Student Paper: Integral Theory’s Contribution to Leader and Leadership Development

Learner Papers / June 2008

Laura SantanaAbstract:Increasing complexity and demands of leadership in the twenty-first century challenge leaders to find effective and meaningful ways of leading, challenge our thinking about how cultures and systems can support the emergence of leadership, and seek solutions to unexpected challenges that face our organizations and societies. Integral philosophy offers a unifying lens to advance an understanding of leadership by including the complexity of individual and collective considerations of interior and exterior realms. A theory at the leading edge of philosophy, it identifies evolutionary processes which help develop an understanding and an ability to engage with leading and leadership.

References for this article may be found here.

The time is ripe for a meta-perspective to unify contributions to the field of leadership literature. Much of this literature contributes elements of truth and addresses important aspects of leadership, while missing the mark in other aspects (Volckmann, 2008). This makes a comprehensive understanding of leadership and leading elusive. To acknowledge the contributions and misses of prior thinking is to “be open to an emergent and developing understanding and ability to develop and engage with leading and leadership” (Volckmann, 2008). We will consider the benefits of complementing scientific epistemologies with philosophical ones, and transcending ontological traps that limit the thinking about leadership. In a time when the challenges facing leadership are constant and complex (Martin, 2006; Heifetz, 1994; Vaill, 1998), integral theory offers insight about navigating constant change–permanent white water (Vaill,1998)– in organizations and social systems.

This investigation will first briefly utilize three different levels of analysis for categorizing leadership literature. The progression of leadership theory is then chronicled. An overview of integral philosophy and its evolution will be presented followed by discussion addressing social systems, culture, and the creation of shared meaning in organizations. This allows perspective on integral’s potential contribution to the field of leadership and organizational development. Lastly, we address the challenges and opportunities for integral theory in leadership.

Why Now? Complexity of Times and Leadership Tasks

The literature is rich with examples of the changing nature of leadership. Andre Martin (2006) found that 84% of the managers his team surveyed believe that the definition of effective leadership has changed in the past five years. The study highlights that the nature of outstanding leadership will require the skills of building relationships, collaboration, and change management—the ‘soft skills’ or ‘higher order skills.’

John Alexander, president of the Center for Creative Leadership (2006), believes that the phenomenon

is connected to the rise of complex challenges, those for which no preexisting solutions or expertise exist. Such challenges test the limits of an organization’s current strategies. They reveal the shortcomings of leadership as it is commonly practiced. They create the demand for a new kind of leadership, whether one is working in the private, public, or social sectors. (in Hesselbein & Goldsmith, 2006, p. 85)

These increasingly complex challenges are

multidimensional; they defy existing solutions, resources, and approaches; they erode fundamental assumptions and mental models; and they demand new learning and creativity. Complex challenges often seem to demand quick and decisive action. Yet, because individuals and organizations frequently have no previous reference point for responding to them, there is also a need to slow down, reflect, and collaborate before taking action. (p. 87)

The 21st century brings unexpected challenges and demands of its leaders; among them are collective leadership and a greater interdependence of work. These challenges for which no technical solutions exist would be called adaptivechallenges by Heifetz (1994)—they require new thinking to resolve. A leader’s task is to create an environment in which the group can successfully navigate these complex challenges (Heifetz, 1994). Leadership is no longer the task of one person, rather collectives are taking it on.

Alexander (in Hesselbein & Goldsmith, 2006) invites reflection about the changing and complex nature of successful leadership of the future, inviting leaders to expand and revise their understanding of leadership and its practice.

Before chronicling the leadership literature, a look at the difference between leadership and management is in order, as are some definitions of leadership—although the field has yet to agree upon one definition. There is a continuing controversy (Yukl, 2006) about the difference between leading and managing. Yukl reports some writers (e.g., Bennis & Nanus, 1985; Zaleznik, 1977) contend that leadership and management are qualitatively different and mutually exclusive. The most extreme distinction involves the assumption that management and leadership cannot occur in the same person. In other words, some people are managers and other people are leaders. The definitions of leaders and managers assume they have incompatible values and different personalities. Managers value stability, order, and efficiency, whereas leaders value flexibility, innovation, and adaptation. (p. 5)

This would assume they have different values or personalities (Yukl, 2003) where “managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing” (p. 5), which is not supported by empirical research (Yukl, 2006). Kotter (1988) believes that leadership and management are not the same thing, although both are necessary for an organization to succeed. He understands their core processes and outcomes to be different: management produces status quo, predictability, and order, while leadership seeks organizational change. Klann (2007) asserts “we lead people and manage things” (p. 3). The most effective integration of management and leadership depends on situation and context.

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) lists the tasks of leaders as setting direction, creating alignment, and maintaining commitment (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004, p.2). Leadership is about making those things happen over time. Management’s work is around “the facilitation and coordination of the day-to-day work in organizations” (p. 14).

Yukl (2003) uses a definition which broadly recognizes that leadership is the success of a collective effort towards meaningful tasks:

Leadership is the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish the shared objectives. (p. 7)

Vaill (1998) does not differentiate between the two and uses the term managerial leadership to underscore that fact that leaders do both managingand leading. These fields are not separate in his thinking where managing is considered a performing art (1989). There are levels of chaos and constant change—white water—a managerial leader must navigate effectively. Burns, in his 1978 classic Leadership, asserts that transformative leadership requires a mastery of self in a context of knowing oneself and the world to lead—instead of merely managing (in Couto, 2005).

This paper will not focus on management but instead on leadership theories—the more complex work of setting direction, creating alignment among people, and maintaining commitment (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). Leadership will refer to one or more people, with or without positional authority, at any level who do the work of leadership— direction, alignment, and commitment.

Integral philosophy’s emergence positions it to offer valuable insight for leading when leadership most needs its integrative capacity. Additional context for understanding the call to integral philosophy includes timing. Pine & Gilmore (1998) speak of the industrial era (bureaucracy) as a time when people are required to show up at work, take orders, and not think. Work life and personal life still are separate even in a service era, with religion and faith being taken care of outside the workplace. According to Pine & Gilmore, going to work as free agents is characteristic of theexperience era. When workers remain dedicated to one organization for a whole career, it provides meaning and purpose in life for many of them; in the experience era, however, they are free agents invited to participate in the organization for as long as they deem appropriate. Changing jobs or organizations happens more frequently– both by choice or by default (mergers, acquisitions). Here workers engage the body, mind, andemotion at work to provide customers with an experience (like Starbucks, Disney) that is beyond utilitarian (just coffee, for example). Questions of why we do what we do, rather than how we do what we do, are addressed in this experience era.

Many people bring their whole selves to work at this time in post-industrial history: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. There is a push coming from workers within organizations to address the deeper aspects of leadership and social systems—“ an accelerating call for spirituality in the workplace” (Fry, 2003, p 693) where inner experiences and beliefs embrace purposes larger than the persons or organizations themselves. It has been called a “spiritual awakening in the American workplace” (Garcia-Zamor in Duchon & Plowman, 2005 p. 355), a call for integration of inner and outer life (Wilber, 1999, Neal, 1992, Mitroff & Denton, 1999; Dent, 2005) and addressed by the special issues and/ or articles inFortune Magazine (7/9/2001), Journal of Change Management (1999), the Journal of Management Inquiry (2000), American Behavioral Scientist (May, 2000), Journal of Management Education (2000), Journal of Management Psychology (1994), andJournal of Organizational Change Management (2003). An entire special issue of Leadership Quarterly was titled: Toward a Paradigm of Spiritual Leadership (2005). Giacaolone & Jurkiewicz’s Handbook of Workplace Spirituality and Organizational Performance (2003) includes diverse articles about spirit in the workplace. Csikszentmihalyi (1990) might call this a flow state. Moxley (2000) would call it a spirited vs. a dispirited workplace. There are those who would claim that accessing these deeper places of meaning, purpose, and values, is actually another intelligence that helps humans be more effective (Zohar, 2004; Emmons, 2000). Gardner adds an existential intelligence to his previous work on multiple intelligences (2004). Vaill includes a transcendent category (1998) in his five-way bottom line thinking. Kouzes (in Volckmann, 2007a) points out that historically, extrinsic rewards have been so much a part of motivational system that more intrinsic, relationship oriented aspects of business have been neglected. All of these conditions signal a compelling need for a comprehensive view of leadership’s emergence in organizations.

Additionally, Hesselbein & Goldsmith (2006) assert that post September 11th

We live in a different world with a new context. The leaders of the next decade face new and distinctive challenges….our times too call for new thought and action, yet the basic principle, basic values, and basic fundamentals of leadership have not changed. Leadership is still a matter of how to be, not how to do. (p. xii)

These grounds of being in emerging ontologies move us along a continuum of thinking about being leaders from our minds (Yukl, 2003), IQ, then including emotions (Goleman, 1995), EQ, as we are leading others. McIntosh (2007) would add to the equation of what intelligences are important to leadership: IQ, EQ and now VQ or values intelligence (p. 65), an “indicator of one’s location within the internal universe” (p.66). Increasingly human development along these lines of being (Wilber, 2000; McIntosh, 2007; Kegan, 1982; Beck & Cowan, 1996, 2006) has applications for leadership. Leadership emerges as a way of being.

Chronicles of Leadership Literature’s Evolution

To look at the literature of leadership is to understand its evolution as well as its partial or fragmented focus. Early on, Bennis, according to Conger (1992) wrote:

Of all the haze and confounding areas in social psychology, leadership theory undoubtedly contends for top nomination. And ironically, probably more has been written and less known about leadership than any other topic in the behavioral sciences. Always, it seems the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. (in Conger, 1992, p. 15 )

Although this analysis will focus on emergent literature in the field of leadership from the 1930’s onward, it is important to remember the rich human history of thinking about leadership:

Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth. It was not always so. For two millennia at least, leaders of thought did grapple with the vexing problems of the rulers vs. the ruled. Long before modern sociology Plato analyzed not only philosopher-kings but the influences on rulers of upbringing, social and economic institutions, and responses of followers. Long before today’s calls for moral leadership and ‘profiles in courage,’ Confucian thinkers were examining the concept of leadership in moral teaching and by example. Long before Gandhi, Christian thinkers were preaching nonviolence. Long before modern biography, Plutarch was writing brilliantly about the lives of a host of Roman and Greek rulers and orators, arguing that philosophers ‘ought to converse especially with “men in power”’ and examining questions such as whether ‘an old man should engage in public affairs.’ (Burns, 1978, p.2)

In search of a comprehensive understanding of leadership, we recognize wise contributions from various periods of scientific, philosophical, and spiritual evolutionary thinking. This paper aims to provide value to leadership development by integrating scientific contributions apparent in so many of the early theories with philosophy’s evolving contributions.

To simplify a review of the vast leadership literature different levels of analysis are utilized: the personal or great man theories, interpersonal theories, and group or relational theories. Organizing in this way may give a false sense that they are three differentiated categories. There are, of course, theories which merge perspectives and include the interplay between categories. Behavior theory, for example, discusses not only an individual leader’s behavior but also encompasses relationships with followers. The categories are not tidy and clear cut but in general can facilitate an overview of leadership literature and set the stage for a meta-perspective that integral theory provides.

Identifying the realms within which to examine leadership is not a new idea. Yukl (2003) conceptualizes leadership as encompassing intra-individual, dyadic, group, and organizational processes and Drath (2001) considers personal, interpersonal and group principles of leadership.

A timeline of leadership literature also informs context and understanding in at least two ways. First, since theories have come in favor, then faded away only to resurge later, time shows us newer iterations of great man, dyadic, and group theories. None of the theories actually becomes extinct but reappears again, such as the trait theory being popular in the 1950’s and again in the 1980’s or currently (as competencies); leadership as group facilitation gained popularity in the 1930’s and again in the 1980’s (Rost, 1991). Secondly, methodologies, epistemologies, and ontologies shift as more complex and comprehensive ways of thinking about, observing, practicing, and researching leadership evolve (McIntosh, 2007; Wilber, 2000; Weick, 1995). A discussion of this path follows in the Evolution of Integral Philosophy section.

The Personal Leadership Literature: Great Man Theories

Distinct from current ideas that leaders are followers and followers also lead (Kellerman, 2008), theories from the early part of the twentieth century focus heavily on the leader’s need to be or act a certain way. Within the person there are “traits” and characteristics that the “one” man or woman doing the leadership would want to possess (Yukl, 2003) and only such “great men” could be leaders (Yukl 2003, Rost,1991 ). Leadership here is conceived of in terms of one person–an individual– and the skills that one might bring to bear on this area called leadership. In the 1930’s and 1940’s according to Yukl (2003), and 1940’s and 1950’s according to Rost (1991) trait theory was popular. It resurges in popularity again in the 1980’s and currently in the trend towards looking at competencies (Moxley, 2000). This realm continues to influence Western society’s thinking about the individual as leader and propagates the myth of leader as a hero.

Management scientists and social psychologists developed a leadership model based on individual knowledge, personality, skills, and abilities associated with formal leadership roles. This ensured that the leader– the one person– would effectively stand tall. Early studies claim that traits such as look, height, energy levels, tolerance, internal control orientation, emotional maturity, motivation, and charisma could positively impact the perception of good leadership (Yukl, 2003). Underlying these theories is the assumption that “some people are natural leaders who are endowed with certain traits not possessed by other people” (p. 12), which tends to be exclusive of any one that does not fit the desired traits for whatever reason. One danger in this thinking is that marginalized and under represented populations may find it increasingly difficult to occupy formal leadership positions if they are not perceived as having the desired traits.

Currently, the trend towards identifying the specific skills and behaviors (competencies) “that are deemed important to managerial or leadership effectiveness within the organization” (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004 p. 59) is evident in the proliferation of multi-rater instruments known as 360° evaluation tools. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies “either currently use or have plans to use some form of 360° feedback” (Antonini, in McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004).

