1/15 – A Totem for Curating a Story of Leadership in Canada

Marilyn Hamilton

Marilyn Hamilton

A Brief View of Curating

Marilyn Hamilton

Marilyn Hamilton

Reticence. Modesty. Loyalty. Generosity. These qualities often mark the Canadian character and our propensity to downplay the adventure, excitement, daring, risk and courage that influence how we tell our stories of accomplishment and achievement. But those are not the words that sprung to mind when Russ Volckmann invited me to be Guest Editor of this Canada issue of Integral Leadership Review (ILR-C).

Pattern making. Pattern recognition. Pattern amplification. Excessive Network Connecting. These are the qualities of leaders that emerged when I studied learning and leadership in self-organizing online communities in 1999 (Hamilton, 1999). Using the lenses of integral, systems and evolutionary thinking, I was able to notice how leaders emerged naturally from the population they occupied to lead a community to take stock of its assets, reflect on its intentions, change its worldview and expand its influence,.

These were the impulses I wished to bring to the challenge of not just editing ILR-C – but rather of curating a story of leadership in Canada for this issue.

Leadership is a journey to wholeness for an individual (Jaworski, 1996). Community is a journey to wholeness for a group of people (Hamilton, 1999). Those were the definitions that emerged from and guided my research into learning and leadership in self-organizing systems. The study of cities as “Human Hives” is where my research has lead me (and my bias is that cities are the collective form of human endeavour that will flourish in the future). But this ILR-C opportunity to tap into the pulse of leadership across a whole nation, has reminded me of the cultural and social impact that a nation creates for its people.

Peace. Order. Good government. That was the cultural DNA that formed Canada as she came to nationhood in 1867. These reflected life conditions to which the new nation aspired and that called forth leadership that guided it in the founding years to look inward and build its assets and strengths from sea to sea to sea. Leadership soundly built on the (Spiral Dynamics integral (Beck & Cowan, 1996) Blue vMeme set of values, drew on a lineage of two European ancestors – British and French – with a multitudinous third set of ancestors from the hundreds of First Nations, who had established human habitations across the vastness of Canada’s northern geography since the age of the Aleutian land bridge that joined the continents of Asia and the Americas.

Volitility. Uncertainty. Complexity. Ambiguity. These dreaded “VUCA” qualities characterize the life conditions that Canada’s leaders negotiate in 2015.  After 150 years of formal nationhood, we must ask ourselves if leadership based on peace, order and good government can serve a world that reverberates with VUCA life conditions?

A storyline of leadership in Canada that aligns the lineages of the pre-historic eras, to the First Nations and Eurocentric eras, to Canada’s emergence as a global player, active in NATO, the G8 and peace building around the world – might have been curated by my father (Jack Douglas Herbert) were he alive today. As the Director of National Historic Sites and the managing or founding director of many museums in Canada, he enabled me to meet first-hand Canada’s founding cultures, visit (or sleep in!) most museums across Canada’s variety of geographies and appreciate (through archeology and paleontology) the artefacts that symbolize our rich history.

Guided by the propensity to curate, that my father’s influence has bred in my bones, I was curious to tap into active integral leaders located across Canada who came from multiple lineages of integral thinking. (And I was especially blessed to have my Associate Editor, Joan Arnott’s integral lineage of Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry join my Wilberian/ Spiral Dynamics integralese). I wanted to source leaders willing to tell their stories, share their vulnerabilities, regale us with their learnings (of both success and failure) and point us in the directions that the Future is attracting their leadership. (Such leaders are living the adult learning path marked by both Graves (1974/2005) and Kolb (1984) (and reflected adeptly in our Gallery of Continuous Learning.)

Self-organizing response from the many contributors to ILR-C has emerged an? order (thanks to trusting complexity theory!) that suggests a path through our gallery of articles, that is not just marked by early emergent “weak signals” of leadership changing to meet the world’s VUCA demands – but in many cases these stories offer “night vision goggles” that reveal strong signals of leadership that are enabling and enacting second order change that is already emerging new institutions.

A Guided Tour of the Treasures

What have I learned from curating these contributions? Canada has moved from a flatland of the cultural mosaic to a vertical spiral of people, capable of meta-framing and meta-learning. From Canada’s multiple lineages, the roots of multiple expressions of “integral” are spreading ecologies of thinkers, actors, civil liberators and systems developers who bring fresh perspectives to negotiating the country in context of the world. I am witnessing the transition from a land of good internal government to a nation championing sound trans-national governance; from a land of leadership certainty to a land of leadership meta-questors; from a land marked out by external surveyors to a nation whose cultural boundaries can flex and flow across a vibrant spectrum of co-existing internal worldviews (who have found a home here from around the globe).

Allow me to offer some pointing out directions for appreciating the collection of integral leadership treasures offered in this issue.

