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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Repair of the Container: Consulting Interventions in Support of Leadership

One service of the role of leadership is providing containment for organization members as they deal with difficult or anxiety-provoking work. When adequate, this containment enables organization members to explore challenging realities or to take decisions that entail risk. If the containment function of leadership is fractured or disabled, it seriously impairs the effectiveness of organizations under conditions of stress. This paper explores dimensions of containment that include not only the personal capability of the leader, but also the impact of properly aligned roles, authority structures, and management procedures. Taken together, these aspects of containment help organizations to channel energy productively. Effective leadership containment helps to prevent disabling emotional fields from developing and makes it possible to navigate distressing situations when they occur. While there are always fluctuations in the flow of unconscious dynamics between leaders and members, some types of organizations are especially vulnerable to conditions that weaken or fracture the containment function of leaders. This paper examines two consulting cases in which an important underlying aspect of the client's difficulty was damaged or inadequate capacity for containment on the part of the leadership. The paper examines several questions; What circumstances introduce vulnerability to the holding and containment functions? What can the consultant do to repair the containment capacity of the client, without succumbing to the seduction of fulfilling the absent function and usurping the client's own necessary leadership?'