These surveys ask the respondent (leader) to indicate his or her effectiveness in a series of skills (competencies) while inviting feedback from superiors, direct boss, peers, direct reports, and sometimes others (including clients, vendors, etc). The ratings on these instruments can compare a person’s self-perception (1st person or subjective) to the perception of others (2nd /3rd person-intersubjective, or objective if observing from the outside), identifying areas of agreement or differing perceptions of the leader’s effectiveness. Although these instruments include others’ perceptions, the ratings mostly highlight the effectiveness of one individual, the leader, in doing the work of a leader. Categories do include interpersonal realms (works effectively with others, maintains relationships) but mainly focus on one individual’s strengths and/or areas for improvement (Martineau & Hannum, 2004) for leader development.

The large quantity of multi-rater 360 degree feedback instruments indicates different competencies that are seen as valuable or important to leadership. Variations occur by instrument or by an organization choosing which competencies to measure, but they usually include competencies including 1st and 2nd person pespectives of a variety of traits. This variance demonstrates the diversity of beliefs about which characteristics indicate effective leadership (Yukl, 2003; Stogdill, 1974). It also recognizes that limiting leadership to one person’s traits cannot build a comprehensive understanding of effective leadership. The focus is partial, mostly on the individual in outwardly manifest behaviors that others may observe.

The Hay-McBer 360° (1997), developed with Goleman (1995) and Boyzatis (1982) as advisors, is based on emotional intelligence and a notable exception to other 360° instruments mentioned above. It includes both inner awareness and behaviorally observable competencies; emotional competency is defined as “a learned capability based on emotional intelligence that contributes to effective performance at work” ( To understand the emotional responses of ourselves and others and to control impulses is considered important for leadership effectiveness and predicting leadership effectiveness (Goleman, 1995; Boyzatis, 1982; These twenty scales are organized into four clusters of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills which provide a more comprehensive 360° instrument.

Trait research even fails to consistently prove that certain traits are indicative of one person’s success as a leader over those without them. Stogdill (in Yukl, 2003) confirms that even while traits might be positive in one situation, they might not indicate success in another situation. To further confuse understanding, two leaders with different patterns of traits could equally be successful in the same situation (Yukl, 2003). The behavioral theories popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s (Rost, 1991) grow out of disappointment of trait theory and began to focus on what managers actually do. Behaviors which make leaders effective are identified.

The industrial period (1900 to present) brings with it scientific management theories of Frederick W. Taylor (in Yukl, 2003) who focused on task accomplishment with little attention to relationships or developmental levels of those doing the work;

Leadership theories reflecting the industrial paradigm have been 1) structural-functionalist, 2) management oriented, 3) personalistic in focusing only on the leader, 4) goal-achievement-dominated, 5) self-interested and individualistic in outlook, 6) male-oriented, 7) utilitarian and materialistic in ethical perspective, and 8) rationalistic, technocratic, linear, quantitative, and scientific in language and methodology. (The) industrial paradigm…is much more oriented to impersonal and bureaucratic relationships. (Rost, 1991, p.27)

Situational leadership theories emerge to address not only the task of leadership, but include the relationship as a second major factor to be considered if leadership—even if transactional and superficial—is to be effective (Blanchard, 1981). This model addresses levels of development, readiness, ability, and motivation of the followers –though it expands the notion that the one leader assesses the follower to know how to lead him/her. We know now that it is not that simple. The language also evokes images of hierarchy and top-down execution of leadership. If leadership in its more complex forms (examined in Group Literature section) is less about hierarchy and positional roles and more about relational interaction then situational leadership might be considered more of a management theory (Volckmann, 2008).

The Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL) experience amply confirms (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004) that “adults can develop the important capacities that facilitate their effectiveness in leadership roles and processes” (p. 3). In an effort to identify traits and behaviors associated with success and failure of managers who attend leadership development programs CCL has identified specific traits and skills that are important in predicting whether a manager will advance or derail (McCall & Lombardo, 1983. Note: Early on, CCL literature did not differentiate between managers and leaders and interchanged the terms frequently. Earlier literature often uses the word management when talking about leadership.) CCL’s list includes: emotional stability, defensiveness, integrity, interpersonal skills, technical skills, and cognitive skills. Later trait research (Bass, 1990, Howard & Bray, 1988) reports positive correlation of effective leadership with energy levels, stress tolerance, self-confidence, internal locus of control, emotional stability, maturity, personal integrity, power motivation, achievement orientation, and need for affiliation (Yukl, 2003).

Over time the personal theories contribute even insight about great traits without self-development or self-mastery (Bolman & Deal, 2006). History provides examples of those who personified the traits of strength and power, accomplishing their leadership objective as a result of sheer power or influence over others. Traits such as courage, persistence, and determination allow leaders to get results, but at what cost? It can also make them “formidable foes” (Bolman & Deal 2006).

Interpersonal Leadership Literature: Leaders and Followers

We now consider the interpersonal realm. It includes areas of influencing, power, coercion, and exchange (Yukl, 2003). Yukl posits that the contribution of the intra-individual (called intrapersonal, or personal) approach in theory development is limited because it does not address interaction with and influence over others (Yukl, 2003). Comprehensive leadership theories cannot be solely focused on the personal realm since leadership includes interactions with other people. Thus theory expands to cover personality, technical skills, interpersonal ability and the path to achieving the leader’s ends, as well as the realm of influence and power. The intent to influence attention and behavior in the desired direction (Yukl, 2003)–by influence tactics, legitimate power, reward, and coercive power– speaks of leadership in transactional terms. Although interpersonal, the focus is still largely upon the leader achieving outcomes as a result of personal skills. Some theorists might consider this managing, but not leading.

The dyadic role-making theories and initial discussions of followership include theories of the leader-member exchange. Relationships, in the context of the interpersonal realm, evolve over time and take on different forms “ranging from casual exchange to a cooperative alliance with shared objectives” (Yukl, 2003, p.15). Prior to Burns (1978), Hollander (1964) focuses on a mutual relationship between leaders and followers (Yukl, 2003). Favorable relations with workers are seen as the means by which attribution of their greatness stands confirmed. Influence tactics (rational persuasion, appraising, inspirational appeals, exchange, collaboration pressure, personal appeals, consulting, coalition, and legitimizing) are means to the end of the leader getting what (s)he wants.

Leadership happens through people. Yet within the spirit of the industrial paradigm, there is little regard for the development, needs or aspirations of the followers– those who collaborate to get the work done with and for the leader. The focus remains, even in the interpersonal realm, largely on the leader’s talent and ability (competencies). There are exceptions in the literature including Burns (1978), Greenleaf (2002), Hollander (1964), and Vaill (1998), and Kellerman (2008).

Also within the interpersonal realm, attribution theory examines how leaders view and interpret subordinates’ performance and react to it (Yukl, 2003). Impression management surfaces as a tactic to influence the boss and that perception. Fiedler’s contingency model describes “how the situation moderates the relationship between leadership effectiveness and a trait measure called the Least Preferred Coworker (LPC) score” (in Yukl, 2003, p.209) and predicts leadership effectiveness based on understanding task success and interpersonal success. Here the equation also includes position power– in addition to task and relations– and encourages attention to situational factors of management and leadership.

In this discussion of the interpersonal realm we have noted how leadership theories can be interpreted with little regard for follower and be quite transactional. Burns (1978) suggests evolving leadership beyond transactional into transformative work.

The changing nature of leadership (Martin, 2006) from a more individual to a more interdependent process of working together suggests revisiting the definitions of leader and follower. Since one becomes the other frequently, and leadership depends on the followers (Kellerman, 2008) for effectively achieving goals, this then becomes an increasingly important part of leadership: the relationality (Drath, 2001) of working together towards desired outcomes. Kellerman (2008) hails the “end of leadcentrism” with statements like: “followers lack authority; but they do not, or they do not necessarily, lack power and influence;” “followers who do something are usually preferred to followers who do nothing;” and “followers can be, and now they often are, agents of change” (Citrix Webinar 2/27/2008). Again, leaders can be followers and followers also lead in the process of leadership

Collective Leadership Literature: Group, Organization, Culture

Leadership with more than two people (the group, collective realm) has facets that go beyond repeated separate leader-follower transactions into the realm of groups where leadership emerges (Drath, 2001) in different and complex ways. Although group leadership shares some characteristics with dyadic leadership (since there are exchanges between a leader and any given follower), groups who come together can also experience a leadership of dynamic interchange within the group– with or without a formal leader. This literature of group leadership might have elements of dyadic interactions but mostly the complexity of relationships within a group (of more than two) increases the complexity of understanding leadership.

The discussion of collective leadership must also include self-managed teams (or semi-autonomous work groups) which shift the authority usually reserved for the “leader” to the members of the team (Yukl, 2006). They are effective tools for employee empowerment “with the potential to affect dramatic increases in worker satisfaction and productivity” (Kossler & Kanaga, 2001). However, their success depends on many factors:

the political support of the surrounding organization; the degree of centralization and formalization of the surrounding organization; the structure of the teams themselves including the relationship to team leaders and how reviews are handled; training of team members, particularly in the area of communication; clear mission, goals, and success measures that include rewards for exceeding expectations and coaching when goals are not met; and special training or support in handling issues of discipline and other human resources issues. (Leslie, 2008)

The changing nature of leadership (Martin, 2006) recognizes the shifting of power and decisions from one person to more people. The Center for Creative Leadership uses leaderless teams within their leadership development programs for participants to directly experience the flow of leadership without a designated leader.

Drath (2001) delineates the ways of practicing leadership as personal, interpersonal, and relational. In his personal dominance principle the “leader embodies direction, inspires commitment, and personally faces challenges” (p. 153). In his interpersonal influence principle the “leader emerges from reasoning and negotiating as the person with most influence over direction, who is thus best able to gain commitment and create the conditions for facing adaptive challenge” (p. 153). In the relational dialogue principle “people share work and create leadership by constructing the meaning of direction, commitment, and adaptive challenge” (p. 153). Personal dominance and interpersonal influence of a single leader do not encompass the complexity of how leadership is happening in an increasingly complex world (Burns, 1978; Martin & Alexander in Hesselbein, 2006). Leadership is seen as a shared achievement, neither a product of a great man, nor of dyadic interaction, but as relying on the “whole system of relations—the deep blue sea—in order to get things done” (Drath, 2001, p.6).

Drath believes that leadership focuses on the whole ground, the web of relationships within a group sharing resources, to make leadership happen and calls it relational leadership.Together individuals and the group make sense of these relationships, of its interaction, and of its adaptive work. Heifetz (1994) takes leadership in the group/collective realm to a bold new place, where together the collective addresses the burden and responsibility of meeting the challenge with or without positional, formal authority. He defines this as the adaptive— as opposed to technical– challenge facing a leader. Technical challenges are easily solved by applying a technology or existing solution to a challenge. Adaptive challengesrequire a leader’s ability to give the work back to the people without abandoning them. This demands participation of the group and accesses leadership competencies beyond an individual-as-leader or dyadic skills. It also invites a leadership beyond simply followership to one of encouraging people who do not hold “positions” of leadership (Heifetz, 1994).

Leadership in nested levels of complexity including individual and interpersonal, is created by the group as it faces the adaptive work of living up to its values. It is less about structure, positions, and hierarchy–often associated with management—and more about navigating increasing complexity. A discussion of social systems follows in the Integral section.

Understanding leadership requires a lens capable of integrating and valuing the theories we have examined so far while simultaneously anticipating the next evolutionary developments in thinking and knowing about leadership. We can now begin to grasp the phenomenon of leadership as the field of awareness rather than a personality trait or mental attribute.

Integral as an Alternative


Given the present complexity that leaders face, there is an urgent need to expand leadership concepts (Bass, 1990; Quinn, 2004). Kupers & Weibler (2006) note that the prevailing leadership approaches seem to manifest fragmented or mutually exclusive paradigm parameters, missing a more inclusive orientation and enfoldment of leadership. Following often reductionistic orientations and due to various ontological and epistemological shortcomings and methodological limitations the need for different openings and a new discourse and framework for leadership studies become evident. An incomplete approach of leadership phenomena may lead to an inappropriate understanding, and investigation and erroneous conclusions and implications. Thus the lack of an adequate comprehension of the construct and practice of leadership call for a congruous integral framework. The term ‘integral’ here refers to the completeness of a truly full-range approach, in which the constituent parts and wholes of leadership are not fragmented, and in which all its micro-and the macro-dimensions as well as its mutual interrelation are brought together. (white paper from Academy of Management Conference, Atlanta, 8/2006, p. 2)

Edwards & Volckmann (2006) see the wisdom in focusing on social systems, in addition to strengthening the ability of individual leaders to meet client demands. Since we have worked with the leader/follower paradox for so long we tend towards reductionistic thinking—one is the leader, or a follower—that we forget that at some moments the leaders follow and the followers lead. This reductionism can create pathologies and limited ontologies that see leadership as top-down or bottom-up (Edwards & Volckman, 2006) without acknowledging relational leadership (Drath, 2001). Servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1977) offers a different way of seeing the relationship as a leader is expected to serve, for example. Volckmann & Edwards (2006) see leadership and followership as creative and dialectical, actually complementing each other as the roles shift and the group creates itself— autopoeisis–and unanticipated ways of working within the social system emerge.

O’Toole (2001), although his early work emphasized the individual, posits that definitions which focus on the individual are not sufficient and urges readers to consider instead the responsibility shared throughout the organization.

Ken Wilber (2000a) challenges current frameworks for thinking of leadership and highlights the tremendous need for ‘frameworks that can both recognize the insights of more focused models and integrate those insights into larger theoretical structures (which he calls methodological pluralism). His quadrant model is the foundation of integral theory, and according to McIntosh (2007) “its exposition has certainly marked the beginning of integral philosophy’s twenty-first-century synthesis” (p. 220).

What Is Integral?