Let us start with the Cover. The Totem forms an elegant, 4 quadrant gateway – a Divine gift to the Readers of this Canada issue. The Bear represents the Upper Left Intentional, the Wolf represents the Lower Left Cultural, the Raven represents the Upper Right Behavioural, and the Salmon represents Lower Right Systems Fit.  This original art of the 4 quadrant totem (a gift from the article submitted by Janice Simcoe on Integral Theory and Leadership) imbues us with the gifts of each animal, through which we can appreciate all the other contributions.    We thank the Bear for self-awareness, the Wolf for relationships, the Raven for imagination and the Salmon for navigation.

Next let us receive a Guide for this issue. We pick it up from Tam Lundy’s Generative Change Primer that is offered as a bonus to her Leadership Coaching Tip which shows how the pathway through generative change leadership converts integral thinking into practical action that is salutogenic, dialectical, developmental and evolutionary.  Bookmark page 50, as your personal guide through the labyrinth of beckoning pathways in this issue – it will amplify the gifts from the Totem with ways to discover meaning, imagine change, and discern action.

With Totem and Guide, in hand we are ready to listen to the Fresh Perspectives of Integral Coaching Canada as related in my interview with Co-Founders Laura Divine and Joanne Hunt. Divine and Hunt tell the story behind not only their journey as leaders, but the journey of the global organization that has given them an intimate relationship with leadership evolving over the last decade. Always willing to “break the mold” to make ICC stronger they tell us why leaders in the VUCA world need to learn to say “no” as a practise of skilful means.

(In the second wave of this issue, Gervase Bushe, whose Clear Leadership has offered much generative process for my teaching of leadership practices over the years, provides further Fresh Perspectives in an interview with Russ Volckmann.)

The Feature Articles in this Canada Issue tapped so many veins of rich leadership, we have stratified them across the scales of human systems.

Leading Self includes two contributions from writers in Canada’s Prairie heartland. Edith Friesen dares a Self-Interview that sets a new bar for self-reflexivity, vulnerability and leaderless leading. Beth Sanders (a civic meshworker by day and devoted blogger by inclination) reveals the inherent wilderness she discovers within, on a wilderness quest where she reaffirms her commitment to tend to self, others and place.

Leading Others introduces us to pioneers asking Is Integral Leadership Possible? (Linda Shore) – and in our second wave of this issue it introduces us to Deep Presencing: Illuminating New Territory at the Bottom of the U (Olen Gunnlaugson) and Rebecca Colwell asking – Will the Next Buddha be a Sangha? Responding to the Call to Influence the Future of Collaboration.

Leading Organizations opens the door on two long-lived organizations (in integral scales of time – 10 years is a significant timespanJ). Michael Chender traces the cycles of growth in Authentic Leadership in Action (ALIA) and how it blossomed in Nova Scotia from a transplanted Buddhist community and is now returning to its roots in Naropa University. With a focus on the vigour of youth and with a focus on young leaders, Julia Fortier and Karen Kun tell us how Waterlution (ironically located in Toronto, Canada’s largest metropolis) has been Building Water Leaders and Waterpreneurs.

Leading Cultures invites us to sit around the hearth of storytelling to hear Janice Simcoe relate “A Circle of Aiijaakag, a Circle of Maangag: Integral Theory and Indigenous Leadership”. With great skill she paints the picture of Indigenous people in Canada “as a dance of prisms, reflecting on and off each other, connected but ever so different”.

Leading World illustrates how small organizations with an integral intelligence inside have the power to reach out across the globe, like Gail Hochachka from One Sky, who relates how to Integrally Transform a Value Chain spanning  from North to South America. (Likewise, in our second wave of this issue, Brian and Mary Nattrass, early adopters of The Natural Step, propose from their experience of teaching sustainability to multi-national organizations, the next steps leaders must take in order to serve the wellbeing of Earth.) (Footnote: With Divine irony, it turns out these two outreachers to the world, live in the same small town on BC’s Sunshine Coast but have not met each other!!)

Continuous Learning offers us a chance to consider how we learn the ways that leadership is emerging across the scales of human systems. In this gallery we start (on Canada’s east coast) with Sue McGregor’s meta-exploration of two different lineages through Integral Dispositions and Transdisciplinary Knowledge Creation. She unpacks how “AQAL is the essence of synthesis and integration, a melding of perspectives to gain as much intellectual inclusion as possible”, while offering that “transdisciplinary knowledge [is] simultaneously exterior and interior. Exterior refers to the study of the universe and interior refers to the study of the human being; knowledge of each sustains the other, because they are interconnected”.

Like a bookend on Canada’s west coast, Brigitte Harris and Niels Agger-Gupta tell the story of Royal Roads University’s School of Leadership Studies in the The Long and Winding Road.  They share four leadership and learning principles that integrally transform self, others and organizations: Leadership as Engagement, Engaged Scholarship, Orientation to Possibility and Learning as Transformation.

In between these two oceans (and in our second wave) Ian Wight traces the insights he has gained in transforming education at the University of Manitoba Masters in City Planning program, in the Faculty of Architecture (and many conferences around the world). Ian exemplifies the insights he has gained about the journey From Practice to Praxis as Transformative Education. He stretches our comfort zones inquiring, if we might “transform first-tier professionals into ‘embodied agents of the next enlightenment’” as second-tier matures?

