Fresh Perspectives: Developing Integral Leadership Down Under: An Interview with Ron Cacioppe

Russ Volckmann

Russ: I’m very much aware that you’ve been interested in the idea of Integral Leadership for a number of years. I first became aware of your work in publications in the Leadership and Organizational Development Journal and then later in the Journal of Change Management. Your interest at that time seemed to be very much oriented to the subject of organization change from an integral point of view. I’m curious—what brought you to integral theory in the first place?

Ron: I did my Ph.D. way back in 1981. Reading Ken Wilber’s work, The Spectrum of Consciousness,studying Jungian psychological types really hooked my interested and motivated to put together frameworks into a comprehensive way of looking leadership and management. I was exploring four quadrants of leadership and management and levels of development in my PhD so when Ken came out with AQAL it was in line with what I had been writing about.

Russ: What academic field is your Ph.D. in?

Ron: It was in leadership and the management of organisations. My focus was on bringing a theory of consciousness into leadership and management. I received my degree from Macquarie University in Australia.

Russ: So you went to Australia quite a few years ago.

Ron: I went to Australia in 1971 and worked as a systems engineer. That’s where I first got my interest in leadership. I had completed an MBA in the U.S. and had seen a lot of organizations that weren’t well led and I started thinking about leadership. I wasn’t satisfied with the current paradigm that people were using. I felt it was limiting. That’s why I started exploring Eastern philosophy and Ken’s spectrum of consciousness. These answered a lot of questions for me.

When I first read Wilber’s work it knocked me off my chair. I was in Sydney, Australia and I decided to go to visit Ken. I hitchhiked from Los Angeles to Lincoln, Nebraska and spent a week with him. He was doing a Ph.D. in microbiology and writing some of his first major works.

Russ: What do you remember most vividly about that week with Ken Wilber?

Ron: I think it was a conversation we had about philosophy. I had an interest in Zen and I knew from Wilber’s writing that he had a lot of regard for Zen. I really wanted to discuss how to put his ideas into practice in the world of management. It’s nice to have theories and ideas, but I was interested in his experience of some of the things he was writing about. I was really excited that he brought together Eastern and Western perspectives and wanted to know if these came from his genuine insight or through book knowledge. We’d sit up late at night. In the morning he’d go to work, come back late in the afternoon and we would talk until 1 AM. I came away with a better understanding of the levels of consciousness. In my own work, I was looking at Jung’s four quadrants of reality as four ‘modes’ of consciousness. I was applying these four quadrants and Wilber’s levels of consciousness to leaders and organizations and felt this was the key to leadership and organisational development. That’s what my Ph.D. was about. It was radical at that time (1980) and caused one of my supervisors to jump ship because he thought it would never pass through academic examiners.

Russ: What are Jung’s four quadrants?

Ron: The four quadrants arise from the dimensions of thinking/objective vs. feeling/subjective and sensing/individual vs. intuitive/collective. This leads to four major psychological modes of consciousness; intuitive-thinking (systems, strategic perspective), intuitive-feeling (visionary, culture perspective), sensing-thinking (tangible, specific action perspective) and sensing-feeling (individual experience perspective). This is an abridged and abbreviated summary but they are like Wilber’s dimensions of objective and subjective, individual and collective and have is similarity to Wilber’s quadrants. The framework also has an extraversion and introversion dimensions which I translated into 3 lenses (internal-external, objective – subjective, and individual –collective) or bipolar dimensions rather than 2. They are modes of consciousness in leadership in management rather than four dimensions of reality.

Russ: With Jung’s typology, which I guess most people would be most familiar with in terms of the Myers-Briggs typology instrument, those people who tend to be more thinking and sensate are more objective and people who tend to be more intuitive-feeling would be more on the left, internal side.

Ron: Yes, there is creative, abstract and feeling side which is intuitive-feeling but there also is the sensing-feeling which is the individual-feeling. One is the collective, subjective ‘WE’ experience (e.g. culture) and the other is the individual-feeling ‘I’ experience. These are the opposite compared to the sensing-thinking which is the objective, individual ‘It’ material world and the system collective, objective world ‘IT’. It does not directly correlate with Wilber’s work but is very close to it and is easy to translate into four dimensions of leadership and management and organizations that managers in business and government accept. I refer to this as an Integral model of leadership and management and an Integral model of organizations.

Russ: I’m not too aware that many people have done much with the typology and integral theory, but that would be a really interesting thing to follow up on.

So after your work with this theory and your time with Wilber—you returned to Australia and continued working on your Ph.D.?

Ron: I did. And I started a consulting company. As part of my Ph.D., I developed an organizational survey using this modification of Wilber’s quadrants. That work has now been turned into an Integral Organization survey that measures four quadrants and gives organization scores from 0 to 100. I did research about what it is that creates great organizations with great leaders. I started with the question, “What would an organization look like that provided an excellent quality of work experience, good leadership and perform well and also had the perspective of people operating on a higher level of consciousness, transcending the ego and working for a greater good. What would that look like as a workplace?” I first reviewed a huge amount of research on what the factors were that contributed to this and then surveyed over 100 organizations, seeking the ideal, but not the ideal from a Western point-of-view in terms of just being commercially successful, but one in which people had regard for their people staff, respect for their customers, and a real interest to provide excellent worthwhile products and services and in tune with the society and natural environment.

