Dialogue: Integral Theory into Integral Action: Part 5

Mark Edwards and Russ Volckmann

In the last episode our conversation we reached a tentative acceptance of a more relational model of leadership within the multilevel contexts of individual, group and organizational life. Also, the question has been raised about the “space between”, a concept from Martin Buber that Edwards has applied in his integral theory building. Edwards has discussed this elsewhere (2002-3) and Volckmann (2004, Edwards and Volckmann, 2007) has introduced a Spiral Dynamics model to begin this conversation and adds to that to pick it up again.

Russ: Mark, I just read a fascinating article by Gurba (2005) that discusses some aspects of stage models of adult development. In his discussion of Labouvie-Vief’s level of autonomous regulations as the supreme development phase. Gurba notes, “the structure of self constitutes the basic regulator, fulfilling the role of meta-system. It integrates the following three spheres: thinking, emotions and behaviour.” [p, 182] While at some point I anticipate we will get into stage models, here I want to point out that the important point that comes up for me is the link between thinking, emotions and behavior. Now this should not be a surprise to anyone. However, I do see that stage models (in this case) are related to this link.

In integral theory, thinking, emotions and behavior fall in different cells of an integral matrix. Generally, we can say that thinking and emotions are “internal” while behavior is “external.” While we haven’t defined the distinctions among these nor accounted for the relationships among these with concepts like worldview, values, intentions and the like, perhaps this suggests a place to start in the discussion about the “space between.” I would appreciate your moving us forward with an iteration of why this is an important consideration in integral theory. For example, one of the criticisms of integral mapping or modeling is that it is static. By introducing the notion of the “space between,” this opens the door to talking about process. Perhaps we can include Bonnita Roy’s (2006) discussion of Wilber’s work in contrast with a Tibetan Buddhist approach; she contrasts a structural view (which is ascribed to Wilber) and a process view. She states:

None of this is to suggest that Wilber’s thought is static. On the contrary, much of what underlies his AQAL model and his theories of structural relations are the kinds of processes that give rise to them. On the other hand, I am making a strong distinction between starting with such a structural view, and working process terms into it, versus reasoning from a process view. The very term “process” has one meaning from a structural viewpoint, and another meaning from a process viewpoint. I believe that the fundamental basis from which Wilber assigns meaning to the term “process” comes from his quadratic orientation, and the taxonomic (structural) relations that describe them holonically. Further on, the article will discern these as conditions of structural enfoldment, hence arising from a structural approach. For an example of how these two views on process compare and contrast, see Appendix C: The Process Model “In Conversation” with Ken Wilber on the Mind-Body Problem. [119]

While her process approach is intended to move us away from “thing” (like structures) to a consideration of “flow in a field of dynamic forces,” [120]. I find myself wanting to include both and wonder at here hypothesis that they are mutually exclusive. Are we in the position of the physicist who wishes to examine a particle and having to choose between studying its mass or its motion and never both at the same time?

Roy also points out that the very concept of holon as used by Wilber is intended to embrace both structure and process: “ Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons” (p. 43). By introducing Roy’s work into this conversation we must also challenge the structural framework we have been discussing thus far. In what seems to be an adaptation of Wilber’s “The Great Chain of Being” Roy offers more of a process view thus:

Figure 5.1: Bonnita Roy’s Process View (adapted)

This approach is intended to draw our attention to the dynamics of development or to the stages of development of events as states. Well, I can delve further into Roy’s work, but I think it is time for you to have a chance to respond. In the meanwhile, I encourage readers who are interested to read Roy’s article. Your own interest in the Buddhist perspectives that underlie Roy’s discussion should prove to be very helpful.

