Jonathan Reams and Anne Caspari. Integral Leadership

Leadership Emerging / January 2013

Reams, J., & Caspari, A. (2012). Integral leadership: Generating space for emergence through quality of presence. Wirtschaftspsychologie, 14(3), 34-45.

Abstract: This article outlines a view of integral leadership as integrity with a quality of presence that opens spaces for what wants to emerge. A focus is on describing Heifetz’s notion of adaptive leadership as creating a holding environment for work to be done. This is framed in terms of how integrity, subtle energies and intuition combine with late stage ego development capacities to create a quality of presence that enable requisite spaces to be opened up and held. This view is contextualized in relation to existing discourse in the field and the authors’ experience in leadership development work. In addition to laying a foundation for the view of leadership used, the concept of integral is examined in relation to integrity. This forms the basis for quality of presence, while intuition is shown to be an essential function in the author’s conception of integral leadership. Intuition is explored in relation to stages of cognitive/ego development, which are also explored in terms of their function and contribution to integral leadership. Future lines of inquiry arising from this conception are presented.

The authors are primarily concerned with what I would term individual development in relation to leader roles. They are concerned with “the core elements we perceive as having the greatest impact on leaders’ capacity to open and hold spaces that enable work to be accomplished.” Drawing on Edwards’ meta-theoretical method, the bring first, second and third person perspectives. They are interested in integral as higher stages of development in terms of worldview (Don Beck), integral consciousness (Gebser), and construct aware (Cook-Greuter).

Thus our approach to integral rests on two pillars; the cognitively complex and comprehensive meta-theoretical framing of integral pluralism (often referred to as being “integrally informed”) and the view from aperspectival or construct aware consciousness.

They approach to leading involves Heifitz’s adaptive leadership in which the challenge is messy or wicked problems that cannot be resolved with past experience alone, and holding the space for such work to be done. Their definition of integral leadership is “integrity with a quality of presence that opens spaces for what wants to emerge.” Aside from linking this to Heifitz’s work, this definition does not distinguish the elements of the definition from relevance to any individual faced with a challenge or new character or proportions. Scharmer’s work on presence is influential on their work; his work is not just relevant to leading.

A very useful discussion of integrity follows in which integrity is a key element in the ability of the individual to be present. They state,

We have noted that being present to all manner of what arises is an essential capacity for leadership to create and maintain these spaces, or holding environments… This is especially true if the situation requires getting out of one’s comfort zone, as leaders are quite often challenged to do.  As well, as noted above, the ability to receive is important. While avoiding the pitfalls of filtering, or biasing the interpretation of information that comes to a leader is critical, in addition to this external aspect, there is an internal dimension of this; intuition.

Intuition is a trans-rational mode of consciousness. The paper contains a detailed analysis of this idea.

They continue,

The tension between these components – the contribution or impact of later stages of development and the integrity and quality of presence – produces, in our view, some of the challenges we have perceived in understanding integral leadership.

They are also challenges in developing individuals for leader roles. Such development is dependent on the stage(s) of development of the individual.

The authors conclude,

Leadership is in itself an integral enterprise or activity, as it requires integrity and intuition, with these arising from or contributing to a quality of presence that opens spaces for what wants to emerge.

While I have a somewhat different view of the use of terms, generously acknowledged by the authors with a reference, this work – along with that of a few other authors – is important to the development and evolution of our understanding of the transdisciplinary field of leadership studies and, ultimately, to supporting individual development for leader roles.