Leading Comments

Leading Comments / November 2007

As a member of the International Leadership Association, one of the benefits is free online access to Leadership Excellence, a publication that seems to be endorsed by Warren Bennis. Recently, I downloaded the current issue and shared it with the Integral Leadership Review’s Management Review Board. I appended the question, “Competition?” One of the responses I got included the following from Keith Bellamy (Integral for the Masses):

I liked the format…initially, but found that it became repetitious and monotonous after a while. There was nothing to break the content up and keep the attention of the reader.

Where it differs from ILR is that the content seems to be written from the stand-point of “Make a list and then embellish.” Every author seems to set out from an “Expert” perspective with a pre-packaged solution for the readers’ problems. I’d like to think that ILR will never fall into the trap of being so prescriptive about leadership.

We differentiate ourselves by making the reader aware of the issue, exploring possible approaches to its resolution, but most importantly getting the reader to THINK for his or herself about how to respond in the circumstances that he or she is operating. There are many in leadership positions who probably do want packaged solutions to their problems; then there are leaders who recognise that they need to think through their approach and action. The latter audience may be smaller than the former but that is our target market.

I am reminded of Niels Bohr’s admonishment to his students…”You are not thinking! You are just being logical!” Logic just rearranges the facts as we know them. Leadership has to stretch beyond the known. We want the thinkers, but without excluding the logicians.

Sara Ross responded, “I would add: creativity integrates what is known to create new knowledge, theory, models, and praxis. We want to developand have society benefit from critical thinkers’ creations and knowledge-leadership, not the dime-a-dozen inherently-partial logics.”

I think this is all so perceptive. It could be argued that the writing in that publication is really very appropriate for those in positions of authority in organizations. This is the material they are looking for. This is the material they are ready to read and perhaps even have it influence them. Our challenge is to find a way to do that so that they find value in the development of their opportunities and roles for leadership. Also, I think there is growing evidence of capacity for much more integral thinking among some of these leaders (Note Alan Tonkin’s report on the latest results from the Global Values Network in the “Field” section of this issue).

We must also recognize that many of the readers of In tegral Leadership Review already fall into the category of “thinkers” and not just logicians. The distinction is related to the concept of grokking from Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. “Grok” is a concept from an imagined alien language for which there is no English equivalent. I think of it as “knowing” with every aspect of one’s being—for example, cognitive, emotional, ethical—in every domain of life. And it is also important that our readers include all developmental mimetic clusters.

Too much to ask? I don’t know. That is one reason why Integral Leadership Review is a colossal experiment. We are attempting to bridge, to open communications across domains and developmental levels, to provide means for those at different levels to get their ideas and perceptions across to each other, to engage the diversity not in seeking agreement, but in supporting each to bring what they can to address the challenges we face as individuals, communities and organizations, societies and the world. And it is so important for those with experience and knowledge based in business and other organizational leadership, leadership education and development programs and research and teaching in academia to meet, to share, to discover.

We do not ask that all contributors or material reflect integral thinking of an advanced nature. We believe that an integral, developmental, transdisciplinary approach is evolving, developing, being refined as a result of exchanges among levels. While we value those who have achieved significant progress and insight from advanced levels, we also believe their contributions need to speak to those of us who have not. After all, even for those who cognitively and in terms of worldview operate out of advanced centers of gravity might recall Don Beck’ s valuable lesson to all of us—the spiral is within, the whole spiral. What parts of it light up depend on life conditions (and some genetic variables thrown in for good measure). With your help, Integral Leadership Review can contribute to those life conditions that light the way to sustainable futures for us all or, at least, to a developmental path that we can respect. And what that is…well, who is to say? Perhaps the answer will come, in part, as a result of the conversations we engage in through Integral Leadership Review.

This issue offers a range of perspectives from a range of sources. The seventh installment of exploring integral mapping is concerned with the development of maps and models that can aid those in all domains to practice, develop and learn about leadership. Micki McMillan, who offers a leadership coaching tip, has a background in executive coaching that should be the envy of many aspiring coaches. We have tapped into the wisdom of Jim Kouzes, one of the world’s most recognized thinkers about leadership. Mathew Kalman shares his perspective on the ground-breaking work of Otto Scharmer. Barbara Mossberg demonstrates how diverse fields, from literature to quantum physics, can help comprehend leadership.

Keith Bellamy reflects on the credit crisis. T erri O’Fallon offers a highly insightful essay on stages of development and leadership. Bill Bates invites us to laugh at ourselves and the ways we think about leadership. Jonathan Reams brings his fresh thinking about leadership and we learn about who is doing what in Africa and Europe related to leadership thanks to Yene AssegidHelen Tichen Beeth and Jonathan Reams. Finally, in Leadership Emerges and CODA there are some pointers toward really interesting books and topics of interest to those interested in leadership.

We hope you find this material to be of great value and that you show your support by telling others and perhaps joining Friends of Integral Leadership Review, if you haven’t already. In return, not only will you continue receiving Integral Leadership Review, but we will send you a PDF version of Insights on Leadership, Volume 1. Thanks for your support!

—Russ Volckmann