Mark: You are right Russ, the idea of a “space between” is very much about process and about human becoming rather than human being/doing. The term has been used in a paper on organisational relationality by Hilary Bradbury and Benjamin Lichtenstein (see reference in part 1 of this dialogue) and it comes to them from the writing of Martin Buber. Buber is one of the most profound writers on relationship. His work unwraps the mystery of Begegnung (meeting or encounter) with “the other” and how this deepens into Beziehung (relationship). For Buber reality is first and last an encounter. And for him consciousness, economics, spirit, the physical world, social situations, history, structure, process are nothing if not encounter. For Buber it is through our encounters that the world appears and it appears in “the sphere of the between” as Buber called it. This doesn’t mean that Buber had no place for silence and the solitary. Silence for Buber was the source out of which true dialogue proceeds and this authentic silence emerges out of the space between. Dialogical silence creates conversation and deep relationship.

I did a Google on “the space between” and found these beautiful lyrics to a song by a group called the “The Dave Matthews Band”. (I’m sure that Dave has been reading a little Buber J.)

Take my hand
cause we’re walking out of here
Oh, right out of here
Love is all we need dear
The space between, what’s wrong and right
Is where you’ll find me hiding, waiting for you
The space between, your heart and mine
Is a space we’ll fill with time
The space between…

Beautiful. So it seems this idea of the “space between” has a resonance in popular culture. Which is not surprising since that’s exactly where we should find the core realities of human existence. There was also a contemporary music trio called “The Space Between” led by the quite extraordinary humanist and wonderful accordionist Pauline Oliveros. More than 20 years ago I heard a recording of her extended improvisation “On Rattlesnake Mountain” and was completely captivated by her narrative and conversational style of music making. She played every note just for you.

To find “the space between” in our integral approach we need to have and see things in relationship. We need to have holons encountering each other as authentic and separate realities. The “space between” is the arena out of which the inter-subjective and the inter-objective arise. From this “space between” there emerges the relational distance that lies between and in many ways defines what it means to be “I” and “You”. This is why I stress the need for drawing holons as separate entities because only then does the relational power of the space between them emerge. Let me give a little more background to this.

One of the very major schools of human development – the Vygotskian inspired CHAT school – sees transformation in terms of the developmental activity that occurs between subjects and objects and as mediated by artefacts (e.g. words). This relationship forms what is called the basic activity triad and it takes this simple form.

Figure 5.2: The Basic Activity Triad

From this perspective all higher forms of development occur out the mediated encounter between subjects and objects, i.e. between people and the goals that they strive for. This is a very different view from the Piagetian perspective of development as the unfolding of innate cognitive structures. For the Vygotskian school everything that is psychological was first social. Everything that is internalized was first external. This is called the sociogenetic approach and it comes to the topic of development from a completely different orientation to that of Piaget, Loevinger, Kegan, the postformalists, etc. The activity approach leads directly to an understanding of development that is about the encounter of internals with externals, of first persons with second persons, of mediated engagement in activity with other objects and other people.

Picture two holons encountering each other. That encounter can be happy, or sad, productive or destructive, engaging or disengaging for one or both parties. The thing is that our identities emerge out of these encounters as much as they do from the inherent power of our own selves. When an encounter is a moment of authentic presence then love emerges and gives birth to our own authenticity. This is one way of understanding the human struggle to describe the great Mystery. John the Evangelist has his Jesus saying that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” This is a definition of God and of one’s true nature as something that emerges from relationship. I also suspect that this is what Matthew’s Jesus means when he says “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” True Being/Doing comes out of relationship as much as it comes from consciousness. Love can only first exist when there are two, only then does it exist for each one.

In the following figure I draw two holons encountering each other in a moment of relationship. The space between is filled with the interobjective artifacts of that encounter – words, gestures, signs, touch, meanings, displays, roles, communications. Using the developmental ideas of Vygotsky the space between is filled with the mediating processes and artifacts that flow between the two holons. We can draw an holonic boundary around some logical grouping of these artefacts to identify the “mediating holon”. The archetypal mediating holon is the “Word”. The pure expression of communion. It is not coincidental that in the Catholic tradition the very heart of the great sacrament of the Mass is called “communion”. This is the recognition of the Godhead as manifest through community, through sharing a meal together, through relationship—completely present in the most fundamental act of existence—a simple act of breaking bread together as incarnate beings. The beginning of all experience and all form and all communication begins there. Hence we have “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John here is saying that Jesus is the true agent of Mediation, the ultimate source of connection that gives rise to all distinctions and all encounters between “two or three”. So in this figure of two holons encountering each other we have the “Word” and “Love” emerging from the space between.