What if we took literally everything that all the various cultures have to tell us about human potential—about spiritual growth, psychological growth, social growth –and put it all on the table? What if we attempted to find the critically essential keys to human growth, based on the sum total of human knowledge now open to us? That is we attempted, based on extensive cross cultural study, to use all of the world’s great traditions to create a composite map, a comprehensive map, an all-inclusive or integral map that included the best elements from all of them? (Wilber, 2007, p. 16)

First we embark on a discussion of integral philosophy’s evolution, followed by a look at its application to leadership. Integral philosophy, according to McIntosh (2007) is “a new understanding of how the influences of evolution affect the development of consciousness and culture” (p. 2). The new understanding will impact how we understand epistemology—“grounds of knowing” (Blaikie, 2000, p. 119)– and ontology—“science or study of being” (p. 119). We can know from philosophy, science, or spirituality—the three legs of a stool (McIntosh, 2007).

Integral theory, then, is not so much about defining concepts (which we do after looking at its evolution) but about discovering how to represent perspectives for understanding the complexity of leadership (Volckmann, 2008).

The Evolution of Integral Philosophy

Steve McIntosh (2007) traces the path of integral philosophy by marking the integration of science and philosophy, of science and spirituality. The founders transcend separation and move towards integration at distinct periods in history when separation of these three areas was the predominant paradigm of that time. They challenged current paradigms. We consider a few of their successive contributions where their thoughts open epistemologies and ontologies of science to address increasing complexity in new ways.

Hegel (1770-1831) and his 1807 publication Phenomenology of the Spirit declares reason and order in human history. Conflict serves as a catalyst for transformation to a higher state (McIntosh, 2007). He believes that consciousness grows; knowledge and awareness that challenge create a dialecticthat evokes development. He uses a new “epistemological capacity to uncover the truths of his philosophy” (p.162).

One hundred years later Bergson (1859-1941) in Creative Evolution (1907) emphasizes an alternative to scientific analysis as an intuitive knowing from within. He posits a “‘seiz[ing] from within’ to grasp things as a whole by intuition [allows things to be seen] in their wholeness and in time” (p. 167). This is distinct from Hegel who understands dialectical evaluation as a means of seeking development and truth. Bergson moves beyond modernist reason to find truth, which qualifies him, according to McIntosh (2007) as an early integral thinker. He sees development as a creative process happening within evolution and thereby recognizes evolution as a spiritual philosophy of love and freedom. He influences Whitehead, Teilhard, and Sri Aurobindo before fading from mainstream philosophy due to the rise of phenomenology and existentialism in the twentieth century.

Andrew Cohen (2002) also comes from the evolutionary consciousness perspective.

Whitehead (1861-1947), who is called “Spiritual philosopher for the ages” by McIntosh (2007) then carries the integral stream forward by claiming a living philosophy—process philosophy. This philosophy gracefully integrates science and spirituality. Known as the Whitehead-Hartshorne-Griffin philosophy, Griffin notes “we directly experience this soul’s power by virtue of experiencing cognitive, aesthetic, and moral forms, through which we feel the call of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness as normative ideals” (p. 169), which is also at the heart of Wilber’s formulations. Harmonizing science and spirituality eliminates the dualism and reductionism evidenced even now in 1st, 2nd, 3rd person leadership literature. Process philosophy also emphasizes the developmental nature of reality, which will be important as we examine leadership in collectives; it is not static but rather a process over time (Roy, 2006).

Because of his affiliation to the Jesuit order, the Catholic Church discouraged the publication of Teilhard de Chardin’s (1881-1955) Phenomenon of Manuntil his death in 1955. At a time when science and religion were not integrated, his work highlighted the spiritual significance of mankind’s evolution, finding spirituality in evolution. His term noospheredepicts the evolutionary stage when mankind recognizes a self-reflective capacity and can become aware of himself from within (McIntosh, 2007). This differentiates human from animal and signals a spiritual place for humankind’s participation in improving the human condition. If one brings a spiritual lens to evolution, concludes Teilhard, one is compelled to develop consciousness.

Gebser (1905-1973) quietly predicted that a new structure of consciousness and culture would soon emerge. This integral consciousness which he terms aperspectival awareness (McIntosh, 2007) is not bound by perceptions of the ego or limited to one type of consciousness. Aperspectival awareness allows more broad perception. Including, transcending, and integrating previous stages of perspectives grants freedom from narrowly locking into one perspective.

Integral theory, by including and transcending worldviews of increasing complexity, brings greater epistemological capacity marking evolution of culture and consciousness. For example, the modernist worldviews which arise during the Enlightenment period of the 17th and 18th centuries allow reason and logic to be included as ways of knowing (instead of believing dogma). Descartes triggered the scientific revolution changing the then current way of seeing things (in McIntosh, 2007). This opens the way to modernism, seeing the external universe scientifically which produces a cultural evolution by changing the grounds of knowing—the epistemology (McIntosh, 2007). In similar ways, the emergence of the integral consciousness opens a worldview onto the grounds of knowing—epistemology—(Blaikie, 2000) and understanding the interior universe of being, or ontology.

What is evolving is the “quality and quantity of connections between people, taking the form of shared meanings and experiences, agreements, relationships, and groups of relationships—these constitute what we might call the organisms of cultural evolution” (McIntosh, p. 18). It is the intersubjective space—the space which exists between subjects. (This middle space [Nicolescu, in Volckmann, 2007b] is discussed later associogenesis.) Cultural evolutions live in the internal universe-in our minds and the minds of others—which is different than the individual and subjective consciousness. So the great domains of evolution are the objective, subjective, and intersubjective—‘nature, self, and culture’ (p.22).

Teilhard and Whitehead’s work predated the alternative to modernism—post-modernism (McIntosh,2007). Gebser identified in modernist consciousness a “balanced directional thought and a deficient form of rationalism” (p. 178). He found the rationalism too analytical, highly divisive and dualistic.

James Mark Baldwin (1861-1934) discovered that consciousness evolves through universal stages of development. In an effort to overcome the dualisms of modernist consciousness he describes the dialectical development of human consciousness in five distinct stages: pre-logical, quasi-logical, logical, extra-logical, and hyper-logical (McIntosh, 2007). His work identified related lines of development in his stages taking the form of feeling, thought, and will. Jean Piaget took this thinking forward confirming cross-cultural, universal stages each with its own worldview. Kohlberg, Loevinger, Gilligan, Gardner, and Kegan (in McIntosh, 2007) were inspired by this line of work and able to integrate humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Humanistic psychology emerged when Maslow combines modernism, postmodernism, and a beginning integralism to bring together existentialist philosophy and scientific psychology. He considered it the third force in psychology after the Freudian (1st) and Behaviorism (2nd) schools. (McIntosh, 2007). Later, Maslow founded the 4th force, transpersonal psychology, to transcend the limitations of ego-boundedness that he saw in humanistic psychology. Transpersonal psychology honors the place beyond ego where people come together. New Age spirituality entered into the transpersonal psychology arena, which caused some people such as Ken Wilber—who began his career there—to distance themselves from this area (McIntosh, 2007).

Graves (1914-1986) contributes significantly to integral thinking with his theory of spiral development. His research found people at levels beyond Maslow’s highest category of self-actualization, so his spiral transcends where Maslow left off. Graves incorporates values and levels in the “systemic nature of the spiral of development” (p. 186). His research and interpretation of the data highlight the interdependence of life conditions and different values-based worldviews playing out in the bio-psycho-social character of human development. He highlights culture and consciousness as structured and systemic. His stages are being levels with being values derived from Maslow’s findings on self-actualized people’s orientation and values. Graves’ work is also credited with helping Wilber understand the postmodern pathology he calls boomeritis (McIntosh, 2007)—an exaggeration of equality and openness-to-all thinking, which taken to the extreme, becomes a rigid mind trap.

Habermas combines Piaget’s and Kohlberg’s stage theories with Marx’s historical materialism to arrive at “methodological atheism” (McIntosh, 2007, p. 188). His influence on Wilber, who refers to him as the ‘world’s most foremost living philosopher and social theorist” (MacIntosh, 2007, p. 188), is evident. He avoids transcendental and idealistic views of morality, grounding his moral theory in ethical validity of intersubjective agreement. To be in agreement about free rational discussions or laws of society, one must possess postconventional (higher order) morality and be in agreement. Habermas has sought to preserve a conception of reason and objective morality that enables the evaluation of social norms without resort to religious authority. Thus, for Habermas the evident reality of intersubjective agreements serves as the foundation of his moral and social theories. (McIntosh p.189)

Another of Habermas’ contributions is in distinguishing between the natural life world and the artificial systems of a capitalist society. So besides the objective, subjective, and intersubjective realities, he is able to include manmade artifacts and manmade systems into his philosophy.

Wilber’s (2000a, 2002, 2007) contribution to integral philosophy lies in the tremendous amount of work to include hundreds of theorists in diverse systems of science, philosophy, spirituality, and developmental psychology. Wilber attempts a meta-description, a big picture of matter, mind, and spirit (McIntosh, 2007) which he calls “the Great Nest.” Wilber (2000a) describes the motivation for this grand work:

I therefore sought to outline a philosophy of universal integralism. Put differently, I sought a world philosophy—an integral philosophy—that would believable weave together the many pluralistic contexts of science, morals, aesthetics, Eastern as well as Western philosophy, and the world’s great wisdom traditions. Not on the level of details—that is finitely impossible; but on the level of orienting generalizations: a way to suggest that the world really is one, undivided, whole and related to itself in every way: a holistic philosophy for a holistic Kosmos, a plausible Theory of Everything. (p. 38)

Taking Wilber’s work further, McIntosh contributes to the integral conversation by contending that philosophy, spirituality, and science should be “afforded a degree of separation from each other” (p. 195), and that spirituality must be kept from being a form of spiritual teaching. He considers Wilber’s teachings edging towards religion and spirituality. He also believes that evolution is subject to a ‘transcendental causation or morphogenetic pull” (p. 196) and that it grows in a positive direction.

Current scientific breakthroughs privilege Wilber over his predecessors, Teilhard and Whitehead, in understanding the systemic nature of internal evolution. Wilber also recognized the potential of Graves’ work to contribute to integral theory as Beck and Cowan (1996, 2006) brought it forward. As other integral founders before, Graves’ work allowed Wilber to address the challenge that Habermas identified in between postmodernism and integralism. Upon recognizing the contributions as well as the falsehoods of postmodernism, Wilber (2000a, 2007) shows that an integral worldview is the next stage in humanity’s evolution and development and can also integrate the diverse field of leadership literature. Others will invite Wilber’s work to evolve as well (McIntosh, 2007).

A spiral of development in the grounds of knowing—epistemology—or in understanding the nature of reality—ontology (Blaikie, 2000)—means increasingly comprehensive approaches available to the understanding of leadership study by transcending more limiting epistemologies. We later turn to evolving the development and practice of leadership.

Developmental Psychology

Psychology means the study of the psyche—“self: atman, soul, spirit; subjectivity: higher self, spiritual self, spirit” (Microsoft Thesaurus, 2008)—within the human spirit, its animating force. It was defined as early as 1888 in the New Princeton Review as “the science of the soul or psyche” (Wilber, 2000b, p. vii) when the connection between mind and body as mental stimulation and material stimulus emerged. There were early doubts as to whether it could ever be a science since the subjective world could not be experimentally measured. Fechner is credited as writing in 1835 (Wilber, 2000b) “In the first stage man lives in the dark, alone; in the second, he lives associated with, yet separated from, his fellow-men, in a light reflected from the surface of things; in the third, his life, interwoven with…universal spirit…is a higher life” (p. ix). He also believed that essentially the whole universe is spiritual in character—atoms resting in more complex hierarchies all the way up to God. This integral approach to psychology invited science—empirical measurement—to show soul and spirit. Early modern psychology found no contradiction or difficulty being both fully scientific and fully spiritual (Wilber, 2000b).

If we look at the emerging field of psychology, it is hard to find references until around 1879 (Wilber, 2000b). Each iterative contribution claims that its focus is the most important focus but in doing so will reduce the whole of consciousness: behaviorism reduces consciousness study to observable, behavioral expression; psychoanalysis reduces consciousness to structures of the ego and its interplay with the id; existentialism reduces consciousness to intentionality and personal structures; transpersonal psychology—many schools—avoids developing structures of consciousness to focus on altered states; Asian psychology mostly ignores an understanding of early development but contributes understanding from the personal to transpersonal—beyond individual ego—consciousness development; and cognitive science can reduce consciousness to bio-mechanical-computer-like-objective reality (Wilber, 2000b). Each aspect is important while none in and of itself is comprehensive. Integral psychology identifies new ways of engaging with leading and leadership by applying the same evolutionary idea to our human development: include and transcend.

Developmental psychology is about the growth and development of the mind—the study of interior development and consciousness evolution. The waves of development emerge and unfold allowing progressive subordination of older lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as an individual’s existential problems change. Each wave…is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. There is a psychology associated with the state which will encompass feelings, values, motivations, neurological activation, belief systems, learning systems, and theories of leadership appropriate for that state, wave. (Wilber, 2000b. p.5)

Development is different than learning, but often confused with it (Palus & Drath, 1995). Learning happens when new information is accommodated within existing structures or underlying frameworks. Thomas (2008) calls this horizontal development. If the existing frameworks cannot accommodate new information but the person accesses a new stage or “reorganizes one’s epistemology” (Piaget in Palus & Drath, 1995, p. 3) to encompass and better organize complex information, this is the motion of vertical development (Thomas, 2008). Adult development has been the purview of schools of education and of counseling programs. Management and leadership belongs to business schools and to social and organizational psychology and political science departments. (McCauley et al, 2006, p. 635)

A growing number of theorists (Kegan, Cook-Greuter ) now see human growth and development as a series of “unfolding stages or waves’ (Wilber, 2000b, p. 5). Loevinger, Torbert, and Kohlberg (McCauley et al, 2006) identify pre-conventional, conventional, and post conventional, or dependent, independent, and interdependent levels and have assessments for understanding where a person is on that developmental continuum. Graves (in Cowan & Todorovic, 2005) identified eight major waves or levels which Spiral Dynamics (Beck &Cowan, 1996, 2006) call memes. These memes are represented by distinct colors contained within a spiral. A second-tier consciousness (also called post-conventional or interdependent) exists marking a significant jump in capacity to deal with complexity, as in Kegan, Loevinger, Torbert, and Kohlberg’s work (in McIntosh, 2007). Leading in complex times requires developmental levels capable of dealing with complexity (McCauley et al, 2006).