Russ: Have there been patterns you’ve noticed as a result of using this survey?

Ron: Yes. It permeates all my work and is central to Wilber’s work. Sometimes I think we forget it in integral work—all of integral is really a map of Spirit, a map of Consciousness. The instruments and surveys that I developed are looking for the unfolding of the ‘Spirit’ or ‘Being’ where people connected with a larger good. The results of my Ph.D. work showed that people that work with human activities and life (e.g. people that work with other people, nature, animals, etc), where they feel they are providing some worthwhile (e.g. helping people rather than just processing pieces of paper, manufacturing things or working just to make more money or profit), people that work more in smaller groups, and that work in more creative endeavors scored higher in what we called the ‘Quality of Work Experience’ we now call this “Integral Organization Indicator (IOS).” Those kinds of characteristics of doing some good work with other people, having more autonomy and freedom, people working in the private sector, being in smaller groups all showed higher scores. Higher scores were shown to correlate with lower turnover, less absenteeism and better quality of work. The overall conclusion I reached (besides that these factors of smaller work groups, greater autonomy, etc lead to great quality of work experience) was that a framework of leadership and management and organizations based on these four quadrants was an acceptable one to use to explain organisational and leadership behaviour as existing theories and had some advantages relevant to the challenges that were facing modern leadership and organizations.

The highest score we ever got was in a spiritual organization. They said they could talk directly to the ‘ Boss’—and they thought sheresponded really well to their concerns!


Russ: So you’ve been using this survey now for how many years?

Ron: Over 20 years. We have about 20,000 people and 130 organizations that have gone completed it. As integral theory has matured, we have made modifications. We now clearly measure four quadrants and discuss integral theory. The four quadrants are well-received and useful for managers but the tricky part we find is measuring organisational levels with practical tools for leaders and managers.

Russ: Yes, and predictably so. Have you been publishing the results of the use of this survey?

Ron: I published the early results in Human Relations journal a number of years ago. We’re now undertaking a much larger study in which we are using this survey and other criteria to examine integral organizations. We would like to build on “Good to Great” book and study and find representatives of integral organizations and integral leaders. We have started a major study and are contacting some leaders and organizations around the world to interview them to determine the extent they reflect ‘integral’ characteristics. We are collecting this data, interviews and want compile it into a substantive study and book.

Russ: Let’s talk about the whole idea of levels of development as you’ve experienced using them. As you’re well aware, there are multiple models of this. How would you describe the approach that you’re using?

Ron: Ken Wilber’s levels/stages and Spiral Dynamicslevelsare similar in many ways with integral theory having some further aspects such as lines, states. We took both of these models and came out with ‘corporate-friendly’ terminology. Don Beck came to Australia about 3-4 years ago and we brought him to a number of organizations. Some of his phrases and terminology were difficult for the Australian corporate audience, so we’ve translated some of his ideas into phrases and terminology that managers felt comfortable with. We found Spiral Dynamics colors excellent and easier for people than the more complex and subtle integral colors of magenta, etc.

There’s a major company in Australia called Wesfarmers, and it’s primarily at the orange achievement level, and yet it has blue as well. When we explain integral levels to their managers, many say, “Well, that’s interesting, but what do I do with this stuff?” Our consultants and coaches are trying to do is make levels more understandable and relevant to the everyday problems and challenges these managers face. Where we found the greatest success with leaders in the use of our Integral 360 Leadership and Management Profile.

A lot of interest occurred in Australia about two years ago when the Richard Barrett’s corporate transformation tools came out. A number of organisations rushed to this framework and the survey that was used to measure his 7 levels. I was at an organization yesterday where someone said, “Well, we did that, but it just didn’t seem to stick and it’s faded off into history.”

Working with leaders individually and personally allows a conversation about levels to be more relevant when appropriate. We do the organization survey, but use less levels language now and provide a culture feedback profile that links to levels. I think it will be a little time before we really get traction with organizational integral levels.

Russ: You’ve indicated that you use an integral 360 for individuals—is that correct?

Ron: Yes, we do a lot work using an Integral 360 and coaching for leaders. We’ve done about 3,000 to 4,000 of those. We won a contract with the State Government of Western Australia to develop and provide a 360 Integral Leadership Development Profile which provides feedback on four quadrants of leadership and a ‘central’ measure of self-awareness and integrity. This has been received very well and over 35 organizations and 800 managers have completed it and have received coaching in it.

Russ: Have you published any results of patterns that you’ve seen in the application of the 360?

Ron: Yes, in the article that we did in the Integral Leadership Review( archives/2007-08/2007-08-article-cacioppe-ron.html). At the back-end of that article we included some of our results. We’ve published the results for the state government. They do show that the weakest areas of leadership are setting goals, giving people timely feedback on their performance and managing poor performance. One of the lowest areas of both self and other rating is in looking after one’s own health and well-being. There are a lot of stress managers out there who have lost their work-life balance. A more recent result that is emerging is that managers feel they are not doing well in reducing the negative impact of their organisational actions on the environment. While their organizations say it is important managers don’t feel it is made an imperative by their senior managers.

Russ: You have talked about the levels of development which relates to values and worldview as covered by Wilber and Spiral Dynamics. Do you also include in your approach the idea of lines of development?