Figure 5.3: The Mediating Holon

The potential for discovering the depth that lies in the space between is present in all encounters. It is also present in the world of organisation. Hidden and very difficult to find, but it’s there. The true leader is someone who leads others to discover this space out of which communion arises—encounter with the true nature of the other. Authentic leaders speak to the potential in all of us to open to that truth. They don’t assume that we have a centre of gravity somewhere around our bootlaces and offer codified language to ease us to the next level. True leaders speak to the peak of our experience and to the highest levels that our shy hearts secretly aspire to. They inspire those aspirations. They resonate with our highest hopes and they see us as quietly desiring to make those hopes real. Gandhi spoke to his fellow citizens about the very highest of ideals. And they understood every word he said and it excited them to march with him and to perform the great revolutionary picking up a handful of sea salt. He didn’t aim his message at what he thought his village peasants could cope with. He aimed it at their deepest sense of humanity.

The lens of mediation sees development and human transformation not as the unfolding of interior stages or as the payoff from experiencing peak states but as something that emerges from the encounter between self and other. Organisational leadership can learn a lot from this way of seeing. It opens the possibility of dramatic transformation that is only limited by the boundaries of our very highest potentials. This is a way of seeing that is not limited by the structures of the centre-of-gravity approach to development. This is why great teachers and leaders use parable and story to rouse us from our sleep. We read into those stories whatever our greatest potential may be—“The pearl of great price”—is whatever we can imagine it to be at our best moments. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech resonates with us because it speaks to intimations that we can be true to ourselves and other. It mediates transformation from without and from the space between the people who hear those words.

I’ve gone into this concept at some depth here, Russ, because at the moment Integral approaches seem to preoccupied with what Vygotsky called the “natural line of development” (e.g. Piaget’s unfolding stages of interior personal development) as opposed to the “cultural line” (Vygotsky’s mediated development”). In leaving out this half of the developmental picture we leave out half of all human potential—we see the potential of “knowing the self” and miss the potential of “encountering the other”. Leaders in today’s challenging times need to use both of these otherwise they will lead with one hand tied behind their backs.

Russ, you mentioned the work of Bonnie Roy. Her work is extraordinarily rich and challenging. I have a long way to go before I understand it well enough to comment on it. I hope you’ll forgive me for piking out on answering your questions about her essay at this point.

Russ: Mark, this is wonderful. I have read your comments drawing on Vygotsky before, but never so clearly has the message gotten through to me. I am deeply appreciative of the both/and perspective that you bring to this. Clearly, there is much to be discovered by getting into a both/and approach to development that appreciates not only the stage perspective, but the mediated development perspective, as well. For this leads us directly to the space between—which cannot be known unless we can discover between what?

I downloaded the Dave Matthews song and really enjoyed the lyrics. I found songs by Zero 7 (I like it, but it doesn’t have the lyric you quote) and Roxy Music as well (harder to listen to). In looking for Pauline Oliveros I discovered several albums of hers, sampled a little, but didn’t hear any accordion. It was mostly electronic music. I downloaded one selection called the Tuning meditation. At the beginning, Pauline was giving instructions to a roomful of people. Essentially, she instructed them to sing and sustain notes and then begin tuning to other people in the room. Then she suggested they tune to people further away in the room…or elsewhere. There was light laughter at this suggestion. The rest of the piece was this process of people singing and tuning to each other for about a five minute period. Thus, the space between was the sound, the note, the tone.