Edwards argues that the heavy emphasis on the developmental level of the leader—in order to not fall into developmental absolutism (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006)—needs to be accompanied by other lenses that help describe “healthy, normative development in a leader’s workplace capacities, worldviews and behaviours” (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006, p. 13). If individual tends to be individualistic and, for example, solve problems by himself, then the solutions to problems will most likely—no matter at what developmental level—ignore the collective solutions or the systemic issues. There will be missed opportunities for team building or examining collective practices or shifting systemic process to enable greater leadership.

Another perspective on development— sociogenetic— comes from the Vygotsky school (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006): development occurs from the interaction between subject and object mediated by artifacts (such as words, gestures, meanings, displays) in the space between people. The space between individuals is the mediating process for growth (Nicolescu in Volckmann, 2007b). Leadership, then, from this developmental focus could assert: “The true leader is someone who leads others to discover this space out of which communion arises—encounter with the true nature of the other” (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006, p. 5). Holding this view of development positions leaders in organizations to inspire others in the intersubjective space of shared humanity, where we can all grow and develop together. It opens the possibility of transformation and highest potentials. If development does happen in our encounters with each other—in dialectic forms—then the workplace or social systems are inherently places that offer much potential for growth and development. Vaill’s (1998) assertion of the inherent spirituality—opportunity to grow spiritually—of organizations thus makes sense. So knowing oneselfand encountering the other are both paths of development (Nicolescu in Volckmann, 2007) as is constructive-developmental theory (McCauley et al, 2006).

The implication for development of leaders is stunning here. The sociogenetic or social mediation focus on development brings its opportunity into the organizations and social systems where most leaders spend much time and have many interactions. This offers an accessible option to leaders seeking development. McCauley’s (2006) work on development in place addresses ways for leaders to develop within their workplace without leaving their jobs. This could be considered learning, or development, or both depending on the process and outcome.

In Hampden-Turner’s Developmental Model and Anomic Model (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006) each diagram depicts the development (or anomic) potential of injecting the self into an environment and integrating its learnings (or not) while narrowing the distance (or not) between self and other. These models are robust enough to encompass the interobjective and intersubjective space while making no distinctions between who is part of our group—the we—or outside of it. This mediation lens—the socially mediated development—is not always included in integral theory and is an important consideration, especially as we address leadership later.

Development can also be framed in terms of learning and unlearning—letting go of old behaviors and perspectives and taking on new habits (Kaipa, 2006) that are better suited for any given situation. Lewin (1997) would use the terms unfreezing and freezing. Mezirow (1991) would emphasize the importance of disorienting dilemmas to stimulate development. This could be both socially constructed and also have an internal dissonance component.

Using developmental psychology to look at organizational sense making (Palus & Drath, 1995, Weick, 1995; Morgan, 2006) or behavior is important for leaders. No matter which developmental stage, a disagreement or conflict between ideas or people can be viewed as differing subjective positions/levels—different levels of dealing with complexity. Objective evidence is also subject to the level at which knowing happens which effects what is considered truth—epistemologies and ontologies look different at each distinct wave or meme. This has enormous relevance for humans leading and forming part of social systems. “Leadership is not a science or an art, it is a state of consciousness” Chatterjee (1998, p. xix) asserts, and “personal mastery is a function of the quality of our seeing” (p.1). Lines of development, levels, stages, states, and intelligences are all important in integral theory. Bolman & Deal’s (2006) discussion on shadow sides of leaders from this developmental perspective: we learn that power without development can have disastrous consequences or simply produce tyrants and formidable foes. Developing a leader is essentially about developing a human being (Bennis, 1989).

Bringing It Together—Integral

Chaterjee’s (1998) leadership as a state of consciousness and Alexander’s call to revise the understanding of leadership and its practice (in Hesselbein & Goldsmith, 2006) brings us to Wilber’s use of quadrants (Wilber, 2000a; McIntosh, 2007). These integrate and include both individual and collective considerations in the interior and exterior realms. They have also been referred to as subjective, inter-subjective and objective dimensions whose axes yield a four quadrant model sometimes referred to as All Quadrants All Levels—or AQAL. The interdependence of the quadrants is an important part of the theory.

Santana 1

Each quadrant also contains development and movement—hence the reference to levels, lines, waves, or stages of development. The developmental lines (not shown) include adult developmental theory (Kohlberg, Loevinger, in McIntosh, 2007; Kegan, 1982; Torbert, 2006; McCauley, 2006), multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1999; Riggio, 2002; Goleman, 1995), as well as personal and cultural worldviews (Graves et al, 2005). These lines reflect individual and collective differences in the ability to deal with complexity. They can be represented with diagonal vectors within each quadrant representing lines of development. The further from the center, greater is the ability to deal with complexity.

Some authors (Roy, 2005; Volckmann, 2006) label these quadrants differently to emphasize the process of development, rather than a static structure. Instead of “individual/collective” we might relax the structure and label the continuum “toward the condition of singularity/plurality;” and label the interior/exterior continuum “toward the condition of interiority/exteriority” (Roy, 2006). Another variation of integral frame might label the individual/collective axis “agentic/communal” (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006). Either way the lens of integral can encompass developmental movement over time (see discussion of holons).

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) is highly interested in the adult development arena of this constructive-developmental theory—especially Kegan, Lovinger, Torbert, and Kohlberg’s work in stages of development— to advance the understanding of leadership (Mc Cauley, et al 2006) and change in organizations. Stages, waves, nesting levels are understood to fall along a line representing development in any given quadrant. Developmental lines are also used by Wilber (2007) as measures on a psychograph to differentiate various types of development lines (cognitive, emotional, interpersonal, physical, moral and spiritual). Development can be horizontal and/or vertical (McIntosh, 2007; Thomas, 2008; Wilber, 2007). Horizontal development refers to acquired learning which increases a knowledge base about a given area (Thomas, 2008) while vertical development refers to increased ability to deal with complexity. McIntosh (2007) identifies three overall lines of development: emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, and moral development or values intelligence—EQ, IQ, VQ. Developmental theory helps make sense of the vast field of leadership and leadership development. The Academy of Management Review in 1983 advocated for the use of developmental stage theories to inform the design of management education programs that increased ‘complicated’ understanding in managers…to see and understand organizations from multiple perspectives [is] seen as necessary for dealing with the complex nature of many of the problems managers face. The potential contribution of developmental theories is in their description of how adults develop more complex and comprehensive ways of making sense of themselves and their experience. (in McCauley, et al 2006, p. 634-653)

For example, the upper left (UL) quadrant addresses the interior of the individual. A leader’s ability to make meaning of a situation internally will be impacted by the level of psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual development (McCauley, 2006). The behaviors that are manifest for others to see in the exterior individual, upper right (UR), will somehow reflect the underlying beliefs and attitudes as well as development, since the quadrants are connected. The collective interior is about culture, lower left (LL), while the collective exterior, lower right (LR) reflects structural or functional order and systems. For simplicity’s sake we visit each quadrant with brief considerations from the field of leadership literature, remembering that all quadrants interact and will impact upon one another. The interplay is as much a part of integral theory as the four quadrants themselves; the quadrants co-evolve.

Individual Interior- Quadrant I

Individual Interior (UL) quadrant includes assumptions, beliefs, values, knowledge, skills, mental models, espoused theories…and knowledge derived from education, training and experience (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006). Mental models (Senge, 2004) –the inner theatre (DeVries, 2007) –of thoughts and feelings exist in the interior of an individual will influence to a large degree the reactions and behaviors evident in the individual exterior realm (UR). It is the “internal reality of a person lived by the leader” (Kupers & Weibler, 2006, p. 4). It contains intra-personal conversation, feelings, intuition. It is called the consciousness quadrant (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006) and deals with psychological, cognitive, emotional, and volitional areas. An individual’s developmental level, inner theatre, mental models, etc. will predispose the way a leader perceives conflict, for example. If an individual is less developed (s)he may identify a problem as a result of a dysfunctional other individual. At higher levels of development, a leader could understand the complexity of the interaction between the individual and the system and how it plays a role in the conflict. Therefore, a leader’s ability to deal with complexities required of leadership is related to the developmental levels within the person (Volckman & Edwards, 2006; Kegan, 1982; Beck & Cowan, 1996, 2006; Wilber, 2000a; McIntosh, 2007) and of those who might follow. Behavior’s (UR) impetus is linked to this quadrant (UL).

Individual Exterior-Quadrant II

The individual exterior (UR) quadrant focuses on the behaviors—externally enacted leadership—of the individual. These behaviors are easily observed and often are outer manifestations in ways such as “delegating tasks, to giving inspirational presentations to initiating innovations or rapid responses to crises” (McIntosh, p. 10). The use of 360° (multi-rater) feedback is an attempt for the leader to understand how the behaviors are impacting those around them—either positively or negatively. The UL, individual interior, impacts the individual behaviors that are displayed UR, as well as the collective interior, LL and therefore that external manifestation, LR. It shapes the meaning making of the leader. Leadership development for this quadrant often uses coaching, planning, decision-making, and monitoring of tasks and performance related tasks, including feedback. UL and UR is about self-management and development (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006), about feedback and adjustment for effectiveness. It is a personal realm objectively observable and measurable by others called the behavioral quadrant (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006).

Collective Interior-Quadrant III

The culture of the company—its values, beliefs about what leadership is, and sense of itself—is represented in the collective interior (LL) quadrant. It is an “intersubjective world of shared history, myths, stories, and values and norms” (Kupers & Weibler, 2006, p. 5) as well as how people “justify and explain what they think and do together” (p. 5). It is referred to as the culture quadrant (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006).

Volckmann (2007a) encourages us “to understand leadership in a way that does not focus so exclusively on the traits and behaviors of the individual…which is instructive but results in advice that is not actionable…we need to consider other factors as well” (p. 8). The leader cannot as easily impact directly in this realm since it depends on the social world of the members and their organizations—which is made of many individuals. It addresses how people within organizations think about themselves and their organizations. Organizational leadership theorists (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Morgan, 2006; Senge, 2004; Olsen & Eoyang, 2001; Drath, 2001; Weick, 1995; Palus & Horth, 2002) offer insights for the collective interior and exterior realms in their literature. They provide a rich understanding of ways people make sense of being in their organizations (LL) and alternatives to traditional ways of experiencing their organizations as machines, which can negatively impact the LL quadrant. While the full depth of their theories is beyond the scope of this paper, their mention later offers possibilities.

Collective Exterior-Quadrant IV

This realm covers the ‘it’– the resources, tools, technologies, communication, information sharing, strategic plans, workplace procedures, and formal policies as well as the institutional conditions, external influences, natural resources, climate, and external constraints that an organization or collective (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006). This realm also extends to external world at large: shareholders, stakeholders, customers, anything that becomes part of the system. Chaos theory—study of dynamic, nonlinear, complex systems—enters into an understanding of thissystems quadrant (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006).

Is there a place for questions about collective, social experience, LL, and behavior LR in our conversations about leadership? Integral theory finds a place in the collective realms, both interior and exterior. Leadership theory (Senge 2004; Vaill, 1996; Dixon, 1994; O’Toole, 1996) must take into account the complexity of individuals within collectives—relational leadership (Drath, 2001). In this quadrant we find outer behaviors and systems (LR) that may be a result of beliefs in UL, LL quadrants, and/or will impact the UL, LL. Again, we witness the intense interactivity between quadrants. None would be complete or comprehensive without the others (Wilber, 2000a; Kupers & Weibler, 2006). These are systems of beliefs, attitudes, experience, and culture which warrants discussion about social systems (addressed in the Implications for Collectives section).

Introducing the Holon

An integral system can be observed by using a holon as a unit of analysis. At once a holon is an entity which is both a whole and also part of a larger whole at the same time (Edwards, 2005). Koestler (in Edwards, 2005) first used holons to “describe basic units of organization in biological and social systems” (p. 269). Unable to find any living or social evolving organisms that were non-interacting entities he recognized how each part was embedded and contained within a larger system—natural hierarchies, or what he termed holarchies. Wilber (2000a) noted that every evolving structure has an interior (some form of consciousness), which increases in complexity as the exterior structure increases in complexity. He also noted that the exterior and interior co-evolve, and then constructed a model to find the “connections between the exterior and interior holarchies of evolutionary development” (p. 220) in individual and collective dimensions. An individual consciousness belongs to a collective culture which will have a consciousness that develops as the individual(s) develop. Wilber (2000a) reflects that “reality might be composed of processes and not things, but all are processes within other processes—first and foremost holons….reality is not comprised of things or processes, but of holons” (p. 43). There are structures that do not evolve—human artifacts.

Wilber (2000a) distinguishes between a human artifact—“an artificial human creation and thus it does not have an interior” (p. 220) and a “naturally occurring, self-organizing system” (p. 220). While a person has a consciousness (interior) and a body (exterior) a computer does not have an interior consciousness. Although Wilber (2000a) and McIntosh (2007) have differing views of the LR inter-objective quadrants—questioning the symmetry of interdomain relationships—McIntosh states “that the four-quadrants model represents one of the best maps we have of the internal universe and its relation to the external realm” (p. 224) and suggests continuing its use. McIntosh offers instead three basic and observable domains of evolution found in nature, self, and culture. This recognition of the objective, subjective, and intersubjective dimensions of evolving reality forms the foundation of integral metaphysics and frames the worldview of integral consciousness. (p. 224)

Wilber (2000a) also acknowledges these three big domains, which allows his theory to accommodate many world thinkers’ trilogies: Popper (subjective/I, cultural/we, obejctive/it), Habermas (subjective sincerity/I, instersubjective justness/we, objective truth/it), Plato (Beautiful, Good, True), Buddhism (Buddha, Dharma, Sangha), and Kant (Critique of Pure Reason/objective science, Critique of Practical Reason/morals, Critique of Judement/aesthetic judgment/art). Beyond the objective, subjective and intersubjective aspects of evolution, integral philosophy also gives spirituality a place, but that is outside the scope of this current discussion.