Ron: Yes, we do. For example, we have a 360 that measures emotional intelligence. The one thing we’re trying to do is to look at “the center of gravity” of a person. We tailor our integral 360 to focus on different lines for each organization. Some organizations have want to measure and develop lines of emotional intelligence, innovation, communication, safety depending since that was important at the time.

While we measure the four quadrants in leadership ability, the core we are trying to discover is the sense of self, the center of gravity of the person or organization. I use the term “Identity Code,” rather than values. The Identity code is the central energy and focus of the leader or organization. I see lines as important yet secondary aspects of this unfolding of Spirit compared to this center of gravity of self in the coaching and consulting work we do. It’s all a map of the Absolute. The key aspect is the identity of self: what does the self become and what does it think it is?

Leadership, therefore, is vital for not only for the success of organization and people, but also to lead both the organization and its people to higher levels of development.

Russ: You’ve linked the notion of spirit to this several times as we’ve talked. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by spirit and how you present the idea of spirit in organizations?

Ron: I don’t mean spirit in a religious or external God-like sense. I see it as an experience and connection with the ground of energy, the consciousness that permeates universe (if that phrase is understandable). All work and activity in organizations is an expression of this. A lot of our work is showing leaders to be in the present moment, to be there with that clear awareness in the ‘flow’ without limiting ego self-talk that causes huge problems We try to keep it very simple and practical.

We run a course called “Living Philosophy” in organizations and for the community where we teach this and help people experience their different levels of self. We keep it simple by showing techniques to help be in the moment and connect with others without having to name and label something as ‘Spirit’.

Russ: As I heard you talk about leaders, you seemed to be focusing on people who are in formal positions of authority as leaders, but I know your work is both about individuals and organizational systems. I’m wondering if you can comment on the notion of leadership as opposed to leaders, with leadership being something that’s more of a system phenomenon and not just about individuals.

Ron: I’m supervising a person whose Ph.D. is focusing on ‘distributive leadership’. This is idea that leadership is throughout the organization not with the ‘appointed’ managers is an important point. Much of the studies on leadership are on appointed managers rather than leadership so we’re still trying to come to grips with this aspect On one hand, I describe leadership as the influencing and developing people, teams, and leaders to achieve a worthwhile vision and goals. Whoever influences us to move towards worthwhile actions is contributing to Integral Leadership. Leadership is encouraging people, teams and other leaders to respond to what is needed to make the world a better place. If you look at the definitions of leadership—there are over 250 of them— they all have to do with influencing people and groups to achieve goals. But using these definitions of leaders, Adolf Hitler, Macabee in Africa and other brutal dictators are leaders but that is not the type of leadership I am interested in developing, nor do I feel Integral Leadership is on about.

To come back to your question again, any person at any time doesn’t have to be an appointed leader or at the top of an organization to influence others to do something worthwhile. They can be an integral leader at any level. Gurjieff, the mystic philosopher who started the Institute for Human Development in the 1940s said something that really struck me. He described the “working surface.” Many people are familiar with the work of Eckhart Tolle about being in the present moment, but Gurdieff spoke of something more that this, he described a point in the moment at which we do work. So, for instance, is someone is speaking it is the tone of their voice. If a person is walking it is the point where the shoe touches the ground. Much of the role of leaders is to bring people to the working surface—the point where separate entities connect to a one point, one awareness and do fulfilling, creative, worthwhile work that improves the world. That working surface is something that’s been missing in integral theory. It’s consciousness coming together in the present moment. Many leaders and managers recognise and relate to this very well. Another way of saying it is to be at the ‘point’ of the flow/

Russ: That relates to the whole idea of the role of meditation in consciousness development. Is this worthwhile for leaders?

Ron: Absolutely. It’s very much part of it. In our organisation we meditate regularly together as a way of bringing us together into this common awareness. We also spend a few minutes before our staff meetings practicing a quieting awareness exercise. These serve as practical tools and preparation so that we can be at the working surface. When we introduce these techniques in the leadership programs we run for leaders and organizations we call them “mental clearing” or awareness exercises, because some businesses don’t like to talk about it as meditation. These techniques are therefore not only important for clearing the mind and dropping the ego baggage, but as importantly, to help people at work to be at this working surface. When we’re in a staff meeting it is important to listen to the point that’s being made, when we are operating a piece of equipment being at the working surface not only improves quality but safety.

Russ: Would you describe for us how you approach leadership development in organizations when you’re working with them as clients?

Ron: We not only provide 360 profiles and coaches but we also run a number of leadership programs for organizations. About 5 years ago, I went around the world looking for best practices and reading articles. Academics such Vicente and Jay Conger have done very good work on best practices in leadership development. There is some very good work on what develops good leaders. Working for an extraordinarily good leader, working for an extraordinary bad leader and being given very challenging roles and projects have been shown to be the major ways leaders develop. Studies of excellent leaders also show they have had some early life experiences that helped them for a strong and healthy sense of self. We have used the ‘Leaders developing Leaders’ case study approach where an outstanding leader in the organization writes a case study of a challenging situation they dealt with that has some real lessons for leadership. The participants in the leadership program are then asked to describe how they would handle this situation and make a presentation to the senior leader. Finally, the senior leader provides his or her actual experience and thoughts on how they did handle this situation.