Whenever I think of developmental interaction among humans my mind turns to the work of Charles Hampden-Turner. I am in the process of editing a series of small books for use in academic classes and program on leadership. These book feature interviews with academics, consultants, authors, and CEOs. Down the road there may be one that focuses on the world of politics, but I am not yet sure what that will look like. In the first volume is an interview with Hampden-Turner, a man with a deep soul and puckish sense of humor who is interested in extraordinary people of many stripes. In order to clarify some of the discussion I include to recreations of his Model of psycho-social development and his model of the anomic process. I find that understanding both is useful to looking at the space between, even though the focus is not on the word or the tone as we are discussing, but it is on what the individual does and experiences in relation to the word or tone.

Here is the developmental model:

Figure 5.4: Hampden-Turner’s Developmental Model

Notice that the individual invests in a relationship in a way that includes both injecting something from self into his human environment, as well as “suspends” an aspect of self. Both are essential to the developmental process. Development occurs in successful integration from this process into narrowing the distance between self and other, as well as strengthening the sense of identity through improving the quality of self perception.

Contrast this with the Anomic Model:

Figure 5.5: Hampden-Turner’s Anomic Model

See how central the self-confirming self-transcending impact is to the developmental process? Without it there is no synergy, there is “ disINTEGRATION.”

It seems obvious that we all engage in developmental and anomic processes in our interactions. The space in between holds the potential for both. What is required is an alignment with the interiors, the upper left cells of our individual holons, with the activity of the upper right in relation to the space between.

In all of the approaches we are exploring, the space between holds an essential place. How do we need to clarify it further? So far we have referenced words and tones and, by implication symbols—those artifacts of culture that, to my mind, have been so readily discarded by earlier discussions of integral theory. Are we moving toward a taxonomy? If so, what are the criteria of inclusion? Are we leading toward process descriptions? A taxonomy of process?

Mark: Russ, these developmental and anomic models capture very nicely some of the dynamics involved in both transformational and translational change. And both are so intimately connected with what integral theory refers to as the exterior quadrants. I am not familiar with Hampden-Turner’s work but they are very insightful about these inter-objective and inter-subjective encounters. What is really of interest to me here is that encounter has nothing to do with whether the other is seen as part of our group or not, in other words as part of the “We”. It seems to me that it is much more important to get on with those we deem as aliens and outsiders than it is to be nice to those who are members of our “We”. In reality the “You” very often never becomes part of the “We” and it is the way we treat “You” that really counts in the resolution of conflict and in the creation of a more peaceful world. There are theories of intersubjectivity that deal with difference, “otherness” and even xenophobia as an ongoing quality of relationship. We need to have a place for those second person relationships, the “You” in both singular and plural forms, that never become a “We”. I actually don’t think that its healthy to expect that every “you” should become and “I/thou” relationship. At the moment, integral theory doesn’t have a designated place for “you” like it does for “I”, “We”, “It” and “Its”.

For me, a true recognition of the role of difference in integral theory means that we need to introduce a few more lenses into the integral toolkit. In recognizing the transformative value of the space between, we also need a lens that is sensitive to this mediating space. The lens of social mediation is, for me, just as crucial in developing an integral approach as the developmental holarchy of levels or the interior-exterior lens. To give but one example, in seeing that transformation is socially mediated we become much more sensitive to the issue of power and to the influence of social power on human development. One of the postmodernists said that “Wherever there is duality there is hierarchy”. I take this to mean that wherever there are two people there is a relationship of power. Recognising the space between leads me immediately to issues of social power and to the question of how power enables or disables transformation. I see the almost complete lack of discussion around social power in integral theory to be a reflection of its neglect of the space between, social relationships, and the capacity to analyse human development in terms of social mediation. In other words, integral theory lacks a mediation lens. People get stuck in one structure of identity, not only because their interior developmental potentials are psychologically arrested, but also because the social environment in which they live actively stops that developmental potential from flourishing. There is nothing more threatening to the position of those in social power than transformation. Power is inherently conservative because change means the possibility of losing their privilege, their status, their ideological dominance. Might I add that for many managers and leaders there is nothing more foreign to their understanding of staff development than the idea that their “followers” might actually transform into innovative, independent, spirited seekers of meaning in their work and vocal members and critics who push for substantive change in their organisations. And yet this is precisely what should happen when authentic leadership is exercised.