If we are to apply the concept of holon to leadership, we note that leaders have intentions which they may or may not externalize and behaviors which are externalized. The holon allows leaders and leadership to be “seen simultaneously as parts as well as wholes and again both are part of more complex holons like organizations, industries, countries” (Kupers & Weibler, 2006). The leader must manage individual parts as well as collective wholes. One is enfolded within the other—they are not separate as previously discussed. Integral theory, therefore, since it includes subjective, inter-subjective, and objective perspectives, provides a meta-theoretical framework and heuristic system of analytical lenses…[to] provide a clearer, more comprehensive picture of occasions of leadership as it focuses on the specific, but interconnected process of intentional behavioral, cultural and social domains (Kupers & Weibler, 2006, p. 4).

Each quadrant outlined above is part of a holon, or simultaneously could be a holon unto itself (Volckmann & Edwards, 2006). This allows a level of analysis to enfold greater levels of understanding leadership on an expanding continuum from a solo act, through dyad interaction, on to groups, organizations, culture, and society (see additional holons in the Collective section).

What, then, is Integral Leadership?

Wilber focuses on leadership from an integral perspective:

Integral Leadership is having a vision others want to follow. An integral leader is a man or woman who knows more, sees more and provides guidance to others who want to move forward. The capacity to lead has to touch all of the areas that humans have to deal with. (in Volckmann, 2005, p. 290)

Although this is still reminiscent of a heroic notion of leadership—one person doing the leading of others— he voices the need for an integral map for leadership to use, to embody, and to personalize. Kofman posits that the integral leader is “someone who can help people align their transcendent individual purposes into a transcendent collective purpose” (Volckmann, 2004, p. 30). Furthermore, (s)he would do it in an AQAL form, meaning in all the quadrants, at all levels of development, engaging all the different lenses of personal consciousness, and considering the two tendencies of holons—agency and communion or the masculine and the feminine, and also involving the multiple of the three states, the gross, the subtle and the causal. So an integral leader is a person that can resonate very powerfully with all the individuals around and has the skill to touch everybody wherever they are and then with that touch awaken in them the passion for creating something that transcends each one of them but involves the community (p. 30)

So, to Kofman, “leadership is a personal commitment to life…people with formal authority need to do that, but so does anybody who wants to be fully human” (in Volckmann, 2004, p. 31). This enriches the mythic and heroic idea of leadership to a rich integral view of leadership.

Integral Leadership to Leo Burke (Volckmann, 2003) of Notre Dame’s integral executive development program is “thinking in a kind of simplest exposition, taking a look at various dimensions of leadership…This means looking not only at exterior components of our work life but the inside, or interior, as well” (p. 53). He further elaborates:

The way we’ve treated it is we’ve defined the collective exterior as all of the systems and processes that businesses engage and employ. So it’s all the stuff you can see when you walk into a factory that’s going on, in fact what enabled widgets to be made. The collective interior is culture and shared values…most business managers really acknowledge the validity of culture even though most don’t fully understand it and certainly don’t know how to manage or engage it effectively. But there’s at least the notion that, yes, this is the variable we need to be paying attention to.” (p. 53)

What would an integrated theory of leadership look like? What strategies would be suggested by an integral theory of leadership. Ross (2008) believes that by definition, an Integral Leadership theory would need to include strategies that emerge out of an integrated theory. Using integral theory’s “handles” we have the conceptual (integrated theory)in Upper Left/Lower Leftand the behavioral in Upper Right/Lower Right(implementation = individual and collective behaviors). If we only focus on implementation (behaviors and measures of performance), we miss the rich subjective and intersubjective (conceptual) pieces of the whole of leadership. To only look at the systems without focus on the individual and their role in the system, is to miss out on the complexity of the interaction between these elements.

Couto (2008) underlines the importance of integral theory to integrate personality (traits, developmental lines, biology, styles), process (contingency models of leadership, situational leadership, leader-member exchange, transactional, transformational), and purpose (values, transforming, servant leadership). It can provide a more robust, comprehensive context within which to understand leadership and its practice. Next we turn to examples of applying integral theory to leadership and leadership development.

Applications in Leader and Leadership Development

The evolving nature of epistemology and ontology informed by our pioneers in integral theory then positions a search for more effective ways of leading and practicing leadership. Burns (1978) hoped to reach a general theory of leadership addressing complexity—taking into account structural and behavioral factors, the role of development, and social construction of reality. Even then he wanted “a theory that could encompass leadership at different times, different places, and in different cultures” (Burns, in Couto, 2007, p. v). Wheatley (in Couto, 2007) describes the paradigm of psychology and leadership used by Burns to talk about leadership at that time, recognizing that since then “we have moved into a different consciousness” (p. 105) and if one will be leading a “living system, very different skills are going to be required of you: participation, learning, perceptive realities, curiosity, connectedness, and the ability to find meaningful order in messes” (p. 115).

Covey (in Hesselbein & Goldsmith, 2006) reminds us that making minor incremental changes and improvements happen when working on practice, behavior or attitude, but making “significant, quantum improvement, [one must] work on paradigms” (p. 220). Einstein challenges that “the significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them” (p. 219). So, any theories of leadership need to be comprehensive enough to address complexity, permanent white water, connectedness, and consciousness if they are to be maximally effective. Integral philosophy is poised to address this complexity. It is an Inclusive, meta-theoretical framework and heuristic system of analytical lenses, [which] provides a clearer, more comprehensive picture of occasions of leadership, as it focuses on the specific, but interconnected processes of intentional, behavioral, cultural and social domains. (Kupers & Weibler, 2006)

To develop leaders, as we have said before, is to engage in human development (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). To develop leadership capacity is to develop an individual or collective’s ability to deal with complexity within the context of leading. Developing and evolving along horizontal (learning content) and vertical (significant shifts in making sense of information) lines increases the ability to deal with complexity and positions a leader to navigate in increasingly complex situations (McCauley et al, 2006; Vaill, 1998; Palus & Drath, 1995). This paper focuses more attention on vertical development for leaders—increasing the ability to deal with complexity—and less on learning (taking in new information within existing cognitive frameworks). Leadership learning may be as simple as learning a new tool or technique to use. Leadership development, shifting in capacity to deal with complexity (McCauley, 2006) can be the development of an individual—in positional authority or not—or of a collective—its capacity to lead itself.

Then, to develop leaders, we must address their development as humans over time and apply that ability to deal with complexity to the tasks of leadership: setting direction, creating alignment, and maintaining commitment (McCauley & Van Velsor, 2004). Volckmann (2007a) also considers that leadership is a process, not the point-in-time snapshot of a person nor a structure. It is a process, not a static achievement, which is in alignment with the developmental nature of reality (Roy, 2006; McIntosh, 2007).

Palus & Drath (1995) regard leadership as “meaning making in a community of practice” (p. 1) and a social activity which involves change in collective activity as well as changes in individuals over time. Some leadership development programs are actually leader development programs positioning humans to growth and develop; other leadership development programs are focused on an organization’s development (Cacioppe & Edwards, 2005)—discussed later.

Volckmann (2007a) posits that if we reframe our ideas of leadership development we can begin to design leadership development programs that embrace all of these important contexts of leadership. We can recognize that executive leadership is important, but in the face of complexity it is not sufficient, thereby making leadership development a priority for others in the company, as well. (p. 10-11).

There is a lack of “research about how training, development, or coaching programs impact participants’ order of development” (McCauley et al, 2006), but CCL effects leadership development programs that are intentional interventions designed to invite growth by additional self-awareness (Palus & Drath, 1995). Not all participants are equally ready or able to develop. Not all participants will realize their development within that week of the program. But the intentional interventions may challenge current mental models (Senge, 2004) and focus on ‘”growth and elaboration of a person’s ways of understanding the self and the world” (McCauley et al, 2006, p. 647) although this may not take place until some time in the future. We cannot speak of outcomes of leadership development programs “for an individual or for an organization without considering the larger context of systems, experiences, and circumstances. Leadership development of individuals in programs should therefore be coupled to systemic development of leadership processes in organizations” (Palus & Drath, 1995, p 26). We now examine a few leadership development programs, looking for larger systemic context.

CCL’s Leadership Development Program (LDP ®) is a six-month process based on a five day face-to-face program focused on self-awareness, UL, (psychometric instruments like MBTI©, FIRO-B©, CPI©), assessment of strengths and developmental areas as rated by behaviors (360° multi-rater instruments, UR), identifying challenges, UL, LL, LR (pre-program interviews and assessment of current reality), and setting strategies for overcoming them (goal setting, creating an action plan). It offers support for the developmental process: one-on-one coaching session with an executive coach who is then available for ten weeks after the program via an online follow-through support system. The focus is largely on the individual here, UL, UR, with the personal coaching intervention responsible for considering the context and larger systemic issues, LL, LR. The tuition is $6,800 for the week, plus lodging. An integral lens would find elements of all four quadrants here; however sustainable development can be complex when an individual returns to a system which has not developed. CCL’s other programs dealing with collectives (Navigating Complex Challenges, or custom work with clients’ organizations over time) have more potential to impact the collective, LL, LR, since they work in a more sustained intervention within an organization.

A leadership development program needs to position leaders to be better able to transform, to impact and effect personal and organizational change (DeVries, 2007). DeVries considers it necessary to attend to thoughts, feelings, cognitive and emotional aspects of mental life, conflict, and relationship arenas for any effective transformational leadership development experience. For executives who tend to think in technical solutions to solve problems and have developed technical expertise, this is a stretch. Investing so much time, and being rewarded in the workplace for technical excellence may mean not valuing the alternative ways of developing—interpersonally, emotionally, spiritually. Leo Burke (in Volckmann, 2003) believes the most important thing leaders can do is to understand themselves. Not easy for some technically oriented people.

Burke (2002), developer of the Integral Executive Development Program at Notre Dame, summarizes “leadership development has historically consisted of partial approaches. What is required is a comprehensive, balanced, and integrated approach” (ppt 10/14/2002). He encourages any complete or comprehensive approaches to include the integration of individual and collective in interior and exterior aspects. Since all quadrants interact with each other, leadership theories that address only one quadrant or aspect of a leader or leadership will not address the complexity required for a full understanding of leadership. Conventional leadership theories—discussed above—have often focused on one aspect of leadership at the cost of excluding others.

Burke’s Executive Integral Leadership program at Notre Dame (captured 2/21/2008), is a six day program much like CCL’s LDP. The developmental model used includes cognitive, moral, interpersonal, physical, emotional, values, and spiritual line of development. Using Spiral Dynamics® (Beck & Cowan, 2006) Mindsets (Wade, in Volckmann, 2003), 360° feedback, simulation, and focus on a business issue, the students go back into their work worlds and sometimes with the help of coaches, try to implement their learning. Including 360 assessment, self-awareness, importance of personal development, communication, keeping a journal, and working with a coach are similar to CCL. But unlike CCL, the content languaging is explicitly integral (integral theory is taught, an integral approach is emphasized) and higher purpose at work—spiritual focus—is explicit; CCL’s development program can be an integral experience although the language of integral is not used. Tuition for the Executive Integral Leadership Program at $7,450 includes course, materials, and lodging.

Kofman (in Volckmann, 2003) developed an integral perspective on leadership, teamwork, and personal effectiveness merging the “drive for effectiveness with consideration and awareness” (p. 25). Most people with decision making authority, he believes, are more developed in the cognitive line (of development) than the emotional, interpersonal, or spiritual lines. Axialent, a consulting company that Kofman founded, helps organizations achieve their goals by aligning people’s values and behaviors. It focuses on leadership development with an integral model that builds naturally (Ting, 2008). The focus is on the personal (I or self), the interpersonal (we or relation), and the impersonal (it or task). By peeling away the layers of mental models and values and working with an Axialent coach over time (at least three sessions) to insure transfer of learning about leadership, Axialent believes it is positively impacting the practice of leadership which impacts corporate culture. Behavior accounts for 60% of the culture, it believes (Ting, 2008), so it is important to look at leadership behavior. A multi-rater (360°) instrument is used to understand behavior. If a new leader comes in and wants to shift the culture, they must realize that the systems are built up to enforce the values of the culture. Axialent uses spiral dynamics (Beck & Cowan, 1996, 2006) to understand beliefs and developmental levels. Kegan’s (1982) work forms the basis of understanding the UL quadrant that interacts with all other quadrants. Their programs usually last a few months with one face-to-face session enhanced by follow-on telephone coaching phone calls over the following months as they work with a business challenge throughout the process.

If leader development is about human development then is one week, or three months effective? Stagen Integral Leadership Program (ILP) is a 12 month course incorporating “hands-on workshops, self-study learning modules, proprietary leadership tools, a multimedia-rich ‘class portal,’ executive coaching, teleclasses, and electronic discussion forums” (Thomas, 2007, p. 1). Brett Thomas of Stagen describes it as “high-tech, high-touch approach [that] has proven uniquely effective at facilitating individual and organizational growth, both in terms of ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ development” (p.1). It is based on nine themes: Meaning (Values, Vision, Purpose), Strategic Thinking, Attention Management, Understanding People, Tapping Potential, Human Performance, High Performance Teamwork, Innovation, and Change. Leading thinkers and also thinking is “reinvented and recontextualized” (Thomas, 2007) from the integral framework so that leaders can put it into practice in their leadership roles. This integrally informed curriculum and learning support system provides a leadership development system they believe is superior to conventional training approaches. It includes quadrants, lines, levels, states, and types. Most companies will stay with Stagen three to five years (Thomas, 2008) indicating the value they find in the $20,000 investment for the one year program. The difference between Stagen’s Integral Leadership Program and other leadership programs, according to Thomas (2008), is that Stagen assigns a transformative practice each week for at least a year. A five day program has limitations in driving practice. Practicing and being held accountable for that weekly practice over a year’s period provides development for most all of their participants according to Thomas (2008).