As we enter the book review gallery in Leadership Emerging we may regain some comfort with Trevor Malkinson’s Retrospective Review of the Work of Bruce Sanguin (which includes 5 books). Malkinson opens us to the Pulse of Possibility with Sanguin’s view of the “human being who comes equipped with the creative power of a supernova, the radiance of a golden spruce, the resiliency of our bacterial cousins, the determination of a spawning Coho salmon, and the heart-wisdom of Sophia. And in the “fullness of time”, Jesus emerges, a perfect reflection of the light of God”.

On the other hand Diana Claire Douglas (in our second wave), reviewing Integral Voices on Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: Critical Inquiries, edited by Vanessa Fisher and Sarah Nicholson, has a good chance of disturbing our equanimity because the book of 11 chapters brings a multitude of integral perspectives to issues that taunt us in every newscast. Douglas notes that “During this time of refection, I became more aware of and sensitized to the conversations on sex, gender and sexuality happening in the larger world ― especially Canada, but also internationally. They were (and are) happening on radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, and social media, within organizations, and amongst friends.”

Our Poetry Gallery concludes the tour of treasures in our ILR Canada issue. Tim Merry, a well-known rap-style artist in integrally-informed circles brings an edge and a smile to our experience by piercing our senses and our hearts/minds with rhyme and verse. The stanza that opens the Table of Contents comes from Build the Arks (which is the finale of 4 poems in the first wave of this issue). While the second wave is completed with the invocation to Just switch it on – “The field beyond right and wrong … That’s where we been all along … a revelation/ In every nation/ On every station/ Since Creation”.

A Brief Reflection on the Collection

Poetry seems a powerful way to celebrate the Field of Treasures that attracted me, tantalized my integral sensibilities and energized me throughout the privilege of curating this Canada issue. I hope that you also experience its attraction, tantalizing qualities and energy. (And you will find the regular Column of Lisa Norton and Notes from the Field by Eugene Pustoshkin add a synchronistic amplification in their reflection of integral ideas from Canada.)

In reflecting on this review of a powerful collection of Ieadership stories from Canada, I am inspired that we have heard from multiple generations, a spectrum of genders, citizens, NGO’s, artists, government and business. We have considered the environment, the economy, culture and social systems.  And with the many differences that are making a difference integrally in the world, I wonder if Canada “punches above its weight” from a per capita basis. (One thing I am clear on, is that within Canada, British Columbia is producing more integralists than any other Canadian province – and we worked hard to give voice to as much of the rest of Canada as we could.)

Nevertheless, I am reminded to ask “who is not here”? Because this is a journal published in English we do not have the voice of French Canada (although Olen Gunnlaugson currently lives in Quebec City). We are missing a voice from the far North (the invitation was offered but timing did not work). We could benefit from the leadership of our military and many overseas missions of care. The voices of our authors bridge across generations from the Millennials to the Boomers – but we should seek more wisdom that arises from the Senior Elders and the Junior Youth.

All that being said, I feel like we have come full circle back to the Totem portal that marked the gateway to this Canada issue. As I look backward to the first invitation to become Guest Editor, I notice a fractal recitative that Integral Leadership in Canada is moving beyond leadership as partnership, or collaboration or even community – into leadership as a service to a greater good in service to a healthy Earth. And yet I see all of those forms of leadership transcended and included into the leadership that is emerging – kind of a Totems Up and Totems Down – all the way.

I can see a path of learningful leadership that stretches from the many aha! insights, through careful and rigorous interpretation with integral lenses, into complexifying multi-lineage integration, into the ongoing applications of generative action learning to solve life’s VUCA dilemmas. I feel that my own practices (and community of practice) of amplifying intelligences for the Human Hive, has been greatly enriched with what at first looked like a detour to my main calling. But now, I have the companions of the Bear, the Wolf, the Raven and the Salmon to guide and deepen my path … and I won’t be surprised to meet many Readers along the way.


Beck, D., & Cowan, C. (1996). Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

Graves, C. (1974/2005). The Never Ending Quest: A Treatise on an Emergent Cyclical Conception of Adult Behavioral Systems and Their Development. Santa Barbara, CA: ECLET Publishing.

Hamilton, M. (2008). Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Gabriola Island BC: New Society Publishers.

Hamilton, M. (1999). The Berkana Community of Conversations: A Study of Leadership Skill Development and Organizational Leadership Practices in a Self-Organizing Online Microworld. PhD doctoral dissertation, Columbia Pacific University, Novato, California.

Jaworski, J. (1996). Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Wilber, K. (1995). Sex, Ecology and Spirituality: the spirit of evolution. Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.



©2014 Aboriginal Nations Education, Greater Victoria School Board, BC, Canada
Artist Jamin Zuroski
Bear/UL. Wolf /LL. Raven/UR. Salmon/LR.
This Totem is a Gift used with permission on this Canada Issue. Please do not copy or paste without © Permission.





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