This is what opens up for me when the reality of the “space between’ is recognized and the power of mediation emerges into our integral musings. And, of course, we come quickly to issues of control of public media and to the mediating power of corporations and organisations to influence what we might like to make of our futures. This is the subject of a short essay I wrote called “On Rupert Murdoch’s Centre of Gravity”. The essay is really a call for integral theory to wise up about the role mediation plays in both personal and social development. This theme also relates to an article of mine that will be published next year in the journal “ Futures” which looks precisely at this issue; here’s a little snippet from it.

The visions we hold of the future, whether they be of utopias or dystopias, are not simply a matter of personal imagination. Our conceptions of the future are mediated to us as much as they are privately created by us.

At the moment many organizations are battling to gain input into and control over the mediating agents and technologies that shape our “images of the future”. There is really no power that compares with this—the power over our images of what the future might be. Hence we have the public relations campaigns, the spin doctors, corporate greenwash, the absurdity of Fox News, image advertising, corporate sponsorship, issue framing, issue fogging, corporate branding—these are the symptoms of the larger war over our dreams for the future. Some of these mediating processes are guided by good intents and some have decidedly evil ends in mind. Because our individual and collective dreams and ideals have an inherently transformative dimension they are also inherently threatening to established centres of social, economic and political and ideological power. And so the battle rages—both within us and around us. Transformation comes as much from the images and structures we soak in from the exterior as much as it comes from the unfolding of personal consciousness and behaviour. And to control those exterior images and imaginations is to, in part, control the future. I don’t think integral theory, as it currently stands, can deal adequately with these issues. It relies too much on the stage-based explanations of development and has not yet recognized the mediational basis for human development.

Russ: Okay. It seems a position has been established about the space between and the mediation of meaning. Is that a fair way of putting it? If so, then the next step would be to clarify how we can include these elements in an integral theory. Generally, and an integral theory of leadership, in particular. I know that some of your earlier work is suggestive of approaches to this. Before we go there, however, it is critical that we address a couple of the points that you make.

First, it seems to me that I detect a note of anger and bitterness toward the corporate and organizational worlds. Understandable, I suppose, in the face of the history of human systems to date, from capitalism to socialism, dictatorship to democracy. Yet, here is precisely the potential of integral theory to inform these systems in a way that changes the nature of mediational dynamics. The Fresh Perspective in this issue is an example of a company that appears to be making significant progress in this.

Also, Patricia Aburdene, co-author with her ex-husband John Naisbitt, published a book in 2005, Megatrends 2010. Hers is a very optimistic presentation of the growth of what she calls Conscious Capitalism. And she cites numerous examples of business leaders who are taking on this revision of the notion of capitalism. One, for example, is John Mackey of Whole Foods. He is collaborating in the creation of a Conscious Capitalism conference that will be forthcoming. She offers numerous examples of “weaving the sacred” into corporate life as evidence of the growth of conscious capitalism, including Melbourne-based Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd (ANZ).

The point is that there is a more integral movement afoot, even in corporate life. So far, the reports I have heard suggest that this movement is gaining strength because, in addition to other benefits, companies who are using these approaches tend to be thriving. John Mackey, in a conversation with Ken Wilber on Integral Naked, makes it clear that he believes Whole Foods is on the top of its industry because it is using integrally-informed approaches. They and others are seeing positive bottom line results, in addition to reported benefits of work satisfaction, teamwork, and the like.

Well, at least I think we can say that there is a glimmer of hope that positive things are happening and that the potentials for using what we are learning in our institutions is on the increase. After all, isn’t that one reason why we are interested in integral theory at all? It offers a potential for a more generative world, individually and collectively, ecologically and economically.