Newer leadership programs also contribute to the vision, culture and strategic goals of the organization instead of being a training program. So real projects, tailored case studies, development centres, coaching and role plays help develop tangible skills and also help develop the person.

Nowadays, I see differences in the way that leadership development is developing ‘integral’ leadership. Some programs focus on inner-inner leadership and are teaching people to be mindful and to meditate and to reexamine ourselves and might not include strategic thinking or strategic management. I like the Buddhist approach which states; “What’s the need that the organization should fulfill?” I think all aspects of leadership and management need to be included (people leadership, performance management, strategic management, visionary/transformational leadership and authentic leadership.

Ensuring managers have the core skills and abilities (e.g. Management 101 and Leadership 101) is still very important. Conducting performance reviews and dealing with poor performance, building a team, communicating a vision and clear goals, etc. are key skills a leader must develop. These are the major areas that our 360 profiles show that managers had problems with.

Equally important is helping a leader find his or her authentic self, to be your true self at work. We try to help managers do worthwhile work. All of that is in harmony with what we spoke about earlier; there’s a sense of this is permeated by this consciousness. It is hard to lose touch with this in the helter-skelter of achieving organizations.

Russ: As I hear you talk about this, and I guess it can be a point of tension in working with leadership and organizations. There is the notion of leaders associated with formal roles. One of the things we often do is use terms like “leader” and “manager” synonymously. Do you find it valuable to differentiate the roles and tasks of managers versus those of leaders?

Ron: Very much so. The work of Harvard Professor, John Kotter talks about what leadership does and what management does. I think those are good starting points. It’s an interesting dilemma and I’m still formulating this in my mind. Over the last few months I’ve been exploring this idea of distributive leadership that permeates through an organization. For the people I work with in my own organization, and certainly out in the world, leadership arises at any point, at the any time. Using the analogy of an orchestra, they are like are conductors. The violin player takes the lead at one point, but yet there is an orchestra conductor who keeps the beat and the theme of the music.

Australian organisations put a major emphasis on self-managed teams about 10 years ago. It was an attempt to have democracy in the workplace—and many organizations rushed to this because they thought everybody was going to be a leader. We found that it didn’t work well for several reasons. First, people weren’t trained in leading teams. Secondly, the need for a focal point was necessary. It doesn’t need to be an appointed leader and recognition that leaders arise in any circumstance. They needed to have an ability to channel the direction much like a conductor in an orchestra. I think we’re in a new time where on one hand we have appointed managers who are being called leaders but do not have the skills to lead. On the other hand we have many people are leaders but don’t have the power and authority to do it. I like the phrase: “If you want to know if you are a leader, look over your shoulder!”

One last comment: Plato said that after tyranny, democracy is the next lowest form of governing a successful society. He stated that people who were at higher levels of awareness—he called them “philosopher kings”—would be people that would best lead societies. I don’t that he meant that in a hierarchical way, but wise people, truly integral leaders, are very necessary.

Russ: I like your description of the relationship between leadership and management is what we’re dealing with in human systems is messy organic processes. We’re dealing with situations where we’re trying to figure things out and work with those in a world of constant change. When you’ve got turbulence like Peter Vaill said—he’s the first one I heard talk about it—then we have to think about how people engage with each other differently under different contexts in the midst of all that turbulence.

Ron: There’s an interesting point. Here I am, an American, who’s been transposed to another part of the world. I’ve had a chance to look at the American models. A lot of what we teach in terms of management and leadership—I’ve taught MBA programs for over 2 5years—has been very much American-biased. American models of leadership and organization often have a view that individuals and individual leaders are the most important factors in organisational success. Europe, Asia and Aboriginal cultures (as you and Mark Edwards have been discussing in earlier ILR issues) focus on more the theme of collective holons and have a collegial approach to leadership while in America and the UK they have had much more of a central leadership—a hero kind of leader. Both of those models, the individual and collective, have a place in different approaches but we have to be careful to think that one culture’s model is going to work.

Russ: Or in different contexts in the same culture. Or even under different kinds of conditions of change. Some will require more of a collective approach and some may require a more heroic one. All of those are temporary.

Ron: Yes, that’s true as in government, nonprofit or for-profit organizations or in different kinds of service industries such as health vs. sport. There can also be a problem using the word “contingency” used in leadership theory because it says that in different situations, different approaches should be used. But sometimes “contingency” can be, “Hey, anything’s okay. We’re unsure what to do, so whatever you do is okay.”

Russ: No. I don’t mean it in that sense; I mean that we need to have a full arsenal of the capabilities and approaches and be able to pick from that in ways that are going to be most useful for us to achieve those kinds of positive ends that you were talking about earlier.

Ron: In the model we’ve been developing, we started with the work by Robert Quinn, which is called the Competing Values Framework. Quinn said that the more sophisticated or successful leaders can hold contradictory things in their minds, like flexibility and stability; individual and collective. That’s true. The really effective leaders I see are clear-minded and focused but still have an ability to deal with complexity around their world and bring into simplicity with the contradictory force operating They say, “I heard what you have to say, but this is where we need to move on at this point in time.” I will have a go at academics now since they love to teach a variety of theories and hope someone can figure it all our. Here is a great definition of academics: “Academics are a group of people tied together over a common concern for parking!”


