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The Uncanny Friendship between Bertrand Russell and PAPI 3

All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths” - Bertrand Russell

This particular paragraph from the award winning work of Bertrand Russell, considered one of the most significant philosophers in recent times, defines the genesis of human behaviour for me . DESIRES, what Henry Murray called DRIVES , are the source of all human behaviour , the motivational force behind our actions and decisions . Without desire or drive , little in human behaviour can be created , imagined, modified or understood.

(for the uninitiated- Henry Murray is a famous personalist behind several reliable personality assessments like TAT-Thematic Apperception Test ; PAPI & FIRO series).

Man differs from other animals in one very important respect, and that is that he has some desires which are, so to speak, infinite, which can never be fully gratified, and which would keep him restless even in Paradise. However much you may acquire, you will always wish to acquire more; satiety is a dream which will always elude you”.

This again is reminiscent of Henry Murray’s work. The NEEDS in PAPI 3 are constructed in the same way . The emotional needs / drives/desires (the three words are used interchangeably and I will simply call them DRIVES here), are considered to rest in us in an order of preference - from the most to the least important . The drives are satiated only momentarily . We seek the gratification of these drives constantly , displaying behaviours that are focused on fulfilment . This chase to gratification is human behaviour , unique to each of us , a fingerprint of how we respond to situations and the stimulus we seek.

Imagine a colleague with a DRIVE TO BELONG . The longing to belong will be an intense force that will lead to behaviours of pleasing others, accommodating others , reach out to others and submission of own individualist view in the interest of “fitting in” amongst others.

Russell points to four such infinite desires — acquisitivenessrivalryvanity, and love of power (in order)

PAPI 3 looks at 11 drives –vanity, power, success form critical themes 

Let us look at one of these drives– the love of power, which Russell argues is the most potent of the 4 impulses -

“Love of power is closely akin to vanity ( need for recognition, glory and to be in the center of attention), but it is not by any means the same thing. What vanity needs for its satisfaction is glory, and it is easy to have glory without power… Many people prefer glory to power, but on the whole these people have less effect upon the course of events than those who prefer power to glory… Power, like vanity, is insatiable. Nothing short of omnipotence could satisfy it completely. It is, indeed, by far the strongest motive in the lives of important men. 

Love of power is greatly increased by the experience of power, and this applies to petty power as well as to that of potentates.”

But Russell, a thinker of exceptional sensitivity to nuance and to the dualities of which life is woven, cautions against dismissing the love of power as a wholesale negative driver — from the impulse to dominate the unknown, he points out, spring such desirables as the pursuit of knowledge and all scientific progress. He considers its fruitful manifestations:

“It would be a complete mistake to decry love of power altogether as a motive. Whether you will be led by this motive to actions which are useful, or to actions which are pernicious, depends upon the social system, and upon your capacities. If your capacities are theoretical or technical, you will contribute to knowledge or technique, and, as a rule, your activity will be useful. If you are a politician you may be actuated by love of power, but as a rule this motive will join itself on to the desire to see some state of affairs realized which, for some reason, you prefer to the status quo”.

The love for power is manifest in several NEED SCALES OF PAPI 3.

The duality of the drives is highlighted in many ways. People who have high preferences for drivers of power in PAPI 3 (which I see as a combination of A,K,P,M,X) demonstrate compelling brightness and darkness.

They have the beauty of ambition, influence and presence that could be paralleled by selfish competitiveness, stealing of limelight, aggressive hierarchy driven influence and more. Like with the laws of nature, there are several desires that help in the management of the darkness- the drive to belong is one. 

How much the “drive to belong” will cover the darkness will depend on how prominent the drive this. 

These and several more connections between the multiple drives (that create human behaviour ) help understand leadership behaviour when we use PAPI 3. 

I use a lot of trait based tools too but I do not find this connectedness in them. For me, PAPI 3 remains unparalleled. 

For many clients, the lack of a normal curve, high- low, STEN, and other familiar trait statistics make PAPI 3 seems ambiguous. In PAPI 3, nothing is high and low, the drives need to be deciphered in the context of the leader – bring to life his/her more dominant behavioural choices that shape work personalities. 

Is that not how life is like ? With no absolute and everything contextual ?

I chose to write this piece because I was amused by the uncanny friendship between Bertrand’s philosophy and what I read in the work of Murray and subsequently PAPI 3 

Like Bertrand Russel said -

Nothing in the world is more exciting than a moment of sudden discovery”


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