And this brings me to the second topic you raise: the question of power. Whew! What a can of worms that is. To my mind it calls forth a need to explore this a bit, as you already started to do. Here is what I have in mind.

I have been noodling a bit the question of what are the collective developmental lines. The idea of power may be a perfect example of such a line. The phenomenon of power is meaningless without a collective context (personal power being a different phenomenon). There is so much that has been written on the topic of power from Arendt to Coser to Machiavelli to Pfeffer to Toffler and I don’t think we would be served in trying to rehash all of that. Power is social, mediating and it can take numerous forms. Is there a typology of power that would serve us as an example of developmental stages of power? As in most social sciences, types of power are seen as competing and alternative explanations of social phenomena. In integral theory, all forms of power are admitted. Developmental levels range from power that constrains to power that enables. Or would such an approach simply reveal even more of my greenness?

How can we use power (or an alternative) to help us clarify the nature of leadership from an integral point of view, Mark? Would you suggest an approach? Is focusing on power getting too specific at this point? Perhaps a more useful question might be, “How do we map the space between?”

Mark: Sorry it’s taken a while to get back to you Russ. As usual you’ve brought up some great points to discuss. Regarding my “anger and bitterness” toward the corporate world, well yes, poor twisted creature that I am, I do recognize feelings of anger and disappointment (not sure about bitterness) among many emotions that I feel towards the organizational world. And I think there are other emotions that come through in my musings on the world of organizations and their leadership—hope, admiration, expectation, and a kind of creative curiosity in what organizations and their leaders might deliver in the future. But anger is there for sure, as in, to give but one example, my feelings about the Chinese government’s military support of the Sudanese government (and for their actions in Dafur) in return for access to their oil (one of the more despicable acts of callous organizational activity of recent years). The hope and admiration come in my response to reading about the wonderful initiatives you have brought to light in your work and in organizations like CARE Australia or the carpet manufacturer Interface or the government of Costa Rica that constitutionally disbanded its military in 1948. NGOs, corporates and governments can all be capable of great acts of justice and insight as well as destruction and atrocity.

I don’t see emotional reactions to the behaviours of organisations and their leaders as problematic. I do think, however, that we often act out of an unconsciousness that does not see our emotional response to, and identification with, organizations and leaders. Now that is a problem. You see there is also a “space between” us as individuals and the many organizations that we encounter every day. If we see an organization committing immoral acts and impacting on the welfare of many, many people, then I see anger is a very appropriate emotional reaction, in fact, I would say that it’s can be a very useful source of energy to do something and that a lack of emotional response is actually a sign of the collective pathology towards organizations that John Ralston Saul has written so eloquently about. We need, of course, to not be driven by that anger, but to see it and use it to motivate balanced action. Emotion is part of what makes us human. And I would also say that it is a symptom of the massive collective shadow of modern life to be unaware of our emotional connections with, and responses to, the actions of organizations and their leaders. It might even be that much of the unresolved anger and frustration that people feel in their lounge rooms and workplaces comes from their inability to localize or identify their emotions towards the world of organizations and their leaders and how these powerful, and often anonymous social entities, affect them.

Our emotional connections with organizations can cut both ways. We can have unconscious anger at organizations in how they treats us and others. But there is also an unconscious identification with, loyalty to, and love of organizations that goes unrecognized. While both these positive and negative emotional attachments have their place, they can also often lead to dysfunctionality on a very wide level. The key thing is that we be aware of our emotional relationships with organizations and leaders and not let those emotions lead us round by the nose.

So, it’s a mixed bag, but, on the whole. I’d say that organizations, and particularly the world of corporate business, is abrogating its community responsibilities in areas like just sustainability, global warming, labour market equity and responsibilities to stakeholders generally. There are shining exceptions to this, as you’ve noted, but the Enron and HIH examples are numerous and devastating in their impact on communities. I certainly hope that Integral approaches take a strong hold in corporate life and you’ve done fantastic work in documenting the advances that have been made in that, Russ—more power to your elbow and to those innovative leaders who accept the huge challenge of applying integral ideas in businesses and organizations. Their courageous innovations do inspire hope.