I think different leadership theories can add so many different views of things that we wind up saying, “How do I use this or we can’t do anything about this since different theories tell you to do different things.”

Russ: It also reminds me of the notion—and I can never remember who came up with this—that the ability to hold two opposing ideas at the same time without going crazy is a sign of genius.

Ron: Yes, and it’s not only to the ability to hold those ideas, but then effectively operate in the real world where you’re effecting budgets, people’s jobs and lives, customers and all the other factors that are out there, including all the idiosyncrasies that human beings have.

Russ: How have you gone about marketing this idea of Integral Leadership and integral development and what has been most effective in an Australian environment?

Ron: First thing is that I use the word “integral” in two different ways. In the dictionary definition, “integral” means to make whole or for something to be an important part of the whole. For a very simple word, the word “integral” is a lovely word. It’s bringing harmony to individuals, groups and organizations. It’s pretty straightforward.

On the other hand, I see integral theory as the most profound thinking of the 21st century. It solves a huge dilemma that’s facing us in the world by bringing together the Western view with the Eastern view together to deal with body, mind and spirit. It brings together science and psychology with Eastern philosophy.

Twenty years ago I gave a talk on Zen and the art of leadership. I spoke about how meditation was important to leadership and how it’s important to understand the spaces between things as well as the things themselves. It was rated as the worst talks in that management program. Today, I give a very similar the talk and most people understand it and feel it is very relevant to them. The word “meditation” is part of their vocabulary, along with the understanding of Eastern philosophy. It’s a much more acceptable, but the biggest thing is to make sure that what we’re speaking about is practical, simple and relevant to everyday solutions that managers need.

In a group of 30 managers ten years ago, only one might resonate when you say, “This theory is new and it brings together spirituality and management”. But today more people are “getting it”. Someone recently did our 360 and read that it was based on integral theory. He looked it up on the internet, found one of Ken Wilber’s books it and then sent an email to me saying, “This is what I’ve been looking for. It answers so many questions.” He has become one of our best integral proponents because of his experience which triggered something bigger. Without making it too blatant or overt, we start by doing good, basic, useful management work while letting people know there is something more out there if they want to find it. It’s the transcend-and-include integral approach. We try to make sure we do the basic stuff to help organizations and people work well. We provide an invitation for deeper work but it is up to each manager to see if there is some value in an integral approach for them at that time. Things like learning skills to being in the moment and manage “self-talk” really helps leaders get practical value from integral work.

Russ: The context for marketing has changed, then, because there is more receptivity to some of the ideas that are associated with wholeness and the idea of integral?

Ron: I think it’s an idea whose time has come. In the last few years the integral drumbeat has been getting louder. Here in Australia, we’re very enthused by what’s going on, like the things you’re doing with Integral Leadership Review and the things coming out of the Integral Institute, and things happening on the internet. When you start telling managers that there are journals and articles and programs happening at universities, it suddenly makes it much more credible and acceptable.

One other thing that’s as important is that it isn’t the instrument called the Integral 360 or other instruments that makes the difference—it’s the experience people have with somebody who’s coaching and working with their organization and is integral in themselves, There’s a lovely little Zen poem that says, “In spring, one candle lights another; the same, yet not the same.”

We feel is there is a revolution of consciousness and some people are moving up to higher levels of awareness. If we can develop consultants, coaches and leaders who are in that space, that is the best way to gain interest. A lot of our marketing isn’t as a result of brochures; it’s a result of experiencing consultants and coaches who respond to what the organization is looking at. We did some market research in the leadership area and found that most organizations buy consultants not a consulting organisation. They want the credibility of the consulting organization behind the consultant, but they choose consultants they feel understands them and their business challenges. That’s been as much of our success as anything else. The other part is developing a team of consultants that work well with each other and carry the integral vision in the way they work.

Russ: Integral Development has been up and running for how long?

Ron: We started about 15 years ago. It was called Integra then and now we’re Integral Development. I was then offered a position as a Professor of Leadership by the University of Western Australia and ran the Integral Leadership Center for six years. That was very successful, because it had a university behind it. I left the University about two years ago and Integral Development was the rebirth of Integra.

Russ: How many people do you have on staff?

Ron: We have five full-time staff and about 15 consultants, coaches and trainers. Integral Development is an umbrella for some of our consultants who have their own counseling businesses but they work with ID on corporate work such as coaching, training and development. We make possible for people to work outside of our company and the corporate sector (e.g. counseling, teaching in universities, etc.).

Russ: What can you tell us about the mechanics of an Integral Leadership development program that you might introduce into an organization? When I ask that, I have in mind such things as how long a program is it, what kinds of support do participants receive—not just training, but do they get coaching too—things like that.

Ron: We start out by finding what the objectives the clients want to achieve with the program. What are they trying to achieve organizationally? Then we figure out the capabilities of their managers. It often starts with our Integral 360, the Leadership Management Profile.

Programs often start with a pre-session. We give participants reading regarding Integral Leadership, mindfulness at work, managing performance and strategic topics. There are a few different models that we use depending upon the budget and time available. Next week, I’m going to Melbourne and we are running a full-time, four-day program that is a residential program. Many of our programs are two days per month. Organizations are less willing to spend time in leadership development so they break it into chunks. The total might be 8-10 days of training but in two day blocks. They also get coaching outside of those sessions. They often get three to five sessions with an integral coach. Those are after the 360 profile and supplement the classroom learning. Managers work on a development plan with the coach builds and over time the coaching helps them achieve their personal and professional goals.

