inside paternalism is equally apparent as with exploitation because we're interfering with the individual's ability to make choices and create value. When we get in there and we bind up the gears, that's a bad thing both for the person and for us and for the organization, there are a lot of consequences that come from doing that, but that's bad news. So we've covered these two failure patterns that you can see on the model. Now, what do we do about them? How do we avoid them and how do we get out of them if we're in them? There are a few things that I feel like we can do, and the first one is respect others, it's the fundamental. It's the crux of stage one inclusion safety, and it's what has to exist for anything else to exist is we need to respect the dignity and the autonomy of other people. People have the right to make choices, so when we interfere with that, it's not good.

0:38:18.6 Junior: We should never force and we should never coerce, we should never manipulate. All of those things go against respect, that fundamental base. What do you think about respect, Tim. You think that's fair? 

0:38:33.6 Tim: Yeah, I think it's fair. And if we go back to exploitation, and we think about that on a spectrum. We mentioned this a little bit before, that at one end you've got the blatant, destructive, egregious forms of exploitation, harassment, bullying, public shaming, those kinds of things. And those are pretty clear and they're very visibly destructive, and we know that they're wrong. We recoil, there's a moral reflex against those things. But on the other end of the spectrum where forms of exploitation might be very soft and subtle and mild, this is where many of us, we need to be reflective, introspective, ask ourselves the hard questions. Because at that end, forms of exploitation are small and they're deniable, and it's very easy to rationalize or justify those away, for example, I might say, "Junior, you're doing incredible work," and I will praise you very generously and then I overload you with more work or I steal a little bit of credit from you. This is where I think we need to have some time for reflection, and we need to think about the way that we're interacting, and it goes back to what we said before, let's examine our motives and our intent, is it clean, is it pure? Are there any behavioral patterns that we need to eliminate or change because there could be some trace elements of exploitation in our behavior maybe, could be.

0:40:17.4 Tim: And then on the other side, for paternalism, we need to ask the same question, are there any instances where I'm interacting with others and I am unnecessarily holding them back? And if I trace the origin, if I trace the root cause of that behavior, it goes back to my own insecurity, it goes back to my own ego defense mechanisms. We need to take a hard look at that as well. Where are we holding people back, where are we not granting sufficient autonomy to them when they clearly have the ability to do more than we are allowing them to do? These are questions that we need to ask ourselves because there's quicksand in both of these areas, exploitation over here, paternalism over there. They're extremely common pathologies, they exist in every organization, so don't say, "Oh, our organization is the exception, we don't have any exploitation or paternalism," that's not gonna be true, it's really a matter of degree. So these are penetrating questions that we need to ask ourselves.

0:41:28.9 Junior: Yeah, I appreciate those comments. Right on the head. So we have respect others, next, educate, educate ourselves. We need to acknowledge that these failure patterns exist, we do these things, and as a species, we do them fairly predictably, and I like to say that what is predictable is preventable, not that those are my words, but I think about them a lot. So if it's predictable, chances are we can figure out what goes on that makes it happen. And we can prevent those things. And as we do that, we need to hold ourselves accountable. I also like to say that we get what we tolerate, and if these patterns are tolerated in your organization, then that's where we need to start, otherwise we'll continue to get more of the same. So if we have patterns of paternalism and exploitation, those need to become intolerable in that they are not welcome here, they will not be tolerated here, and you root those out, people need to see that. It needs to become normalized behavior that we don't do that around here. And what happens over time is that that accountability moves from top down, as we've discussed before, the peer-based accountability, where people start to hold each other accountable and they'll say, "No, not here." And until you really get to that point where the culture is self-reinforcing, it's going to be very difficult.

0:42:49.5 Junior: So there needs to be this top-down pressure that's serious, we mean business, this is not tolerated here. And that needs to happen consistently enough, long enough that that starts to become peer-based, and once it does, now you have a really powerful mechanism that will root things out in and of itself, will not tolerate if you got a new entrant. Let's say a new hire that starts to demonstrate some of those patterns and really quickly they hit a steel wall like, Oh, okay, they're serious, I can't do this here, it's important. And finally, is the assumption that we're part of the problem, and as we've talked about paternalism, exploitation happen on a spectrum, each of us lives somewhere on that spectrum, every organization lives somewhere on that spectrum. Maybe we tend towards paternalism, maybe we tend towards exploitation but it's an invitation to all of us, myself included, to examine our behavior and identify things that we can improve, because chances are... Well, chances are 100% that we can find something that we can tune up, that we can make marginally better, and as we do that we'll become better and better, our organizations will become better and better.

0:44:01.6 Tim: I love that, Junior.

0:44:03.6 Junior: In conclusion, I wanna come back to that first quote from Robert Heinlein, "No matter where or what, there are makers, takers and fakers." So our invitation today is to be a maker, don't be a taker, don't be a faker, treat people with respect, give them permission and room to contribute. Tim, any final thoughts as we wrap up today? 

0:44:25.4 Tim: I couldn't have said it better. Makers, takers and fakers. I guess there's temporary satisfaction in being a taker, short-term rewards but in the long-term, it's not pleasant, the consequences come, you don't feel good about yourself. But when you're a maker, when you're contributing to the growth and the development of others, there's deep satisfaction in that, you're able to rejoice in the success and the accomplishments and the achievements of those around you. There's no better reward.

0:44:57.0 Junior: That's right. So, thank you everyone for your time and attention. We appreciate your listenership today. We know that you could listen to other things, you could be other places, and we appreciate the attention that you've given us today, I hope to be able to continue to create value for you through this podcast. You can always reach out to us at, and as always, we appreciate your likes, your reviews and your shares. If you have thought about someone as you listened to this episode that you think should hear this, not in a remedial sense, but if you think they would find value from it, go ahead and send it to them. In the show notes, again, we'll put the four stages model as a downloadable and we'll also put in there the complete guide to psychological safety. We didn't get to spend a ton of time on the model, so that's there for you as a free downloadable, it's an e-book, and we would also point you to the five episode series that we did on the four stages. With that, we will wrap up, bid you adieu and talk to you next episode. Thanks everyone.


0:46:03.1 Producer: Hey, Culture by Design listeners. You made it to the end of today's episode. Thank you again for listening and for making culture something that you do by design and not by default. If you've enjoyed today's episode, please be so kind as to leave us a review. It helps us reach a wider audience and accomplish our mission of influencing the world for good at scale. Today's episode show notes and other relevant resources related to today's topic can be found at, and with that we'll see you next episode.

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