Considering the effectiveness of lengthier programs for development, not simply learning, CCL’s Leader Lab©, a six month long, extended-contact program began with a weeklong face-to-face program at the Center (Palus & Drath, 1995; Conger, 1992). The participant works with a process advisor during the week who coaches them for the next three months. Also, upon returning to the workplace the participant chooses a co-worker to be a change partner, to help them implement action plans made at the program. After three months of action and application in the workplace the participant returned for another week of class and two-and-a-half more months of application. The process advisor works with the participant for the whole six month duration.

LeaderLab© uses head, heart, and feet (Palus & Drath, 1995) language to represent an understanding of the situation (head), emotionally satisfying “integration of life pursuits” (heart), and changing behavior and changing actions (feet). In integral terms the UL and UR—intellectual, emotional, behavioral—are included with a potential of LL and LR to be integrated if the individual carries the thought and work into the collective realm. In one case study a participant talked about the creation of disequilibrium and returning equilibrium, an ability to construct his world in new ways, and challenging his underlying meaning structures to change (Palus & Drath, 1995). It is clear that seeds were planted, which after one year were still alive. His stage of development, according to Palus and Drath, was a different one, allowing him to use his new meaning structure of teamwork to make informed choices about his role and how he relates to others in teams. His behavior is less impulsive. Although it sounds better positioned to facilitate development and movement along developmental continuums over time, it was discontinued due largely to a logistically complex design.

Spiral Dynamics© (SD) (Beck & Cowan, 1996, 2006), based on the work of Clare Graves, is a map for understanding leadership, values and change from an individual and/or collective frame. Cowan & Todorovic (2007) in their website suggest spiral dynamics (SD) as a way of thinking about the complexities of human existence and understanding the order and chaos in human affairs. It explains deep forces in human nature which shape our values, and lays out both a pattern and trajectory for change. SD will help you gain a greater understanding of how people, organizations and cultures function from the inside out—and will empower you to help them work, learn, and live better. (

The leadership outreach of this organization offers a course for managers who are ready to transition into leadership. SD provides the framework for addressing team building, change, identification and preparation of managers and leaders, inspiring others, having positive impact, effective working relationships. It addresses the systems issue of managing conflict as an organizational culture issue, and building teams which allow others to use their skills and talents.

SD is the theory utilized to make a coherent approach to end apartheid by addressing each constituency according to insights of developmental levels: meeting people where they are in terms of developmental memes (Beck & Cowan, 1996). In SD content we see all arenas of the integral quadrants included (Wilber, 2000a), while the focus remains largely with LL (Cacioppe & Edwards,2005). There is a paper-and-pencil or online instrument, Core Values II, ( which assesses developmental levels for individuals.

Rooke & Torbert (2005) believe that those leaders “who do undertake a voyage of personal understanding and development can transform not only their own capabilities but also those of their companies” (p. 1). Programs cited by these authors to develop leaders involve having the participants act as leaders and questioning the effectiveness of their current ways of leading and organizing. They recommend either a long term development program (and cite Bath University in the UK with a two-year master’s degree over six one-week face-to-face sessions) or repeated intense experience which provoke dissonance-disorienting dilemmas (Mezirow, 1991)—and mindfulness (Senge et al,2004).

In collaboration with Cook-Greuter, author of the sentence completion survey tool—Rooke & Torbert (2005) have worked with thousands of executives helping them understand what developmental level they pertain to. These levels, called action logics (Rooke & Torbert, 2005), use the names: opportunist, diplomat, expert, achiever, individualist, strategist, and alchemist. Each name represents a developmental level. Rooke and Torbert (2005) believe that leaders can transform from one action logic to the next one. Personal changes, external events, changes to work practices, planned and structured development interventions can all facilitate those changes to different action logics. Below (figure 2), research reports the developmental levels of leaders.

Leadership Capacity

Figure 2 : Leadership Capacity (Torbert & Collins 2006)

85% stop growing while only 15% will attain second tier—post-conventional (Kegan, 1982)— development (Torbert & Collins, captured 2/23/2008). The CEO’s level of development was “a significant predictor of the success of long-term organizational transformation programmes” (Rooke & Torbert, 1998, p. 99) and his or her style approach is the major factor contributing to the organization’s identity or consciousness.

(Torbert,,9,Why Do Organizations Need More Strategists or Level 5 Leaders?2006). Torbert & Collins (2006) call this level 5 leadership; it is important because these strategist/level 5 leaders tend to be humble, to understand the depth and importance of habits, patterns, mental models, are aware of worldviews of others, make meaning [as all humans do], are value-driven, are organizational focused rather than personal focus, committed to the growth of others and are capable of making organizational transformation (Torbert & Collins, 2006).

Although some people will change their path through adult life very little, some do change in ways significant to leadership practices. Rooke & Torbert (2005) believe that “those who are willing to work at developing themselves and becoming more self-aware can almost certainly evolve over time into truly transformational leaders” (p. 11). As we have seen, sociogenetic development theory offers potential for development in the workplace. The efforts outlined above address the challenge and potential of translating integral theory to value adding lenses for business and organizational leaders through developmental processes.

How is it Being Researched?

Including the assessments mentioned above, there are various methodologies being used to operationalize integral theory. Kupers & Weibler (2006) contend that ratings on “individual abilities, traits, characteristics, and behaviors via cause-effect relations are poorly suited for studying leadership as a dynamic process embedded in complex social and institutional processes” (p. 3). Noting that leaders also have roles as followers in the same organization requires some consideration of a multi-level approach which allows the complexities of the culture and the organization to be understood. Levels of analysis can be specified as holons, for example, UL, UR, LL, or LR, which are part of larger holons or they can be individual, interpersonal, group, organizational, or cultural levels. Some authors (Wilber, 2000a; McIntosh, 2007; Volckmann & Edwards, 2007) will refer to holarchies—hierarchies of holons nested within holons. Research being used to build the emerging field of inquiry about Integral Leadership includes different levels of analysis or holons.

There is work being done at the organizational level, as mentioned above (Rooke & Torbert, 2005; Beck & Cowan, 1991) as well as at an individual level. Cacioppe (2000) summarizes research on his own 360° feedback tool—the Integral Leadership and Management Profile (LMP)– and uses an integral model and questionnaires (probably quantitative studies) to measure roles of leadership, dimensions of self-development, and strategic change skills.

Constructive-developmental (CD) theory—a stage theory of adult development focuses on “growth and elaboration of a person’s ways of understanding the self and the world”—links leader’s order of development with leadership effectiveness in quantitative studies. Although some findings conflict with one another (McCauley et al, 2006, p. 647), they also further the knowledge of developmental levels’ impact on leadership effectiveness. The Subject Object (SO) Interview (Lahey et al, 1998), conducted by an interviewer who asks questions, is a qualitative method of assessment. While coded by interviewers and verified by inter-rater agreement, this subjective rating will interpret the level of development using Kegan’s stages as an output.

Joiner & Josephs (2007 pp.35-42) highlight the significant implications for integral approach to leadership development to impact the mental and emotional capacities that underlie skills the leader needs to address complex, rapidly changing environments. Their research reports on competencies and capacities that evolve as managers progress along developmental lines.

Pauchant (2005), in his research project of 100 case studies brings methodology beyond quantitative measurement to include interpretive biography, institutional analysis and historical inquiry by collecting stories of leaders and proposing a developmental theory of leadership. The aim is to generate understanding beyond Maslow’s self-transcendent category—or Theory Z, after McGregor’s Theory X and Y (in Pauchant, 2005) with more empirical findings. The case studies will give an understanding of how post-conventional level “lead with other successful organizations or nations” (Pauchant, 2005, p. 223) providing contributions to developmental theory and practice of leadership.

Cacciope & Edwards (2005) in a concept paper have compared and integrated Cowan & Beck’s (1996) SD, Wilber’s (2000a) integral theory, Barrett’s (2006) corporate transformation model (CT), and Torbert’s (2005) action inquiry to have a more comprehensive understanding of organizational development (OD). Whether OD refers to ideas of effectiveness and strategic planning to improve organizational performance, to also improve organizational health and quality of working life, or cultural and values development—vs. behavioral effectiveness—and whether these changes happen in small incremental adjustments or transformation, integral theory offers a lens for making sense of this shift.

Change, which the authors define as “variation in some important variable of interest” (Cacciope & Edwards, 2005, p. 87), is contrasted with development—a “general qualitative shift or transformation in a core aspect of identity or behavior” (p. 87). This definition of development in organizations has been under-represented in the field of OD where change models abound. If transformative OD is the focus—emphasizing the development, not change, of the organization—then a larger lens or framework is necessary. These four theories mentioned above, are considered for their ability to offer insights about transformative development.

The conceptual research offers a new meta-model for organizational development including six factors (Cacioppe & Edwards, 2005):

  1. four quadrants/domains of development that describe aspects of organization
  2. basic developmental levels
  3. relevant developmental lines needed for analysis
  4. developmental dynamics to describe how change processes
  5. generation of valid and reliable research questionnaires to measure
  6. flexiblity in scale of application (micro, meso, macro-levels of organization or environment)

Their definition of integral organizational development (IOD) is:

IOD is the balanced (all quadrants), transformative (all levels), multidimensional (all lines) growth and integrative sustainability (all dynamics) of the whole organization and its employees to achieve worthwhile visions and goals for the owners, customers, industry, natural environment and the community which it serves. (p. 99)

Assessments for stage of development include: the Subject-Object Interview based on Kegan’s (Lahey at al, 1985) developmental levels; Core Values II based on SD (Beck & Cowan, 2002) and Clare Graves work measuring vMemes; the sentence completion questionnaire (WUSCT) based on Loevinger & Wessler’s (1970) work, and used by Torbert with Cook-Greuter’s adjustment (in Torbert, 2005); Michael Commons has developed a stage assessment of cognitive development from interview transcriptions (Commons & Richards, 1982); Basseches and Perry also offer assessments; and 360° instruments such as the Hay McBer ECI 360°, or the Leadership Circle (in Ting, 2008) are used by Axialent, Notre Dame, and Stagen programs for coaching and development. There are other assessment instruments, psychometrics (MBTI, FIRO-B, CPI, CSI, CLI, other 360s) addressing specific quadrants that can be used with an integral focus.

Volckmann (2006b) calls for new methodologies to address the transdisciplinary field of leadership:

We need to meet the challenge of understanding how a potentially trans-disciplinary study, such as that of leadership, can be understood, not just through integral modeling, but through integral mapping of concepts, models, and theories.

As ways of being and ways of knowing—ontologies and epistemologies—continue to evolve, integral may find itself employing multiple and alternative methodological choices (as did transpersonal psychology) for its research that are capable of ‘honoring human experience in its fullest and most transformative expressions” (Braud & Anderson, 1998, p. xxi). The research mentioned here is diverse, but we will need complete and far reaching research methods to operationalize the comprehensive integral theory. Mitroff, advocate for transdisciplinarity, evokes Artistotle’s words “never expect from any field more precision or exactness than is engendered in the phenomena of that field” (in Lund Dean, 2004, p. 17). He further encourages academic thinking to challenge convention:

What I am optimistic about is that there is no way that one of the most important aspects of the human experience will not reassert itself, and interesting people will always come forward to say something new, intriguing and fascinating about it. What I am not optimistic about in the short-term is that pressures for legitimacy, the obsession for respectability and the desire for it are so great and socialized that I’m not sure I have much faith in the Academy. We will do significant things, but I think they will be done [by those] who go at an angle to convention. (in Lund Dean, 2004)

Nicolescu (in Volckmann, 2007b) differentiates between multi-disciplinarity (studying an idea from a given discipline with ideas from other disciplines), interdisciplinarity (transferring methods from one discipline to another) and transdisciplinarity (where “information circulates in between disciplines, across disciplines, and even beyond any discipline” (p. 77)). Transdisciplinarity is radically different and a new intelligence which connects the analytic mind with the feelings and the body. It is connected with personal experience, but not any kind of experience, because experience in general is chaotic…it’s a reality that still has laws and rules and is obeying the axioms. (p. 84)

So, although we aren’t exactly sure what the method looks like, Mitroff ventures into this terrain.

Although beyond the scope of this paper, Mitroff refers to his A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America(1999) as transdisciplinarity—he did not claim to uphold any specific theory of spirituality in the workplace, but asked questions and allowed the answers to emerge from the field. When applying his survey he would ask respondents while they answered questions, “You gave this a 4—what does a 4 mean to you?” He thereby claims that the objective 4 is replaced by the subjective reasons, a glimpse at the inner realm of the rater, and thereby not traditional research. Grounded theory, as a method of inquiry or product of inquiry (Charmaz, in Denzin & Lincoln, 2005) also builds understanding by listening to the field, but has not been considered transdisciplinarity.

Hailed as an emerging need (Mitroff, 1999; Volckmann, 2007b), transdisciplinarity’s own Manifesto was created in 1994, and signed by many. Nicolescu feels strongly that “if a university doesn’t adopt transdisciplinarity, in my opinion, universities as we know them from the 13th century, will disappear and be replaced by highly specialized institutions” (p. 87). A copy of this Manifesto is included in the appendix.

Bringing forth understanding of “all manner of embodied living, doing, injunction, action, engagement, interaction, and inquiry” (Snow, 2007, p. 7) is the aim of integral methodological pluralism.Methodology is seen by Snow as equivalent to temporality in the quadrants: entropy, irreversibility, movement, change, process, development, and history. The embodied existence of any level of sentient holon, to the extent that it is embedded in the stream of time—the process of living and self-organization, from conception to birth, through life to death—is, by its very existence and manifestation as four fundamental domains described by the quadrants, enacting or engaging these primary methodologies through the processes of living. The methodologies…are intrinsic aspects of embodied quadratic existence in time. (p. 7)

Since different quadrants examine different phenomena, a diverse aggregate of methods for understanding is appropriate. Snow elaborates from Wilber’s work and offers this view (figure 3) of methodologies for integral methodological pluralism—a hope for the future of research.

8 Methodologies

Figure 3. Eight Methodologies
Source: Wilber (2006). Courtesy Integral Institute.