On the question of power, there is, as you have pointed out, an immense literature on this topic. And there are many, many theories of political, social, interpersonal, military, and economic power that have been proposed over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. This is ripe and, as yet, untapped territory for integral metatheorising. The more relational approach to integral metatheorising that I have described here in our conversations is well suited to that task. Power is not only about the development of greater capacities, it is also about the mediation of those capacities throughout social environments. People are stuck in their worldviews and at particular developmental altitudes not only because of issues to do with the spectrum of developmental levels but also because of the spectrum of mediated social power. And until integral theory includes that lens in its diagnostic toolkit it won’t be able to systematically analyse the issue of power. As I have pointed out many times, it is largely due to the absence of this crucial lens that integral theory has neglected to include discussions of social power in its explanations of human development.

You ask, “Is focusing on power getting too specific at this point?” I would say that the issue of power is the most important and most urgent social issue that integral approaches might look at. Leaders are in positions of power and when transformation occurs in an organization their power is also transformed in ways that they will not expect or perhaps even want. Brian Robertson’s wonderful experiment with Holacracy [See his article in this issue of Integral Leadership Review] shows that transformation in structures necessarily entails transformation in management power and in the relationship between leaders and followers, and between managers and employees. You can’t have one without the other. True organizational transformation brings empowerment to all members of that organization. The idea of transformational leadership as empowering individuals has been around ever since James MacGregor Burns and Bernard Bass first proposed the theory of transformation/transactional leadership and the idea is just as relevant today as it ever was. This is also why every substantive transformation in social relations is associated with a transformation in consciousness.

At the moment the integral movement assumes that social transformations come substantially as a result of radical change in personal consciousness (usually of “the leader”). This is a thoroughly developmentalist view and it is a reflection of the current neglect within integral circles of the mediation lens. Human consciousness is as much the result of radical change in social mediation and transformations in the structures of interpersonal and social power as it is in the interior structures of consciousness. In fact, I would argue that social transformation generally sets the conditions for personal transformation. Transformational leaders are usually only catching up with some social reality that already is setting the agenda. This is chicken and egg territory, but we are, after all, intensely social creatures and it is the structure of the social world that we grow into that so powerfully establishes the potentials that we have, and that we see ourselves as having, as individuals.

I think that many leaders think and expect that organizational transformation can occur without a corresponding radical shift in the organizations power structures but that is not the way transformation occurs. When individuals transform, their systems of personal control over their behaviour, impulse control, decision-making abilities, and autonomous agency are also completely restructured. We see this in childhood development where infants move from compulsive activity to achieve immediate gratifications to more delayed forms of goal-directed action. The same holds for organizations. Using Torbert’s terminology, when an organization moves from an incorporation stage to a experimental stage its management system moves from one of controlling norms to reasoned logic. The conformist management style is replaced by a more professional expert style of management. This is a transformation in power—a power where action and thought come out of the rules and sanctions of tradition to a power where action and thought is guided by the rules of technical competency and concrete logic. This move from traditional to technical power has been a massive transformation that has had immeasurable impacts on social life over the past century. And it’s due to a transformation in organisational power structures as much as anything.

One example of your wonderful image of “mapping the space between” could very usefully be applied by an integral mapping of the changes that have taken place in the power relations between leader and follower, management and employee, capital and labour, boss and worker. Marx, of course, unleashed a tide of theorizing research that still continues to investigate such things. A more relational integral approach could bring not only an interior development perspective but also map those changes that flow out of the dialogue between developmental emergence and mediated depth. By this I mean that a truly integral approach to leadership and organizational development will necessarily involve not only transformations in structures of consciousness, worldviews, experiential insights but also transformations in the structures of social power, governance structures, systems of mediated communication and look at how they uncover each other. This is not only about the interior and the exterior. It is more specifically about complementing a first person orientation towards development (that is the current focus of integral theory) with a second person orientation towards development (the relational or social mediation approach). No amount of study of individuals’ developmental levels will ever uncover these crucial dynamics. And it will not be possible to study the transformational depth that lies in the space between while only relying on the AQAL lenses of quadrants, levels, lines, states, types. Integral metatheory will also need a lens for social mediation, an appreciation for the depth of the exteriors and a sensitivity to the realities of social power if it is to develop a more complete understanding and explanation of transformation in leaders, organizations, and in the myriad entities that co-create social reality.

