Behavioral MetaDYNAMICS – Subjectivity

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                             BmD: Capability – Part 4 – Subjectivity


Continuing on with Capability, I want to outline briefly the
ideas in Subjectivity.


1: of, relating to, or constituting a subject: as an obsolete
:  of, relating to, or characteristic of one that is a subject
especially in lack of freedom of action or in submissiveness

    b: being or relating to a grammatical subject; especially :

2: of or relating to the essential
being of that which has substance, qualities, attributes, or

3: a: characteristic of or belonging to reality as
perceived rather than as independent of mind : phenomenal —
compare objective 1b
    b: relating to or being experience or
knowledge as conditioned by personal mental characteristics or

4: a(1): peculiar to a particular
individual : personal
    a(2):  modified
or affected by personal views, experience, or background

arising from conditions within the brain or sense organs and
not directly caused by external stimuli

    c:  arising out of or identified by means of one’s perception
of one’s own states and processes
— compare
objective 1c


 1: a: relating to or existing as
an object of thought without consideration of independent
existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy
     b: of,
relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in
the realm of sensible experience independent of individual
thought and perceptible by all observers :  having reality
independent of the mind
— compare subjective c of a symptom of disease : perceptible
to persons other than the affected individual — compare

2: relating to, characteristic of, or constituting the case
of words that follow prepositions or transitive verbs

3a: c of a symptom of disease
: perceptible to persons other than the affected individual —
compare subjective

4c: d: involving or deriving from
sense perception or experience with actual objects,
conditions, or phenomena
2:  relating to, characteristic of, or constituting the case
of words that follow prepositions or transitive verbs 3a:
expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived
without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or
b of a test :  limited to choices of fixed alternatives and
reducing subjective factors to a minimum

Well, that is clear as mud right?

Now, you have experienced subjectivity!


Instrumented – animated

Institutional – self-authored


Interpersonal – other-directed

Inter-individual – self-aware



What has been made somewhat famous in developmental circles
is the model of "subject-object awareness" by Robert Kegan,
who wrote several books to outline the theory that he
basically used from William Perry’s work on relativism.

"In his book The Evolving Self (1982),
Kegan explores human life problems from the perspective of a
single process which he calls meaning-making, the activity of
making sense of experience through discovering and resolving
problems. "Thus it is not that a person makes meaning, as much
as that activity of being a person is the activity of
meaning-making," Kegan says. Meaning-making is a lifelong
activity that begins in earliest infancy and can evolve in
complexity through a series of "evolutionary truces" (or
"evolutionary balances") that establish a balance between self
and other (in psychological terms), or subject and object (in
philosophical terms), or organism and environment (in
biological terms). Each evolutionary truce is both an
achievement of and a constraint on our meaning-making,
possessing both strengths and limitations. And each
evolutionary truce presents a new solution to the lifelong
tension between how people are connected, attached, and
included, on the one hand (integration), and how people are
distinct, independent, and autonomous on the other
(differentiation)."  -From Wikipedia

Kegan identified essentially 5 different stages through
which people can pass, or represent as a subject-object
relationship. The first stage is not an adult stage and thus
not represented in CAPABILITY for Leaders. Some would argue
that even the first three stages would not be present in
Postmodern or what are referred to as "post conventional"
development. However, we are all –believe it or
not — instrumented by our BIAS, so I have included the 2-5
stages in our discussion of CAPABILITY DYNAMICS.


One could spend an entire lifetime studying each of the 8
components of CAPABILITY, and after doing that for the past 2
decades, I realized that you don’t have to know much except
the words for the work to become psychoactive because our
subconscious systems go to work on thoughts, ideas and
possibilities, sorting, cataloguing, assimilating, discarding,
etc. along the way as is the nature–it seems of growth,
development and learning. You don’t have to go to school to
learn. You don’t have to be, do, have, become or contribute to
grow and develop, so it’s a process independent of our
consciousness…and sometimes it’s not such a bad idea;) For
leaders, it’s another gambit, as a leader is chosen, or choose
to be a fiduciary for others and therefore has no choice, IMHO
to make it a conscious decision to take responsibility for
their own development.

As a root idea here, the subjectivity is how we are
currently making up our identity–who we are–and how we
explain what we do, have, become and contribute. This
SELF-Description is why this particular model is very
important for leader development in the context of CAPABILITY


Instrumented – animated

Institutional – self-authored


Interpersonal – other-directed

Inter-individual – self-aware




Actually this is my favorite level because in studying and
researching in the developing world, this subject-object
relationship gives me the most fun to watch. Dr. Graves
while once illustrating the Values Level that seems to fit
with this level of subject-object relations said, "when
someone steps on a stick who is at this level, they
say…"the stick hit me!" They ascribe human attributes to
the stick, which is why I included the term animation to
this s/o relation.

We are all played in some form or another, or
instrumented by our BIAS.

