4/14/21 — Transdisciplinary Leaders, Leading and Leadership Towards Planetary, Developmental and Regenerative Communities, Cultures and Civilizations

Eric Reynolds

Towards a Butterfly Civilization

The citizens of planet Earth have reached a choice point, whether they know it or not. Human activity and technology have fostered in a new epoch known as the Anthropocene. Humans, through their ingenuity and their ignorance, have become a literal force of nature. To name but a few of the planetwide changes homo-sapiens have wrought; we have altered the climate, changed sea levels and the flow of the oceans, drastically reduced the availability of arable soil, degraded breathable air, increased the intensity of volcanic activity, and earthquakes and hurricanes, not to mention the continuing mass extinction of the biodiversity of this blue dot. 

Just in case anyone still has any doubts, humanity has been collectively handcuffed by our collective karma to a rollercoaster heading on a speeding course towards civilizational collapse. 2020 was just the first drop, followed by the loop de loop of January 6, 2021 in the USA, as five centuries of colonial shadow were brought glaringly into the light as the world held its collective breath and pondered the potentially imminent collapse of democracy. The problem is there are no breaks and no conductor, and the throttle is on full. 

The above metaphor is not exaggeration or hyperbole. It is a sober assessment of the post-normal, complex, wicked, VUCA straight-jacket we need to collectively Houdini ourselves out of if we want to survive as a modern civilization. The upside is the necessary transformation, should we succeed, could see humanity become the healthy relative of the Gaian community, let alone the cosmos. Once one has embraced the reality of it, there are two polar responses that I experience as my own transformation unfolds. The one is to be in raw abject terror as absolute impossibility of the necessary shift hits me like a tsunami, and the other is the blindingly bright, soul inspiring beauty of the transformative potential of it all.

So now that the metaphorical stage has been set, I would like to present an academic framework to hang our coats and hats on. Finally, I will ask you to join me as we collectively write the script. Our intention for this issue is not to provide answers. It is to hold space for our scholarship and practice to serve as a fractal neuron of the connectome of an evolved humanity.

Integral Leadership Review is an academic journal which serves as a bridge between the scholarship and praxis of leadership. Integral means whole, referring to the transdisciplinary, meta-theoretical nature of ILR. Submissions will thus address the complex, interdependent relationship between the individual behavior and psyche of the individual, culture, exterior life conditions, biological and ecological systems, and the quantum connections that interconnect them all. Some examples of lenses applied in our publications are Nicolescuian Transdisciplinarity, Wilberian Integral Theory, Complexity Theory, Complex Thought, Critical Realism, Adult Development theories, and Indigenous Cosmologies.

Regarding leaders, leading, and integral leadership, we refer to the distinctions made by the late founder of ILR, Russ Volckmann (2014). A Leader is “a role in a system, that is, a set of expectations held by members of a society, community or organization about desired and appropriate behaviors and qualities of individuals who temporarily occupy the role” (259). Leading, then becomes the activities that accompany the role. Integral Leadership is the complex and generative interplay of these things, and “involves the role (leader), the behaviors, and worldviews— including beliefs, intentions, and the like—(leading) and the context (systems and culture), including changing times” (262). As Volckmann noted, these distinctions are important: 

By continuing to use terms such as leader, leading, and leadership, as though they mean the same thing, we shall continue the confusion that has existed in not only the academic view of leading–leader–leadership, but in developing individuals to perform in leader roles and in developing human systems to support effective leading for sustainability, generativity, and thriving—a transdisciplinary imperative” (262). 

With this redefinition of leadership, from the invocation of the heroic individual, however transformative, to having discernment between actors, roles, and relationships, comes the recognition that a leader need not even be a person. Organizations can perform a leadership role, as can ideas, or even words. 

So we have leaders, leading and leadership towards planetary, developmental and regenerative communities, cultures, and civilizations. The “towards” refers to evolutionary impulse, the need to evolve or die, as well as harkening to the strange attractor of a conscious cosmos, beckoning us to become a more enlightened version of ourselves, before we venture much further from our garden home.

Planetary here asks us to consider our efforts, whether local, regional, national, or global in nature, as fractal nodes towards a greater, healthier, happier, whole, in alignment with, and guided by, the natural world as we reach for the stars.

Developmental means moving towards healthier, more whole manifestations of self and of organizations. It means waking up, growing up, cleaning up, and showing up on a personal level, and it also means instilling the fostering of people and place as a core value in all of our systems.

Regenerative, simply put, is adding value for thriving. Again, not just in one sector, or for one’s customers, but as a fundamental way of being. Human systems must treat all stakeholders, living or non-living, human, or not, as relatives to be cherished.

Communities can be local or global, in real life, or virtual; important here is the idea of a regenerative evolutionary learning community. The more regenerative communities emerge in all their forms, the closer we will move towards a culture of regeneration. And finally, should we succeed, a butterfly civilization shall reach for the stars.

Of course, that is the utopia on the other side of the aforementioned existential threats facing humanity. We have a limited time, but that is not the half of it. The global body, mind and spirit has been colonized by the dark hegemony of hierarchies of domination, in which the beautiful, the good, and the true are traded for power and profit. The powers that be are fighting for the wheel of the Titanic, while the sleeping masses are hypnotized by media and futures illiteracy, which heightens the adaptive challenge of waking up to the complex interdependence of it all. 

So I call on you to shine your light in these dark times. We are accepting academic articles, Notes from the field, interviews, and book reviews thru May 31st. Please send your submissions to, and see our submission guidelines for more information. I offer the following graphic synthesis of Nicolescuian transdisciplinarity, Integral Methodological Pluralism, Banathy’s three lenses, and Laloux’s three breakthroughs as a contemplation of the interconnected nature of it all.

Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from you.

– Eric, Natasha and Jeremy


Banathy, B. (1996). Designing social systems in a changing world. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing organizations: A guide to creating organizations inspired by the next stage of human consciousness [Kindle version]. Brussels, Belgium: Nelson Parker.

Nicolescu, B. (2010). Methodology of transdisciplinarity: Levels of reality, logic of the included middle and complexity. Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science, 1(1), 1-20.

Reynolds, E. (2019). Next-stage organizations: A transdisciplinary case study. (Doctoral Thesis). Available from ProQuest at

Sanford, C. (2021). The Regenerative Life. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Volckmann, R. (2014). Generativity, transdisciplinarity, and integral leadership. World Future: The Journal of New Paradigm Research, 70(3–4), 248–265.

Wahl, D. C. (2016). Designing regenerative cultures. Axminister, England: Triarchy Press.

Wilber, K. Integral Spirituality: A Startling  New Role for Religion in the Modern and Postmodern World. Boston, Massachusetts: Integral Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.


  1. Елена on May 9, 2021 at 6:02 am

    The Pragmatic Impact on Leadership and Organizations of Interventions Based on the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry Approach As shown in this review, fifty years of research on real-world practice, guided by the Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) paradigm of social science and social action, have documented more powerful impacts than any other research and practice approach on leaders’ and organizations’ transformation. CDAI is a rich combination of quantitative, qualitative, and action research in field settings where the researchers are also lead-participants studying themselves and their influence on the setting under study as it attempts to transform. In this early stage in the development of the CDAI paradigm, it is quantitatively anchored by the two psychometric instruments currently defensible for measuring and debriefing leaders’ developmental action-logics – the Mature Adult Profile (MAP) and the Global Leadership Profile (GLP).

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