Footprints to Integral Leadership
‘In a quiet way, you shake the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
I only saw a slight portion of Russ’s life, like watching the light from a candle through a narrow slit a long way away. I live in Perth, Australia, Russ was in the United States, a long way away. My contact with him was only through emails and phone calls. I knew him as the editor, originator, guardian, power source, gate keeper, supporter, and Merlin of the Integral Leadership Review. I didn’t get to see other parts of his life, the whole candle and light, called Russ Volckmann.
It was on my bucket list to meet Russ this month since I was coming to live in the U.S. for a year. I wanted to finally meet him face-to-face to ask how we was, how the journal and the Integral leadership world were going, and to thank him for his years of dedication, perseverance and the great contribution he had made to the field of integral leadership. I wanted to tell him in person how important his work was. That didn’t happen. (But I hope Russ gets to read this in the Akashic Record and maybe make editorial improvements as well).
Russ appointed me ‘Bureau Chief of Australia’ of the ILR a long time ago. I was proud of my role and felt like I was a Time Magazine Associate Editor covering the remote Australian island for the integral world. I confess I didn’t really know what I was doing, I think I was supposed to find articles, get sponsorship and generally build support for the ILR down under.
I really didn’t do a very good job. From time to time I would apologize to Russ saying I had other important things in my life – leaving my university position, dealing with personal stuff and starting a company to develop integral leadership. Russ had a patience and tolerance with me that would have qualified him for the Mother Teresa Award. I really appreciated the gentle way Russ got me to deliver articles for ILR without showing any impatience or angst – just confidence that what I was doing was worthwhile.
From time to time, I would ask Russ where he got the energy to persevere. What kept him going, doing something that required so much of his time and attention? How did he fund the journal and pay his electricity bills? And how long could he keep it going? In a humble way, he’d say “Yes, it takes a lot of time and it isn’t easy, but I love it”.
Robert Kennedy said, “The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” Russ’s work, starting the Integral Leadership Review and keeping it going, made things better. Like many people associated with the ILR, I believe passionately that Integral leadership is needed to solve the current world problems and guide us through a challenging future. Russ and the ILR provided light on that path.
I live in the world of leadership training and academic teaching and publishing. Some leadership journals make good contributions to leadership theory and practice and others, in my view, are overly academic. The Integral Leadership Journal is different. It is understandable. It is both readable and has an intellectual and spiritual depth. It includes case studies and examples of integral leadership as well good ideas that are informative and make us think. When I need help explaining integral leadership to practical down-to-earth, Australian managers, I send them an ILR article to bridge the gap.
Working with Russ was different from other editors. He was open, gentle, personable, embracing – and real – like the journal he fostered. He lived the great integral guideline of transcending and including.
The journal Russ started is committed to Integral Leadership so brings something important and unique to the question of leadership. We are still in the process of discovering and defining what integral leadership is and how to integrate and translate it into existing leadership theory and practice. I admire Russ’s bravery for setting out into unchartered waters in a world that had well established theories and research on leadership. Much innovation occurs on the edge of a field, and Russ was at the edge of leadership thinking trying to lead it.
Ken Wilber in his recent book, Trump and a Post-Truth World, states “it can be leadership alone that provides an actual way forward – real leadership stares in the face of a no-truth, no-direction, no values world, and says, ‘It is simply not true that there is no truth; there is definitely truth, and it lies in this direction’ – and it is so radiantly genuine and attractive as it provides a believable path into an uncertain future, that it galvanizes vast numbers to follow it forward.”
Integral leadership, with its wholistic and truly integrative theory and practice is ‘radiantly genuine and attractive’ and can provide the believable path we need into an uncertain future. Russ and the ILR help start that pathway.
I read an article that suggested our understanding of karma and rebirth was inside out – literally. A common view of these possible phenomena says that when we die, our essence or soul goes off into some ethereal space and is reborn and that karma is the stuff we didn’t handle right the last time so get to have another go at it, kind of like having to answer all the emails you didn’t get to in your last life in a new one.
The author explained that this wasn’t the way rebirth and karma worked. Instead, he suggested, when a person died, he left his unfinished work in the world – like a footprint that needed filling. Consciousness in the form of new human beings, recognises that unfinished work and carries on with it until it is finished. Russ made an imprint in the world with his work. That footprint, that emergent creative work, is still here to be carried out.
Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said ‘… the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” I know Russ loved his work on the Integral Leadership Review. I imagine, like any worthwhile love, it had its trials and tribulations. But his was a gentle, persevering love – and he did great work.
Integral Leadership needs to be understood, debated, explored, defined, researched and taught to the world. Russ put down a path for us to walk on – and I saw its light from Australia. I am grateful for that. I have and will continue to walk in his footprints for many years. I know others will too.
Ron Cacioppe, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
August 25th, 2017