Implications for Collectives: Social Systems, Culture, Meaning, Leadership, and Organizational Development

The field of leadership studies has been built of fragmented ideas and learning about leadership. It has been built on the foundation of the hero myth—not a bad myth for a foundation, but one that may have diverted our attention from the idea of leadership that is more integrally informed. (Volckmann, 2006, p. 11)

As the level of complexity grows in a system of leadership “it’s impossible for one person to hold that complexity and to manage it” (Kofman in Volckmann, 2004, p. 32)

As a result the collective might develop better team work skills.

There are those who understand collectives as many individuals—a gathering of many ‘ones.’ Others (Drath, 2001) see a collective as an entity different than the sum of its integrants: an ‘it’ having its own culture, identity, consciousness, and norms. CCL’s initial forays into working with collectives continued its individual leader development program of the 1970s into collectives: individual data was collected, personal growth was addressed. From the classroom learning emerged the practice of looking at a collective—organizational leadership development— as different from simply a collection of individuals.

An organization, for the discussion in this paper, will be considered as a gathering of people working toward a common purpose. The term social system will be reserved for the more elusive, complex issues as people work and interact with each other. Collective is used when two or more people are together. A dyad, group, formal organization, or society can be a social system, but a social system is not always an organization. A community or citizens of a country could be a social system. An organization is a special case of a social system.

Each organization can be examined as a holon that nests within other holons or can stand alone. For example, an organization may be part of a cultural social system; an organization may have several social systems within its boundaries—different factions all hired by the same company. Integral theory is a lens which helps demonstrate the complexity of working through social systems as a leader or as a collective doing leadership.

A Word About Social Systems

It is important to consider the interconnectedness of social beings when addressing leadership. When initially unrelated individuals come together as a collection of people— in a formal organization, for example—patterns of behavior emerge between them as a result of both individual and collective beliefs (Mc Cauley et al, 2007). The ways people continually interact with each other back and forth will quickly determine patterns that are “detectable by others” (Vaill, 2007) in LR. People observe each other, LR—as well as the patterns—which allows them to make assumptions, LL, about acceptable behavior.

Patterns of influence, power, leaders, leadership, and control begin to emerge. Relationships, roles, responsibilities, values, and acceptable behavior become evident. The patterns of interaction between individuals (UR, LR) and the interdependence of these elements constitute a system. Because there are complex and constant interactions between members within the collection (LR)–each with their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors (UL, LL)—and because there are “bonds, both visible and invisible, that humans form with each other,” LL, LR, (Vaill, 2007, p. 5) we will call this a social system. As membership turns over, the patterns within this social system tend to be relatively stable (Vaill, 2007; McCauley et al, 2007) even when change initiatives are attempted. Negentropy (McIntosh, 2007) explains a counterforce to entropy whereby systems make the effort to maintain themselves without change.

Organization is a much used word used to describe a myriad of things taking place as people come together to work. Vaill (2007) considers an organization one more frame for making sense of what is happening. Roethlisberger is said to have referred to organization, behavior, and systems as elusive phenomena (in Vaill, 2007).

Vaill contends that “every organization is a small universe containing receding galaxies of specialized knowledge and interests” (1998, p. xii). This universe Vaill signals is a social system.

This social system will have an impact on how effective any single leader or his/her initiative might be. Vaill (2007) and Drath (2001) emphasize that individuals are “interpenetrating relationalities who actually come into being as various kinds of individual persons through connection, interrelation, language, joint action, and the shared creation of knowledge…in trying to make leadership happen while working together, people construct one another and become such things as leaders and followers” (Drath, 2001, p. xvi).

So leadership happens as people “construct one another” and as they make sense of leading, following, and working together. This sense making is highlighted in Palus & Horth (2002), Morgan (2006), and Weick (1995). Palus and Horth (2002) note

During the last two decades many of those who study and practice leadership have come to this important realization: shared understanding is a powerful force—even the essential force—for navigating an organization through turbulence and uncertainty. (2002, xiii)

Indeed, one of leadership’s responsibilities is to help any collection of people working together create shared meaning in order to address emergent realities.

It is evident in trying to lead change initiatives that how people think of the elusive thing-called-organization will impact, to a large degree, the experience they have there and the success of any given change initiative. Spiral dynamics (SD) (Cowan & Beck,1996) encompasses a theory of human development in individual and collective social forms as applied to micro (within the person or organization), meso (between people) and macro (culture) levels. Volckmann & Edwards (2007) suggest a matrix using micro, meso, macro, industry and society levels of analysis with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person focii to yield a 15 cell matrix (figure 4). Agency and communion are shown on the vertical axis (A,C) instead of individual and collective. This allows a comprehensive view of the culture and society the organization is a part of, as well as a larger regional and/or worldwide community of nation states—a hierarchy suggested by the structural variables of micro, meso and macro. These are important for looking at competition, collaboration, globalization and valuing of the organization and its leadership. (Volckmann & Edwards, 2007)

15 cell matrix
Figure 4: Edwards & Volckmann’s 15 cell matrix (2007)

SD may give more focus to the cultural quadrant of personal values systems and collective values systems (LL, LR). If development is truly socially mediated, we need to attend to matters of power and influence as part of leadership.

An integral theory of organizational development could include “organizational theory literature, systems theory, developmental psychology, cultural theory, spirituality, and other relevant disciplines” (Cacioppe & Edwards, 2005, p. 87). The framework would need to take into consideration development of personal and social domains, as well as their interactions; we can also vary the level of analysis in the holon to reflect a more collective perspective. Below (figure 5) is a holon for an organization instead of an individual:


Organizational consciousness Organizational behavior
Organizational culture Organizational structural systems


Figure 5: Organization Holon (Cacioppe & Edwards, 2005)

Organizational change can happen in a continuous, transactional manner or in a more dramatic, transformative manner. Internal changes need to reflect and match what is happening in the environment with what is happening in the internal dynamics of the organization (Cacioppe & Edwards, 2005). Growth and social development along quadrants and lines are as relevant for organizations as they are for individuals.

Much like the application of integral theory to the leadership development, the application of integral theory to organizational development offers stage-based models of development an important place in the discussion. This is also evident in social evolution and in collectives. The lines of organizational development include “culture, goals, customer and community relations, ethics, and corporate morals, marketing, governance, and leadership” (Cacioppe, 2005, p. 90). But there is more to integral theory than simply development.

Organizations need fundamental balance across the interior/exterior quadrants of identity—their sense making structures in balance with behavioral and operations systems (Edwards, 2006, p. 18). Are learning styles of hands-on technical balanced with conceptual ones? Is the communication structure (LR) allowing information to be accessed as necessary? These considerations, as well as current ideas of bottom-up leadership, followership (Kellerman, 2008), and participative leadership address aspects of leadership beyond developmental levels.

Vaill (1996, 2000) summarizes the importance of leaders becoming adept at learning in order to lead their systems through this permanent white water—the “continual succession of surprising, novel, ill-structured, and messy events which force themselves on a manager’s attention…and cannot be planned out of existence”(p. xxix)— effectively. Brett Thomas (2008) of Stagen has focused a whole program on Learning to Learn—both horizontally and vertically. Senge (2004) further differentiates between a) reactive learning where thinking is governed by established mental models and doing is governed by established habits of action” (p. 10) and b) deeper learning that creates “increasing awareness of the larger whole—both as it is and as it is evolving—and actions that increasingly become part of creating alternative futures” (p. 11). Leaders modeling openness to new ideas and changed ways of working may be better positioned to be effective. Vaill (1998) asserts:

The worldwide need for new ideas and changed ways of working, in the midst of extreme turbulence and rapid change, demands that we think of the activity as leadership. They [the leaders that stay around] work in the systems they are trying to change. They also have tomanage these systems and keep them as stable and serviceable as possible. (p. 3)

If leaders are to influence, indeed change, systems they work within, an increased awareness of social system’s dynamics is important. Without it we will blindly trust an individual’s personality (UL, UR), or a command and control style (UR, LR) to be effective for all people and contexts. It is not that simple, yet some who facilitate organizational change have intuited tools and techniques for leading change using non traditional approaches. Olsen and Eoyang (2001) note that the permanent white water puts demands on those who facilitate organizational change and that

For the most part, however, change agents continue to struggle with outmoded models, tools, and techniques—ones that were sufficient in slower and simpler times, but that are counterproductive when complex adaptation is the only viable survival strategy. (p. xxxi)

Basic assumptions and theory from traditional approaches to change fall short in constantly changing times. The assumptions that ‘change starts at the top,’ that ‘efficiency comes from control,’ and that ‘one can predict the outcomes’ are rendered false (Olsen & Eoyang, 2001) and more complex frameworks emerge for those facilitating change. Olsen and Eoyang (2001) propose the term “complex adaptive system” and describe it as existing within emergent order vs. hierarchical order, and having both an irreversible history and an unpredictable future (2001). These two are not alone in pointing out that thinking of a social system as a machine can only lead to processes of re-engineering, while thinking of a complex adaptive system can draw from new sciences (Wheatley, 1992), nonlinear dynamics (Senge, 2004), chaos theory, and complexity science (Olsen & Eoyang, 2001) to help lead or participate in effective change.

Integral theory addresses the system and its development as well as the individual leader and his/her development. In contrast to stages or predictable ways of development, chaos theory, complex adaptive theory, and non-linear theory offer an understanding of how systems may organize themselves. Out of chaos emerges order (Wheatley, 1992). Adaptation of individuals and systems happens in order to survive (Heifetz, 1994; Olsen & Eoyang, 2001). We are reminded that leadership does not always progress in tidy, predictable, or manageable ways; leadership needs an integral framework that can accommodate linear and non-linear ways of thinking about its development.

Complexity: Interaction, Psychology, Power, Meaning

In traditional models of change effort there was an assumption that the organization LL/LR did not need to be understood, but that the relationships UR/LR within the top-down structure needed to be improved—by coaching, training, communication skill development (Olsen & Eoyang, 2001). This focus on human development is another part of change efforts, but the complexity of human nature mandates a closer look at interconnectedness to understand organizations or social systems. In addition to what Vaill (1998) and Drath (2001) refer to as the relationalityof a group, the system itself LL/LR has a life-stage, culture, mission, geography, history, and climate that will need to be considered by the leader effecting change. There are interdependencies among members: the presence of influence, the exercise of power, and the reactions to policies. Impacting these social systems of interdependent relationships is complex and challenging.

Understanding the possibilities of larger fields for change can “come only from many perspectives—from the emerging science of living systems, from the creative arts, from profound organizational change experiences…” (p. 14). Organizational learning theory (Dixon, 1994) cautions that it is not solely the realm of leaders to address the social system, but the responsibility of each and every person in the organization. We visit frameworks (Bolman & Deal, 1997) metaphors (Morgan, 2006) and tools for sense making within increasing complexity.

The Power of Culture: Options for Creating Shared Meaning

How can a system support leadership? Bolman & Deal (1997) suggest that a leader’s effectiveness is limited when (s)he is unable to understand the situation or challenge facing the organization or system. The collective interior (LL) realm seeks to make sense of its existence and each person UL, LL will have a way of thinking about being part of the organization. Leaders can provide alternative frameworks for sense-making (Weick, 1995) for themselves and their collectives, which offer potentially different personal and intersubjective experiences of the same organization. As many of the four frames (Bolman & Deal, 1997) can be applied as relevant:

The structural frame’s focus is on “pattern of expectations and exchanges among internal players (executives, managers, and employees) and external constituencies (such as customers and clients)” UL, UR, LL, LR, (p. 38)

The human resource frame focuses on the relationships between people and organization which need each other. If needs are not aligned, people can feel neglected or oppressed and withdraw energy and effort towards outcomes or if the fit is good there is “meaningful and satisfying work and organizations get the talent and energy they need to succeed” (p. 119).

The political frame understands forms and expression of power beyond positional authority: power, conflict, coalitions, competing for resources and getting ahead cannot be avoided.

The symbolic frameincludes meaning and beliefs (UL, LL) symbols, myth and ritual (LL, LR) which can be artifacts of the meaning found in culture. Drawing from psychology, sociology, organizational theory, political science, and anthropology this frame questions the subjective and intersubjective (cultural) space that is largely left out of early thinking about leading:

  • What is most important about any event is not what happened, but what it means.
  • Activity and meaning have multiple meanings because people interpret experience differently.
  • Most of life is ambiguous or uncertain—what happened, why it happened, or what will happen next are all puzzles.
  • High levels of ambiguity and uncertainty undercut rational analysis, problem solving, and decision making.
  • In the face of uncertainty and ambiguity people create symbols to resolve confusion, increase predictability, provide direction, and anchor hope and faith.
  • Many events and processes are more important for what is expressed than what is produced. They form a cultural tapestry of secular myths, rituals, ceremonies, and stories that help people find meaning, purpose, and passion. (Bolman & Deal, p. 216-217)

The frame is not a description of the organization, but rather a lens through which an individual (UL, LL) looks at the organization or the collective examines its experience.

Senge addresses how our mental models will largely determine what we see and which actions we decide to take. Olsen & Eoyang (2001) remind us that we have inherited a Newtonian legacy of “organization as machine” (p. 19). Instead of traditional organization-as-machine approaches, they offer alternatives drawn from complexity science. Their ‘best practice’ solutions (focusing on the whole, change through connections–not top down, adapting to uncertainty, emerging goals, amplifying difference, self-organization and success as fit with the environment), Vaill affirms, “will be shaping our thinking about human organizations for quite some time to come” (p.xxix)—influencing the UL and LL quadrants.

