Leading Comments

Leading Comments / August 2002


I am grateful to the more than 450 subscribers to Integral Leadership Review. Your support means that we can move closer to a way of viewing and being in the world that is integrative, generative and supportive of our evolving integrity–learning to align our theory and our action, our values and assumptions with achieving what is important to us. Also, I am grateful to the many kindnesses, suggestions and offers of support we have received.

The mission of this e-publication is to be a practical guide to the application of an integral perspective to the challenges of leadership in business and life and to the effective relationship between executive/business coaches and their clients. My vision includes that this will be a place where others, as well as myself, can continue to develop and share ideas about Integral Leadership and integral coaching.

> Russ Volckmann


I am taking an unusual step in this issue by summarizing a master’s thesis that has not been published in the usual sense, but that is unique in my explorations of integral theory in relation to leadership. As a community, we are very good at theory, models and concepts. It is rare to find material of field research using these concepts. Valerie tells me the thesis is published in the National Library of Canada collection, has been sent to UMI where it is added to their online database ProQuest, www.umi.com

Valerie Joyce Smith, The Evolution of Leadership, a thesis for Royal Roads University in Canada. vjsmith@telusplanet.net Valerie brought together a small group of leaders for a series of dialogues (Leadership Circles) and sought to discover

  • What is the evidence that people’s leadership stories support the meta-models of the Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics?
  • What is your leadership story?
  • How can Leadership Circles build leadership capacity?
  • How can Leadership Circles support the work of the Alliance for Capitalizing on Change?

She explores some organizational and leadership literature in light of the spiral dynamics model and then reviews the dialogues to suggest answers to these questions from the perspective of integral theory and spiral dynamics. I found the report from these dialogues to be very interesting. While her interpretation of development and movement among levels, particularly between first and second tier might be challenged, her conclusions are worth consideration.

What is the evidence that people’s leadership stories supported the meta-models of The Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics? Leaders grasped and gave evidence of their lives in Four Quadrants to varying degrees.

  1. “For the individual interior quadrant, each person in the group was reflective and paid considerable attention to her intention. They were mindful of their own level of consciousness and a few were interested in exploring their unconscious mind. Everyone was committed to integrity and finding meaning in life”
  2. Generally these leaders paid less attention to the individual exterior quadrant, that is, to those things that were quantifiable. One participant though, was very interested in her physiology and was pursuing a better understanding of the nexus of body, mind, and spirit
  3. “As regards the collective interior quadrant, these leaders were very aware of values, ethics and culture and were able and willing to engage in dialogue to seek mutual understanding.
  4. “For the collective exterior quadrant, there were varying levels of experience and comfort with social systems, the sciences and the environment.”

Wilber (1996) argues that Westerners are usually more comfortable in the right-hand quadrants, yet these leaders showed considerable capacity in all four quadrants.

She also examined leader stories to see if they showed an emergence over time through the spiral and notes no expectation of linearity.

She states that

“the leaders’ stories did reflect the pattern of emergence. There were waves and ripples as their consciousnesses unfolded, but the pattern involved movement up the Spiral. For example, one person’s early life was predominately described through statements from the Purple and Blue memes. In her mid career, Orange and then Green became more common. Several Yellow beliefs and values were considered in relation to the last few years of her life. “For the group, 69% of the statements made from their first three decades fell in the Purple, Red and Blue stages and 88% of the statements from the fourth and beyond decades fell in the Orange, Green, Yellow and Turquoise stages. This dispersion pattern supports the view that, for these people, aging was accompanied by a movement up the spiral.”

Much of the rest of the material is about the research methodology and the use of dialogue in Learning Circles. This is an unusual study and one that provides us with a glimpse of how these theories may be applied in further explorations.

Thanks for taking the time to consider this e-publication in a world of data overload. For leaders, collaborators, consultants, academics and coaches alike; I welcome you to some ideas and a dialogue that may benefit us all. I hope you will contact me soon with your idea, reference or article. Suggestions on improvement are welcome.
Russ Volckmann, PhD, Coaching Leaders in Business and Life
Email: russ@integraleadershipreview.com
Tel: 831.333-9200, FAX: 831.656-0110
A Request
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Dedicated to Chris Newham with deep appreciation.
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