Russ Volckmann

Leadership and the Integral Leadership Review: Reflections on Kouzes and Posner, A Leader’s Legacy and a Presentation by Prasad Kaipa, “Leadership and the Being-Doing Gap”

Please indulge me. I’m going to get a little personal here.

I have been offering summaries of books and articles for several years in ILR. For the most part I have tried to reserve CODA for publications that inform an integral (transdisciplinary, developmental) approach to leadership. I will reserve that type of summary for Sue McGregor’s Transformative Practice: New Pathways to Leadership—which I am going to finish reading right after I write this short essay.

I was delighted to receive a copy of A Leader’s Legacy in the mail from Jim Kouzes, one of the members of the Integral Leadership Council. I must confess, up front, that I have known Jim for almost thirty years. Under his leadership I was a consultant in a yearlong project working with the management teams of eight northern California county mental health agencies. This was my first real organization development project of any size and scope. It combined training with consulting and much of the consulting we were doing then really amounted to coaching the Directors and members of their teams. In addition I had been a part of the team that put together the 1980 OD Network conference; Jim was the leader of that team.

Over the years my meetings with Jim have not been frequent, but they have been important to me. I have looked to him for feedback at various times, including my early work on Integral Leadership. For the most part, however, I have tended to view his work with Barry Posner (who I have also known, but not very well) as advice-oriented leadership development. Of course, their work is based on a major amount of research and experience in businesses in many parts of the world. Their thesis has always been grounded in leadership as a relationship. Much of their work can be found in several editions of The Leadership Challenge, one of the most widely read books on leadership. Well, there is a lot of advice in their books and probably most of it is good advice. Their leadership development workshops, however, are not so much about giving advice as in supporting individuals to discover themselves as leaders and gain new perspectives on others in their teams and organizations.

In addition, one of the things I have always valued about their work has been the recognition that leadership is not the purview of people at the tops of hierarchies, large or small. Rather, it is distributed. In business, almost everyone has the potential to become a leader at one time or another in their careers. Their view of this is based partly on the recognition that leadership has many facets and shows up in different ways at different times in the life of an organization.

Their new book is somewhat different than their prior work. In a way, it accurately reflects the kind of men that Kouzes and Posner are. They are thinkers, doers, teachers and learners. They inspire others. They help clarify. They foster clarity of vision and aspiration. In effect, they are leaders. In this book they demonstrate these qualities. And they do it through stepping back and sharing lessons learned. Here are few using a rough four quadrant model as a lens.

Upper left, the interior individual, includes a great deal of attention in this extended essay. Leaders thrive who hold values as servants to others, thus linking their work to Robert Greenleaf and the stewardship of Peter Block. Leaders are forward looking, a quality that is near the top in all cultures they have studied. Leaders have courage; they move forward in the face of fear. They value feedback from others. They even have a chapter entitled, “Lead from the Inside Out.” It addresses questions that pertain to self-image, to qualities and competencies suitable for leadership, as well as intention.

Upper right, individual behavior, is demonstrated with numerous examples of the behaviors of leaders at many levels of organizations and from many different cultures. From Abraham Lincoln to project managers and executives, these leaders learned behaviors that were effective, including initiating a more open climate with team members, being more transparent in their intentions and aspirations, being less formal and more forthcoming about what was important to them in and out of work.

Lower left, culture, shows up in considering the collective values of leaders and followers, the recognition that leaders and followers change roles and a recognition that people will respond creatively and productively to a culture of freedom in the context of clear, shared goals.

Lower right, systems, is expressed as, “…leadership is a dynamic relationship between leaders and followers in which the roles of leader and follower are often exchanged…” Furthermore, “The key to high performance is not only good leaders, but also good leader ship. It’s not the person we should be focusing on; it’s the process.” As they point out, no individual can do it alone. Effectiveness and successful development and change require getting past the heroic myth.

All of this and more are explored in the name of discovering the role of legacy in leadership (here I am going to get personal again). And this brings me to Prasad Kaipa’s presentation to the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Society for Organizational Learning. I am fortunate to be a member of this relatively small group of individuals whose backgrounds range from being consultants and coaches to holding leadership roles in business and the public sector.

Prasad is another member of the Integral Leadership Council. And I need to confess again: I have known Prasad for about fifteen years or more and have worked very closely with him in a highly successful coaching practice and in consulting and training projects. Perhaps a pattern is emerging here. I am writing about two people I have known for a long time and have worked with at various stages of my professional life. Each has continued to be an individual I count as an important guide and mirror in my own work.

At this meeting Prasad gave a very personalized presentation of his own challenges in the gap between being and doing. Much of the five-hour meeting (with a break for lunch) was spent in dialogue. I will not try to capture that here, but I will share something that Prasad’s explorations brought up for me. In his stories of his experiences with his “teacher”—who seems to prefer an approach that involves hitting his “student” on the side of the head with a proverbial baseball bat—the question was raised about how Prasad could coach and train leaders when he hadn’t developed his own capacity for leadership. Keep in mind that Prasad has been in significant leadership roles over the years, including setting up a leadership program at a leading business school in India.

This led me to reflecting on my role in the Integral Leadership Review. I asked myself to what extent have I taken on a leadership role in the evolution and development of this epublication. The answer is clear: that is a role I have assumed without a great deal of awareness. And it is a role others have given me by their various contributions to the Integral Leadership Review. I have also taken on the role of follower in a variety of ways that seem even more challenging to me. In any case, a number of questions are raised in my reading of Kouzes and Posner and my listening to and reflecting on the words of Prasad Kaipa.

(1) Is my vision clear? And, even more importantly, whom do I share this vision with? Am I listening to their visions?

(2) How well am I supporting the development of ways for others to demonstrate their leadership and for me to be a follower—in support of those visions?

(3) How well are we creating a shared vision with subscribers, writers, sponsors and other stakeholders in the development of the Integral Leadership Review?

(4) How can we develop an infrastructure that will elicit input, participation, development and the bridging dynamics that are so much a part of the reason for the very existence of ILR?

These are questions (and there are more) that are before me now. My responses to these questions will emerge and develop over time. But for now I want to be very, very clear. I want your involvement in a myriad of possible ways. The potentials are unfolding, Thank you for being a part of a very exciting time full of promise and potential.

And thank you Jim, Barry and Prasad for helping me learn about what is present with me in this process.


Graham Punnett,

Russ, your public self-reflection and clear statement of invitation to be involved has a flavour of honesty and forthrightness that I appreciate. While I recognize this call, I’m immersed in value online (set and must decline to answer. Also wished I could see and hear you saying this piece and sense the responding energy. Thanks, Graham

Russ Volckmann: Thank you, Graham. I will send you an email after I check out your site and extend an invitation to talk on the phone anytime. I am happy to place the call.