So, this subject object relation exists non-consciously in
all of us, whether we like it or not and it’s key to be
able to talk about it in this regard, so that we can
objectify BIAS and filters and projections, prejudices,
themes, and archetypes that are already running us–we are
subject to them.

So, there is a degree of instrumentation going on that we
are unaware of as leaders, and hopefully just the mention
of this idea creates psychoactive dialogue important to
the whole idea of CAPABILTY, and even those ideas
contained in all the 7 DYNAMICS.


At this level, what has been playing us becomes object,
and thus from "things" or parts of ourselves (BIAS) we
move onto people as a way to make up our identity.

Our identity is formed at this level by how "other people"
describe us, in concert with how we describe
ourselves–the mutual set of ideas become part of who we
are. In some ways, we are OTHER-directed, we do not yet
have the object relationship with ourselves to evaluate
other’s opinions as such and often hold the notions of
powerful, or respected "who-saids" as reality.

MOST leaders I have found are in transition between this
level and the next.

Word about Transitions:

Kegan noted that there are basically 5 transitional stages
noted by the system as:

stage | stage (next stage) | stage/next stage | nextstage
(stage) | next stage

so for stage 3: 3 | 3(4) | 3/4 | 4(3) | 4 would be the
appropriate way of denoting transition from stage 3 to
stage 4


This stage represents subject object relations which
describe who we are from a set of self-authored
principles, or values–you might say. Self-authoring means
that we have made up who we are over time and believe it
to be durable, not as said by others, and not instrumented
entirely by our BIAS (although just a note here, we are
more instrumented by our BIAS than we or others give

We become "institutionalized" in that we are separate from
the relativism brought about by others. We often are VERY
open to the opinions of others, using them to test out
current "institutionalize" values. I will say over time, I
have begun to wonder if there are not a lot more
personality dynamics related here than I think most would
mention.  For example, if I am closed in my
orientation to the world, I have already institutionalized
and become self-authoring, but it may be at a relatively
unsophisticated level of complexity!


This stage of "s/o relations" is excerpted from a really
nice overview of the Kegan Theory here by Peter W. Pruyn.

The Self-Transforming Mind
is the highest level of consciousness in Kegan’s
model.   The Self-Transforming Mind is able to take
a step back from the act of self-authoring and hold it as
object.  From this point of view, one is able to regard
multiple ideologies simultaneously and compare them, being
wary of any single one.

But It’s Not That Simple

At this point, you might well have some
very valid concerns about what the hierarchy in this theory
implies, as well as be wondering where you and others you know
might fall on it.  We live a society that frequently assumes
that “bigger is better”, but I don’t think that’s the way we
should approach theories of human development.  This theory is
not about intelligence, IQ or whether a person is “good” or
“bad”–or even happy.  All it describes are varying degrees of
complexity of thinking. As one of my professors, Richard
Reilly, likes to say, “The problem with theory is…it’s

In other words, no one theory can hope
to explain the multi-dimensionality of human experience.

 Hence, it is critically important
to understand any one theory’s limitations. Kegan likes to
make the analogy of comparing drivers who can drive a
stick-shift with drivers who only drive an automatic.  Can we
say that someone is a “better driver” simply because they can
drive a stick?  Of course not–any more than we can say that
they’d be better company on a long trip.  Now what we can say
is that the driver who can drive a stick will be able to drive
certain cars under certain conditions that the driver who can
only drive an automatic cannot.  But if someone’s driving
their automatic to and from work everyday, there’s nothing
wrong with that.  As Jennifer Garvey Berger has written, this
isn’t a theory about “bigger is better”; it’s a theory about
“bigger…is bigger”.  – Peter W. Pruyn

I believe this theory gives us insight into additional
attributes of CAPABILITY and more so, provides a way
in which to explain, and predict the way in which
leaders are behaving and why. This theoretical
language also becomes important in being able to
nuance one’s own description of self, for instance,
when I say that we are "played by our BIAS",
instrumented by our prejudices, you understand now
what I’m saying.

The lexicon of development is so critical for leaders
who must discover, explain, predict, design and
scaffold their own behavior as well as the behavior of
others in the leaderscape!

Our next part of the discussion of CAPABILITY relates
to Ego Complexity, in and of itself a fascinating way
to understand being, doing, having, becoming and
contributing as a leader.

I hope you pick up valuable insights, ideas and tools during
this process, which you can use for your own
development and your work and leadership with others.

If you have comments, please feel free to leave them here on
the blog.

You, Me, and We @F-L-O-W

Mike R. Jay is a developmentalist utilizing consulting,
coaching, mentoring and advising as methods to offer
developmental scaffolding for aspiring leaders who are
interested in being, doing, having, becoming, and
contributing… to helping people have lives.

PS: To learn more about our 2015 Program,
Behavioral MetaDYNAMICS and to enroll in the experience,


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