The coaches, participant and the participant’s manager meet up and agree to work together on the areas of development. While they’re working with the coaches, participants often get exercises in meditation and mindfulness and take questionnaires to provide information on different topics. In our leadership courses, we cover topics such as Integral Leadership, emotional intelligence, authentic leadership, strategic thinking, innovation, building teams, managing performance, etc. We use the integral model as a way of showing where these different topics fit.

Sometimes we use the Balanced Scorecard and also focus on managers being much more environmentally responsible. We call this “integral sustainability.” Managing change is a big topic. We use a model of integral change that has four quadrants, and shows for change be successful it has to cover all four quadrants, which seems quite reasonable to managers. To summarize, a range of topics is covered depending up on what the organization needs.

We often build in organizational projects in which managers work in teams and we coach them. The team projects are also a way to ensure they apply the teamwork skills we are covering. Recently, we use something called a Development Center where we use exercises such as having people solve a problem—often a real problem—and there are trained observers around them to offer feedback. It’s a learning lab, but it’s a real lab with real problems that organizations face. Our observer/coaches give them feedback as to how they’re doing on the different dimensions of Integral Leadership.

Russ: This is like something I’ve written about, which has to do with the use of scenarios and scenario-development in organizations and having coaches offer feedback about how their ways of thinking, problem-solving and response methods correspond to levels of development.

Ron: That’s exactly right, especially if they’re modeled around real organizational challenges. It can be very valuable. It’s more expensive in a leadership development program, but it can be very valuable.

I started at Curtain University a Master’s of Leadership and Management—this is going to sound a bit weird—did you ever see the movie, The Matrix?

Russ: Yes.

Ron: This happened as a result of an Outward Bound course I did in the UK. It included this situation where you had to solve a mystery. When I came back, I thought it was really amazing. I wanted to build a leadership mystery. I put together a scenario that was a combination of The Matrix, the movie, The Game and the Outward Bound exercise. We put people into teams (we’ve done this recently for an organization). In the Leadership Master’s Degree program over four weeks they have to solve ten insights of leadership and management.

You might remember the book, the Celestine Prophecy—I also included some of that. Participants had to go into the real world, for example, a prison, and they had to get a secret clue from the prison superintendent. Then they went to a captain of a professional basketball team, and so on. Over the course of four weeks, these teams had to solve real problems to save the world from a major virus and they were meeting real people. They couldn’t tell whether this was a real-life situation or not. It was amazing. All of a sudden the captain of a professional basketball team would meet them in a coffee shop and say, “What’s the code?” There were real leadership issues and problems that they were solving. We had close to 50 people in the city who were major personalities who loved this whole idea of helping to develop leaders.

I’ve had people tell me five years later it was the most profound experience in their life, because it was entrenched in real life. But it was a game about Integral Leadership. It was very much integral in that it encouraged these profound insights about yourself and the meaning of work and life.

Russ: Have you written about that?

Ron: Not yet. We have a manual on how to run it. If an organization says they really want to challenge there managers in a different way we suggest this type of learning. I should write it up someday.

Russ: I am sure many of our readers would love to read more about that.

Ron: At the centre of the scenario was the Oracle which was the all-prevailing wise knowledge Being that nobody ever met, but it would contact them at various hours of the day and night.

Russ: Most of these programs that you have been talking about are what I would call cousins programs, where you’ve got people from the same organization. Is that correct?

Ron: Yes. We do have a public set of programs. We run an Integral Leadership program where people come from different organizations.

Russ: And do you ever offer this just for CEO’s?

Ron: We do individual coaching and 360 for CEO’s, but we haven’t run programs just for CEO’s for organizations.

Russ: Do you find that many CEO’s go through many of the programs that you offer?

Ron: For smaller organizations, yes, but we find nowadays CEOs feel they need to go to the Harvard Business School or something with that status. We have this phrase in Australia: “An expert is anyone from out of state.” Sometimes Australians feel they need to go to another country and pay a lot of money to do them.

Russ: One of the notions of organization change is that it starts from the top. There’s another notion that says it’s spawned from the bottom. But “from the top” perspective, what is your experience with trying to bring about the kinds of development of leadership that you’re talking about if the CEO’s haven’t experienced the program?

Ron: This goes back to this tension we spoke about before of leadership. To be honest, we seek integral leaders. Like I said, we are still working to define that, and I think there’s some great work to be done. I was at an organization today where the head of the organization does represent a lot of what we’re talking about. He’s hosting a leadership program for his own organization. He’s going to go through the 360. My experience is the real value for CEO’s isn’t going off to another state. It is by getting individual coaching and working with at a very personal and intimate way about their thinking and by giving them books and experiences that changes their thinking from the inside. We are looking for integral leaders who want to bring this approach in and make their leaders and organizations into integral organizations. We have found that when we have held a leadership program and the CEO wasn’t involved in it, it just doesn’t add much value. We’d rather run fewer programs with enlightened individuals at the top than a lot of programs that don’t develop any traction or lead to the kinds of integral organizations we hope for. In the long run, that’s we are about.