Russ: Hey Mark! Now we are really getting integral!!! Well, you always have been, but this is getting at a full integral perspective. And your integration of these ideas is exciting and challenging!

In this dialogue we are challenged by many things. It is difficult to talk about a meta-theoretical approach or just an integral theoretical approach without opening up everything! And we have already done something that I fault most writers on leadership with, namely a failure of defining terms, in this case, leader and leadership. I wonder if, when you think of leader, you are connecting that to position power in some way. But I will come back to this in a bit.

As I read your last response, I couldn’t agree more with the notion of righteous anger for man’s inhumanity to man and the destruction of the environment. And It is exciting to see that more and more the world of business (with little apparent awareness of the current US administration) is beginning to make the connections that are so important to understand the relationships between economic well being and the health of the planet and its inhabitants. The current issue of The Economist has a cover story on this very thing. There will always be greed, selfishness and self-aggrandizement in human institutions. There will always be a full range of personal motivations. I really like Hampden-Turner’s notion that values are continua with seeming opposites on either end. You know the old observation that love cannot exist without…what? Some say hate, others say the opposite of love is disregard, and so on. But none of this should turn us from our anger at ourselves, “We”, “You” or any other individual and collective actors that visit harm on others. And, well, we find ourselves at the heart of philosophy and distinctions between good and evil and the like. I don’t anticipate resolving this, but I do anticipate understanding it a lot better and I find your mediated relationships idea as very, very promising.

The role of context is, as you have pointed out, critical to our growth, individually and collectively. This is one of the things that are so valuable about Clare Graves’ work—the relationship between individual development and life conditions. And doesn’t it seem that life conditions—economic, ecological, demographic—are all challenging us to move upward on the developmental path both individually and collectively? (Or is this just green garbage?) The risk in our not doing so seems catastrophic. Moving up collectively means new social and political systems, new economic relationships and the like. And we must develop, individually, our capacity to engage developmentally. Chicken or egg? More like chicken and egg!

Now, back to the subjects of leader and leadership. As I have pointed out, these are different concepts. I like to think of our ability to see the “leader” in any context as taking a snapshot of a social system in action. I like to think of “leadership” as the phenomenon of how leadership shows up, develops and is performed in a system over time. Now, I don’t know of anyone else advocating this, but I am increasingly seeing in the work of academics and consultants on leadership an appreciation for such a perspective. For the moment, let’s refocus on “leader.”

I asked if you were identifying leader with formal position power. That is certainly one way of classifying the leader role. However, it is not sufficient. There are many leading actions taken throughout human systems and performed by different members of the system at different “levels” (hierarchical) of the system and at different times. This implies the need for a taxonomy of leader roles in relation to a taxonomy of power and power relationships. Is it any wonder that the literature on leadership brings so many different perspectives? It is because there are so many different manifestation of leading and following and contexts.

The question I will leave us with for our next installment is this: How can the “Basic Activity Triad” and the “Mediating Holon” help us make sense of all of this. For example, what can we see about the relationship between leader and follower and context? What are the mediating variables? How do these help us clarify the phenomenon of leadership? Ultimately, these are questions I hope we can dig into. One strategy might be to take a case example and develop it. Please let me know if there are other issues we need to address before we move into this.


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1 Comment

  1. Bernhard Possert on January 8, 2012 at 1:56 am

    Thanks to Mark and Russ for this great dialoge;
    I can´t find the figures in part 5 – can anybody help me?
    thanks bernhard, austria