- Corporate Style of Life:An Adlerian Conceptualization Told in a Personal Account
In the working environment, relations among people can be far more complex than in other spheres of human life. The focus of this column is to show how the ideas and methods of Individual Psychology are useful in the workplace as well as to compare Adlerian methods with other approaches. Individual dynamics as well as organizational and group dynamics issues are discussed in detail. Potential contributors are encouraged to submit manuscripts, including case studies, illustrating the application of Individual Psychology to business and organizational settings. Send manuscripts to Linda J. Page, Adler International Learning, 890 Yonge Street, 9th Floor, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3P4, Canada, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The concept of style of life is central to the way Alfred Adler (1939, 1952, 1959) described personality. As described by Ferguson (2015, p. 2), lifestyle refers to “a person’s long-term orientation over his or her life span … to a person’s basic concepts of self and others and to the person’s basic life goal.” Lifestyle is the core of personality, shaped in the early years of childhood. Adlerian-trained psychotherapists and counselors working with an individual understand that a client’s lifestyle shapes the way the individual feels, thinks, and functions (Dreikurs, 2000). Through therapy, lifestyles can change. Moreover, if parents raise their children with democratic shared decision making, the child will develop a lifestyle that even in adulthood has resilience, courage, and high social interest (Dreikurs, 2010). [End Page 333]
Because groups also tend to have characteristics that an individual has, one can think of a corporation as having a corporate style of life that contains core beliefs of self, in terms of self-identity, and a long-term goal. Allan Cox describes (in personal communication, 2015) that an individual’s lifestyle can be structured in the following way:
I am: (self-image)
Life is: (world view)
My central goal: (the all-powerful one that shapes my every thought and action, that pulls me like a magnet into the future)
Allan Cox learned the Adlerian diagnostic approach to identifying an individual’s lifestyle, including the use of early recollections (Ferguson, 1964; Mosak, 1958). The present article describes a model developed by Allan Cox for helping corporations realize their best potential by using concepts and methods that are key in Adlerian psychology: style of life (SOL), early recollections, and social interest (Adler, 1939). Please note all names used within are pseudonyms.
Throughout the bulk of my 50-year career as a management consultant and author who specializes in working closely with CEOs and their top teams, I have turned implicitly and explicitly to these lights for guidance. Let me explain with a personal story.
Late summer, 1976, on a client assignment, I was having dinner alone in a Philadelphia hotel dining room. I got to thinking about early recollections and chided myself for never having “translated” my own to myself. So then and there over about an hour, I did so using the Dreikurs format and came up with my SOL in seven words, avoiding business jargon or psychological language:
I am: an observer
Life is: out there
My central goal: to be invited
What clarity this brought me. What brevity. What insight. What power to understand myself! My conclusion was that, without being aware of it, I was living a passive, compromised life.
I made changes and found strength in reclaiming much of myself that I had buried by means of what Adler termed the creative self—the life making me, for better or worse. There was much more evolution from there over several years to the point where my stabilized SOL became:
I am: a laser
Life is: full of baffles
My central goal: to get to the core
An SOL in 10 words that I’m fully aware of and is my guardian presence. [End Page 334]
In a course called “Family Constellation” at the Adler School of Professional Psychology—taught by the late psychiatrist Bina Rosenberg—I learned the power and method of early recollections...