Russ: This corresponds to Bill Torbert and David Rooke who have looked at the success of organizational transformation efforts depending on the level of development of CEO’s.

Ron: I have read that and it fits very strongly with my experience. It also is what the Avastone study in Atlanta said. These all say the same thing. Without a doubt, that’s why the question you asked earlier is a brilliant one. Leaders can be appointed or non-appointed, but the people at the head of the organization have to be willing to work on their thinking and believe they can help transformation happen. That’s the place where we need to work. After 25 years of leadership development programs, I think I’d almost say, “Give it up if the CEO isn’t 100% on side with the leadership program.” Many enlightened professional in organizations are doing great work and are doing good things with their team, and that’s fine. But it will may stifled, frustrating or limited if the CEO is afraid of second-tiered thinking and is laden with the baggage that is often part of the CEO position.

My real aspiration is to have a Master’s Degree in Integral Leadership. I had it approved at one university, but for various political reasons it was stalled. I really feel that in a three year Master’s program is need to substantially build Integral Leadership. You can get the 30-40 year-olds who are up and coming as tomorrow’s CEO’s and spend time with them outside the commercial environment to make transformational change. Similar things are being done at JFK University and others places and it’s great. Imagine if we could build an Integral Leadership centre which produces tomorrow’s leaders. I do feel a university-type of Master’s Degree is a needed to develop truly extraordinary leaders.

Russ: Leo Burke heads up the Executive Development Program at the University of Notre Dame and his experience is quite interesting. They started that effort with the idea that there would be a least a semester-long, if not a year-long, Integral Leadership program that would include coaching, but they had to cut it back to an intensive week.

Ron: That’s great, and it does something. But I’ve seen that after working with people for three years, you can see things change. For example, we had a 12 week course in Philosophy and Leadership. Every new leader needs to have a better grounding in philosophy. You can’t do that in a one week executive program. Managers get enthused and they get some good ideas in one week, but you can’t go to that longer, real transformational level that you achieve in a Master’s Degree program.

Russ: One of the areas that have attracted more attention in recent years here in the US, because of our experiences with Enron and other companies, is the whole idea of ethics and leadership. I’m wondering what the role of ethics and leadership would play in your work.

Ron: In Australia, ethics are very big now, too, because we had a number of similar problems with leaders in organizations. There are a number of initiatives going through state government and business organizations to teach ethical thinking. I support this but also feel that a managers need to have personal practices such as letting go of the ego baggage, clarity of mind, being in the moment, etc. and learn to be wise so that ethics is based on this rather than a topic that you cover intellectually. If we really learned that at the base of all understanding is learning to be our authentic self, then ethical practices come naturally. Ethics as a topic is great. Professor Joanne Ciulla is at the University of Richmond—I think she’s one of the best ethics for leadership instructors that I’ve ever seen and does a brilliant job. I also feel that meditation leads to ethical behaviors without having to go to formal courses on ethics. Some course in ethics can be courses in mental gymnastics.

Russ: Would you say that because of its geographical location that there’s greater openness to notions and ideas in Australia, more so than other places?

Ron: Yes, and I’ll make a direct comparison to the U.S. America has a very religious, Christian way of thinking. As a result, it may interpret many of these things through that lens. Australia is a very young country, very new, and it doesn’t have the history that Europe or the U.S. has. As a result, Australia is unencumbered and open to fresh ideas. On the other hand, Australia is one of the few countries in the world who constitution doesn’t refer to a higher being or any type of God where most countries do.

I like the analogy of Australia as a big, open country with big open sky, very dry and you have to drill way down to get water. That’s equivalent to the Australian personality—very open, very skeptical, but if you can tap get below the surface you’ll find a real, genuine honesty. Australians are good people who want to do the right thing, with a crusty, down-to-earth style. Get through that and they’re brilliant, good folks. They have a great culture, and because the country’s so young, it’s open to new ideas. But you’ve got to be valid and don’t B.S. them. Deliver things clearly and concisely; don’t waft around. Australia doesn’t have an intellectual slant—it is not an academic society. Not as many people go onto tertiary education as they do in America. It’s a no-nonsense culture but it’s open-minded.

Russ: So Crocodile Dundee is an archetype?

Ron: (laughing) Yes, right, he is! He’s around in many ways, though he might wear a business suit nowadays.


You see it now even as the recession is happening in the U.S. We have a booming economy here, because we’re shipping our resources to China and Australia is still in good times. But the mining-resources mentality is part of the Australian culture. It feels like the way the U.S. was 50 years ago, an open country with open minds. Now we have a new government that’s taking a strong stance about the environment. Australia has always had a tradition of labor and social issues have been important and that’s quite exciting.

Russ: That relates to this notion of integral sustainability. How would you characterize what you’re doing around this topic of integral sustainability?

Ron: Integral and sustainability just go together so well. It is thinking about future generations and timelessness of our activities. What we’re seeing here, and I imagine it’s the same in the U.S. is because of climate change and Al Gore’s great job of making us aware of it, is that there’s this real urgency of movement that has happened in the last two years to take active steps towards saving the environment. Many organizations are now starting to look at their buildings and their operating practices. What we’re saying is you have to build sustainability into everything—into the culture, the way people think, the way they act—and not only environmental sustainability but social sustainability. Organizations have a much wider worldview, but many CEO’s have to increase profit every 3-6 months for their shareholders. I think there’s a growing sense that in order to be successful, you have to be environmental and social sustainable.

