Integral Leadership in Action Conference – 2009
by David McCallum
Five years ago, back in February/March 2004, I attended the first Integral Leadership seminar that Integral Institute (yes, Institute—it was that long ago) offered. It was full of growth, development, community, exploration and a sense of creating a structure for something that we didn’t want to have end when we said our goodbyes on the final day.
One of the participants in that original course, Dan Noble, created the idea that we should have some sort of gathering of people to continue to forward what had go9en created. He suggested that this gathering could perhaps be like a conference.
While I don’t remember who the original group of us were that said “YES! We’ll work on that”—I do remember that early on in the process of getting this off the ground it was named Integral Leadership in Action. Our commitment was to take the Integral Leadership training and development we’d just had in the course into the world—into Action.
Due to a number of circumstances regarding the work I was doing at the time (ironically enough, none of which look valid to me five years later), I left the planning group before our first conference. I didn’t experience the lift‐off of the possibility that Integral Leadership in Action was.
What a time to step into the space that Integral Leadership in Action has become! From a small group of thoughtful, committed people (thanks Margaret Mead) five years ago to a conference with 100 participants this year! And what a year to come together—we couldn’t have asked for more opportunities and happenings in the world to inquire into, to understand and explore what others are doing in various areas, to examine our own participation in global and local circumstances and events, to look at the minutiae of our word choices all the way to exploring the impact of political polarities, and to continue to connect with others playing in, working in, and exploring the world through an Integral view.
The topic this year was Consciously Leading and Living Through Turbulence and Transformation. On a cautionary note of ‘be thoughtful of what you name things’, the conference was personally transformational for me—and I suspect for many others—and it also contained its own share of turbulence. While the conference was thoughtfully designed and executed there was quite a bit of “flexing and flowing” as Jeff Salzman dubbed the sessions running over time, next sessions starting late, and numerous audio visual difficulties. When people are interested and excited about the content though, they’ll overlook these kinds of structural issues.
The keynote sessions this year were Global Transformation: A Large‐Scale Psychology Perspective on Design, Change and Transformation with Don Beck; Integral Theory and Conscious Capitalism with Rand Stagen; and Growing Resonant Leaders for a Better Tomorrow with Francis Johnston. With 25 other sessions available to us—there was more than enough content to submerge ourselves in. Having attended numerous business conferences over the years, I found the quantity and quality of presentations very satisfying.
On Day 3 of the five days that I attended the conference (I a9ended a couple of post‐conference sessions), I posted this to my Facebook status: “ Wow. Wow. Wow. Top of head is blown off. Day 3 of Conf. Dramatic growth and development.” Um, yeah, I am given to hyperbole (but that doesn’t take away from the experience of being at the conference!). There was a lot to chew and absorb—a delicious series of buffets.
One theme that seemed to emerge was the drive to move even more deeply into ‘2nd tier to 1st tier’ application and implementation of Integral in the world. That seemed easy enough to say in 2nd tier to 2nd tier language. At one point during the conference, Zac Stein requested that we remove ‘1st tier’ and ‘2nd tier’ from our language—while it may have its uses in some conversations, I agree that inside the context of Integral Leadership in Action it can be a distraction from getting the work done. However, it was when Rand Stagen took the podium that people saw 2nd tier to 1st tier not just being talked about, but being demonstrated in a down‐on‐the‐pavement, kick‐the‐tires sort of way. Rand delivered his session in the language of his clients ‐ regardless of their “tier”. There was a collective experience of sitting back in our chairs and fully understanding his message. While we love eatting at the fancy restaurant of all things Integral, we usually have dinner at home. How enrolling is it to those whose interest we want to excite to wax on about the haute cuisine we’d prefer to be having when we’re all eatting macaroni and cheese?
The challenge to us from this theme of speaking the language of the ones we’re with was to practice more translation. The way other conference goers expressed this was “doing something real”, “embodiment”; and “being grounded and energized.”
Pre‐Conference I attended a panel discussion entitled “The Frothy Edge of Integral Leadership”. Cindy Wigglesworth facilitated a group of esteemed Integralists (apologies if that’s not actually a word—but FYI, someone is using it on Twitter) in responding to two questions. I didn’t write them down, however they were something like: “What most excites you about the Integral movement today?” and “What most concerns you about the Integral movement today?” Having been out of the heart of the Integral conversation for five years, listening to the panel of folks who’ve been living it day in and day out was of particular interest for me. It was moving to hear that ‘Integral is creating a structure of arising on its own”, “People are doing things now all over the world” and “Integral Activism”. The general consensus of concern about the Integral movement was “…we already have a 50,000 foot view…let’s get into more action.”
And, having been away for five years, I remembered what had been challenging for me back in that first Integral Leadership seminar—the experience of having been dropped into an super‐intellectual gene pool in which I was not a graceful swimmer. Oh sure, I graduated from high school. But I didn’t graduate from college, let alone get an advanced degree, and I didn’t take all those classes about all those people who made such advances in so many areas and said so many really cool things, or the classes that taught people to invent new ways to measure things that can’t be measured; or do the fascinating and thought‐provoking work of experimentation in a chosen field inside a university setting.
So, as the conference went on, I realized that this concern for the insufficient use of translation and implementation of all things Integral is very pertinent. The content of and quality of the presenters in this conference was so valuable, it seems imperative to practice translating every where we can—including with ourselves—so that more people can hear these new perspectives and what they make available in all the areas that are important to humanity right now.
I will be attending the conference next year—and I’ll be inviting people to join me there who haven’t read Ken.
And that’s gonna take some translation.
About the Author
Fr. David McCallum, S.J. is a Jesuit (Roman Catholic) priest and educator. Born in Buffalo, NY, David grew up in Rochester, NY, and attended Le Moyne College prior to entering the Jesuit order in 1990. Over the course of his years of training and formation in preparation for ordination, he taught in primary and secondary schools, assisted in refugee relocation, and served as a chaplain to people with AIDS. David’s education for ordination included a MA in philosophy from Fordham University, and both an MDiv and a Licentiate degree in theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, MA. His second theology degree involved Robert Kegan’s constructive-developmental theory as a lens for understanding the power of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola as a vehicle for spiritual maturation. Following ordination in 2001, he was the associate pastor of a large suburban parish in Oceanside, NY, and then worked on the staff of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, NY prior to beginning full time doctoral studies in 2004. In 2008, David completed his doctorate in Adult Learning and Leadership at Columbia University, Teachers College on the implications of adult developmental maturation for leadership capacity. He has worked closely with Susann CookGreuter and Bill Torbert, and is a practitioner of Developmenal Action Inquiry. In his academic and professional work, he explores the connections between adult learning and development, leadership formation, and spiritual maturation. Currently, he presents workshops and retreats, consults to organizational change processes, and facilitates leadership development workshops. In January of 2009, David will head to Australia to begin an eight month period of preparation for his final vows.