Morgan (2006) shows how “different metaphors give rise to different theories of organization and management…how an understanding of the process can help us master the strengths and limitations of different viewpoints…and how we can use this knowledge to become more effective leaders and managers” (p. xi). Examples from his insights:

  1. The machine metaphor for organizations invites us to focus on the inter-relating parts of a machine and think of operations in a mechanical way. If anything is inefficient or not working, simply focusing on the part to improve its part in the machinery appears to hold the promise of improving the organization.
  2. The organizations-as-organisms metaphor sees organizations as living, adapting systems within a larger environment: life cycle and adaptation for survival. Humans address needs by having meaningful jobs, autonomy, responsibility, and recognition.
  3. The organization-as-brain metaphor reflects a complex system of information transmission and categorization (UL, UR, LR), a memory bank, a linguistic system of thoughts, ideas, and actions which allows “order to emerge from the process” (p. 73).
  4. The organization-as-cultural metaphor from LL quadrant addresses cultural norms, organizational cultures, company creeds, mottos, and vision statements, help direct attention to symbolic significance of organizational life. Sociogenetic development is potentiated here.
  5. Organization-as-political-system metaphor views interests, conflict, and power within an organization as: who’s agenda is being pursued?
  6. Organization-as-psychic-prisons touches UL, UR, LL, LR in scape-goating, victimization, blame, and other anxieties present themselves in thoughts, behaviors, and collective beliefs. It points out that innovation and change initiatives often attack psychological defenses of the individuals or collective.
  7. Organization-as-flexible-transformation metaphor (UL, LL) recognizes our ability to manage change and create self–a utopoieses”(p. 287). Self-reflection as an individual (UL) or organization (LL) can help identify patterns that evolve and redefine organizational boundaries and practices (LR) or self-concepts (UL).
  8. Organization-as-domination metaphor recognizes that toxic environments and toxic relationships of individual personalities (UL & UR) or collective practices (LR)

Creating shared meaning (LL) which influences structure (LR) is a way that cultures and system can support the emergence of leadership and develop not just change (Rooke & Torbert, 2005).

An Integral Lens on Organizational Development

To honor the unfoldment of development as well as organizational leadership as a process invites another view of leadership. Beyond the myth ofstrong leadership and weak followership (Kellerman, 2008) we consider the changing and shared nature of leadership (Martin, 2006; Drath, 2001; Palus & Horth, 2002) as a process of experiential events, both interior and exterior of individuals and collectives. Influence, sense making, meaning making, constructing one another (Weick, 1995; Drath, 2001), and the inter-relatedness of all beings (Roy, 2006) all build towards this process view of leadership. In the words of Rescher (1996 in Roy, 2006): “For the processural nature of the real means that the present constitution of things always projects beyond itself into one as yet unrealized future” (p. 149). There is an unrealized futurewhere potentials can generate actuals, and actuals can realize potentials—looking two directions at once, inside and outside, whole and part, much as the nautilus spiral evolves from smaller to large chambers, large to small. If process is continually enfolding, inside and out, then the ontological view as well “deepens from the kinds of ontological encounters we are open to receive…furthermore, it warns, the most limiting factor in our ability to open up to those encounters is our continual embeddedness in one or another, or even a spectrum of epistemological frames of mind, also known as ‘perspectives’ (p. 150).

The Challenges

Integral theory is a lens through which a comprehensive view of leadership is offered. It is a map, however, not the terrain. The challenge is remembering what it is and is not: it is a lens. This lens shows a field of inquiry also emerging; coming to an understanding of the integral framework requires more internal consistency and operational interpretability that can be empirically tested, according to Edwards (in Volckmann & Edwards, 2006). What is accepted as empirical evidence may also shift as evolving epistemologies and ontologies offer new ways of knowing and understanding. Some authors propose methodological pluralism (Wilber, 2000a) or transdisciplinarity (Mitroff, 1999) to encompass this evolution. With its powerful potential to offer leadership’s complexities a comprehensive frame development of assessment and operationalization will require care (Edwards, 2005) and may initially be misconceived as the new all-encompassing theory of leadership.

The idea that leadership can be developed by anyone—a structural pillar of many leadership development programs—might find the idea of developmental stages or levels challenging (Sternbergh, 2007). Brett Thomas (2008) of Stagen refers to this as the taboo of development. There can easily be misperceptions that one stage is ‘better than’ another; one can do better leadership than another. Although research is beginning to show that similarity of developmental levels in leaders/constituents is important for effective leadership (McCauley et al, 2006), the assumptions of those not truly familiar with the nesting concept might include: higher levels are better leaders or if I’m at a level two, then I’m not cut out for leadership. Since so much depends on the process and the interplay of many contextual factors we might locate situations where the skills at any level would be effective leadership behaviors with the right group under the right cultural, historical, circumstances. Sociogenetic development offers a valuable complement to the stage model of development.

The complexity of integral theory is evident. To encompass and integrate so many perspectives the levels of analysis are potentially endless: consider the 4 quadrant matrix (Wilber, 2000a), the modified six-cell holon (Volckmann & Edwards, 2007), the 15 cell matrix (figure 4 with 1st, 2nd, 3rd person perspectives of micro, meso, macro, etc) (Volckmann & Edwards, 2007), the 4×7 Wilber-Combs lattice of state/stage configurations (Wilber, 2007), the 3 vector Law of the Included Middle—adding relationship/results vector– (Nicolescu, in Volckmann, 2007b) or how each area of the 2 x 2 quadrant can be further examined in micro, meso, and macro levels. A practitioner attempting to apply integral theory’s lens to a leadership process might be confused as to where to begin. This may make it inaccessible until we figure out how to language the capacity of integral without over-emphasizing its complexity.

Leadership, Volckmann posits, is the “emergence of leader behaviors in a system over time” (Volckmann, 2005, p. 290). At any given time the leader and the behaviors will depend on what the context requires—one would hope—and the patterns that emerge can be thought of as the system of leadership. “If leader is the snapshot, leadership is the movie” (p. 290). Although advances have been made (Edwards, 2005; Roy, 2006; Volckmann, 2007a) the challenge of representing movement, process, and development needs to be further addressed.

Conclusion: Emerging Opportunities

In reviewing the field of leadership literature, we can see how distinct perspectives of leadership—great man, dyad, relational—can offer valuable and partial insights for leaders. Integral theory can unify these contributions. The awareness that integral process and theory offers at this time in history is an opportunity to understand the unfolding nature of leadership in individuals and collectives. As people in collectives—as leaders or as collaborators—make sense of being human and working in a collective, the process with all its complexity is what brings our consciousness to evolve. With the nature of leadership becoming more collective and the increasing complexity of our times, we need a theory of comprehensive leadership that helps leadership emerge in cultures and systems. Integral theory by encompassing the field of contributions as it stands and offering next ideas for evolution, is poised to add value to leader development, leadership development, organizational development, and social systems development.

It is, according to McIntosh (2007), “increasingly necessary for humanity to participate in guiding cultural evolution toward a more positive future, knowledge of evolution’s essential methods, techniques, and directions is of critical importance (p. 272). I also believe this to be true for leadership. How do we help this leadership emerge in systems? By equipping leaders with an understanding of conceptual and behavioral aspects of individuals and collectives and the process of their interaction; by using tools like holons, metaphors, and frameworks; by considering the key role of development for individuals and collectives—we have the potential to lead in complexity.

Besides the tools listed above, future directions for research methodologies might include Integral Methodological Pluralism (Wilber, 2006) which honors evolving epistemologies and ontologies. Snow (2007) asserts it is an “attempt to articulate a world philosophy uniting the stream of Western post-metaphysics with the stream of Eastern nonduality, a deep and essential linking of the intellectual traditions of Occident and Orient” (p. 3). To encompass evolving ways of knowing, methodological pluralism (figure 3) is positioned to add value to the discussion of leadership.

Effective and successful leaders and leadership of the 21st century will be those who understand the leading edge of integral philosophy and can usher in more creative and comprehensive ways of leading and following.

We live in a period of history when taking on the risks of leadership in your individual world is both more important and more complicated than ever before. Globalization of the economy, the necessary interaction of cultures, and ready access to information and communication through the internet make interdependence palpable. Hierarchical structures with clearly defined roles are giving way to more horizontal organizations with greater flexibility, room for initiative, and corresponding uncertainty. Democratization is spreading throughout organizations as well as countries. (Heifetz, 2002, p. 4.)

To not be embedded in our perspectives, but rather grasp the unfolding process is to be more open to a comprehensive understanding of leadership. If we are to believe that there is an organized principle behind evolution that allows greater possibilities for humanity, then applying that to leadership has the potential to enrich the common good.

When we begin to make meaning from the level of integral consciousness, we become endowed with the skill that motivates us to help uplift the values held by others. This skill comes from the enhanced solidarity, empathy, and compassion for the worldviews of others that is a defining characteristic of integral consciousness. However, while integral consciousness helps us be more empathetic, it also helps us to be more discriminating; with integral consciousness we can see stagnation and pathology more accurately, and we can thus ‘tell the truth’ about the real problem—the internal problem that is behind almost every conflict. Put simply, integral consciousness gives us the power to evaluate more effectively. And integral philosophy’s understanding of the primordial values found at the heart of all evolution naturally fortifies this enhanced ability to see and work with values in general. (McIntosh, 2007, p. 309)

^––––––– ^


Charter of Transdisciplinarity


Whereas, the present proliferation of academic and non-academic disciplines is leading to an exponential increase of knowledge which makes a global view of the human being impossible;

Whereas, only a form of intelligence capable of grasping the cosmic dimension of the present conflicts is able to confront the complexity of our world and the present challenge of the spiritual and material self-destruction of the human species;

Whereas, life on earth is seriously threatened by the triumph of a techno-science that obeys only the terrible logic of productivity for productivity’s sake;

Whereas, the present rupture between increasingly quantitative knowledge and increasingly impoverished inner identity is leading to the rise of a new brand of obscurantism with incalculable social and personal consequences;

Whereas, an historically unprecedented growth of knowledge is increasing the inequality between those who have and those who do not, thus engendering increasing inequality within and between the different nations of our planet;

Whereas, at the same time, hope is the counterpart of all the afore-mentioned challenges, a hope that this extraordinary development of knowledge could eventually lead to an evolution not unlike the development of primates into human beings;

Therefore, in consideration of all the above, the participants of the First World Congress of Transdisciplinarity (Convento da Arrábida, Portugal, November 2-7, 1994) have adopted the present Charter, which comprises the fundamental principles of the community of transdisciplinary researchers, and constitutes a personal moral commitment, without any legal or institutional constraint, on the part of everyone who signs thisCharter.

Article 1:

Any attempt to reduce the human being by formally defining what a human being is and subjecting the human being to reductive analyses within a framework of formal structures, no matter what they are, is incompatible with the transdisciplinary vision.

Article 2:

The recognition of the existence of different levels of reality governed by different types of logic is inherent in the transdisciplinary attitude. Any attempt to reduce reality to a single level governed by a single form of logic does not lie within the scope of transdisciplinarity.

Article 3:

Transdisciplinarity complements disciplinary approaches. It occasions the emergence of new data and new interactions from out of the encounter between disciplines. It offers us a new vision of nature and reality. Transdisciplinarity does not strive for mastery of several disciplines but aims to open all disciplines to that which they share and to that which lies beyond them.

Article 4:

The keystone of transdisciplinarity is the semantic and practical unification of the meanings that traverse and lay beyond different disciplines. It presupposes an open-minded rationality by re-examining the concepts of “definition” and “objectivity.” An excess of formalism, rigidity of definitions and a claim to total objectivity, entailing the exclusion of the subject, can only have a life-negating effect.

Article 5:

The transdisciplinary vision is resolutely open insofar as it goes beyond the field of the exact sciences and demands their dialogue and their reconciliation with the humanities and the social sciences, as well as with art, literature, poetry and spiritual experience.

Article 6:

In comparison with interdisciplinarity and multidisciplinarity, transdisciplinarity is multireferential and multidimensional. While taking account of the various approaches to time and history, transdisciplinarity does not exclude a transhistorical horizon.

Article 7:

Transdisciplinarity constitutes neither a new religion, nor a new philosophy, nor a new metaphysics, nor a science of sciences.

Article 8:

The dignity of the human being is of both planetary and cosmic dimensions. The appearance of human beings on Earth is one of the stages in the history of the Universe. The recognition of the Earth as our home is one of the imperatives of transdisciplinarity. Every human being is entitled to a nationality, but as an inhabitant of the Earth is also a transnational being. The acknowledgement by international law of this twofold belonging, to a nation and to the Earth, is one of the goals of transdisciplinary research.

Article 9:

Transdisciplinarity leads to an open attitude towards myths and religions, and also towards those who respect them in a transdisciplinary spirit.

Article 10:

No single culture is privileged over any other culture. The transdisciplinary approach is inherently transcultural.

Article 11:

Authentic education cannot value abstraction over other forms of knowledge. It must teach contextual, concrete and global approaches. Transdisciplinary education revalues the role of intuition, imagination, sensibility and the body in the transmission of knowledge.

Article 12:

The development of a transdisciplinary economy is based on the postulate that the economy must serve the human being and not the reverse.

Article 13:

The transdisciplinary ethic rejects any attitude that refuses dialogue and discussion, regardless of whether the origin of this attitude is ideological, scientistic, religious, economic, political or philosophical. Shared knowledge should lead to a shared understanding based on an absolute respectfor the collective and individual Otherness united by our common life on one and the same Earth.

Article 14:

Rigoropenness, and tolerance are the fundamental characteristics of the transdisciplinary attitude and vision. Rigor in argument, taking into account all existing data, is the best defense against possible distortions. Openness involves an acceptance of the unknown, the unexpected and the unforeseeable. Tolerance implies acknowledging the right to ideas and truths opposed to our own.

Article final:

The present Charter of Transdisciplinarity was adopted by the participants of the first World Congress of Transdisciplinarity, with no claim to any authority other than that of their own work and activity.

In accordance with procedures to be agreed upon by transdisciplinary-minded persons of all countries, this Charter is open to the signature of anyone who is interested in promoting progressive national, international and transnational measures to ensure the application of these Articles in everyday life.

Convento da Arrábida, 6th November 1994

Editorial Committee
Lima de Freitas, Edgar Morin and Basarab Nicolescu

Translated from the French by Karen-Claire Voss

Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity, State University of New York (SUNY) Press, New York, 2002, translated from the French by Karen-Claire Voss. Accessed 3/20/2008

References for this article are available here.