Russ: I’ve come up with the idea of summarizing all those different ways of supporting sustainability as being about integral thriving.

Ron: Integral thriving? That’s sound good. It’s the thriving of the whole integral perspective.

Russ: Not just the perspective, but the practice and the whole thing.

Ron: That sounds a very good approach. If everything were to thrive in theory and in practice, an organization would be sustainable.

Russ: And applying it to the environment as well.

Ron: That’s a tangible way for people to start. People can see that there are many things we need to do about the environment instead of more subtle things areas like social responsibility. I can’t wait until the Volckmann book comes out!

Russ: (laughing) Well, no, it’s not going to be in book. I give it away.

In any case, you have been contrasting the U.S., Europe and Australia, how do you see integral developing and growing as an approach, as a perspective and a way of life in these countries?

Ron: I sometimes predict that we’re going to go through a bit of a fuzzy phase in integral—everything is going to be integral—and I’m concerned that integral could have a lack of clarity and that anyone, anywhere that’s doing anything that sounds “nice” is going to be “integral”. On one hand, the work that’s being done about the integral research and integral university programs—mostly in the U.S. and Europe—is vital work. We have to be careful that the work doesn’t become so abstract that practicing managers and leaders, consultants and coaches can’t understand it. It’s important work to be done using good methodology and research.

On the other hand, there is also a challenge to develop practical, useful tools that have good theory and research to support and can be easily applied. There are many tools, like the Human Synergistic Lifestyle Inventory. They are good, but integral offer additional value since it goes to the farther reaches of human nature and spirit. It provides a valid framework at an individual, team, organisational and society level.

Russ: Before you go on, for me, this is about remembering that when we’re talking about working with people from an integral approach, not about working only with people who are only at yellow or turquoise or some second level of development. We’re working with people across the spectrum of development. That means exercising the ability to communicate in those ways of thinking and being in the world with all types of aspirational goals we referred to earlier, and the approaches people use in fulfilling those goals. I think that’s what you’re getting at. For example, in organizations where you’re working with formal managers and informal leaders, you are essentially dealing with blue/orange and maybe a little green thrown in.

Ron: What you’re saying is absolutely true and very important. The other day we were coaching a female supervisor. She was feeling really frustrated because her boss was not giving her opportunities. She wanted to be superintendent of an all-women’s prison. It was a burning passion for her and her ratings as a manager showed she could. She may not have been a second-tier leader, but she was a person who had an aspiration. What we did was discuss with her the idea of going to her boss and communicate her desires to be a superintendent. She did that and her boss said he would definitely support her promotion so in a year from now she’ll achieve her goal and will be a very good leader. It’s finding whatever people are and responding to that—to help them do the good in life that they want to do. That’s the success of the integral approach—it can work at any level, but still keep its finger pointing to second-tier leadership in the future for yourself and your organization..

Russ: Do you have any other comments regarding the contrast of integral in the U.S. versus the international field?

Ron: On one hand, the U.S. sometimes doesn’t hear the different voices around the world. Growing up in the United States I learned that the U.S. was the center of the universe that we were the good guys after WWII and we did good stuff. The U.S. doesn’t understand that the rest of the world has a rich history, a rich background and a rich way of seeing things. So other countries will see different approaches to integral that can contribute to the U.S. understanding of integral. Right now, in Australia and Europe, we’re looking at integral coming out of the U.S. and there are some very good ideas.

Sometimes if feels in Australia you don’t get heard. There are some things we’re doing in Australia that you might find of use. When I first came out to Australia, I was amazed at how much really good work was being done here. It was well beyond my experience in the U.S., but the U.S. experts seldom stopped to look and understand Australia and other cultures, their different worldviews.

We’re also seeing out here that the center of the world is shifting more towards Asia and that large population of people there. Their approach to integral thinking is quite different. I’m starting to people in Asia, and there’s an interest, albeit cautionary, because they need things neat and straightforward. They aren’t as used to dealing with complexities of ideas.

Russ: Ron, I really appreciate your time doing this interview.

Ron: Thanks for the opportunity, Russ. I’m amazed at what you’re doing with the journal, and I can’t imagine how many hours it takes you to do this. There must be three of you somewhere doing this work. I genuinely mean that. It must be overwhelming at time and you’re doing it as a one-man show, and it’s very useful work.

Russ: Thank goodness I have the help of a lot of people who are playing different roles, from our Management Review Board and Interns to our Bureau Chiefs and Integral Leadership Council members and, of course, all the people who contribute materials and my amazing transcriptionist who can handle anything I throw her way.

You perform in several of those roles: Integral Leadership Council, Bureau Chief and Associate Editor, and contributor. I do want to point out that one of the things I’m looking forward to is the special issue of Integral Leadership Review with a focus on Integral Leadership in Australia that you’re going to be guest-editing for January, 2009.

Ron: Thanks, and I look forward to it.

Ron Cacioppe is on the Integral Leadership Council for the Integral Leadership Review and is also our Australian Bureau Chief. Hefounded and is the CEO of Integral Development in Perth, Australia.