Feature Article: Scenarios and Lines: Advancing Leadership Development

Russ Volckmann

Russ VolckmannIn the last two issues of Integral Leadership Review I have been writing about the use of scenarios and leadership development. Here I will develop this idea further with particular attention to the idea of lines of development. I will also link this exploration to the interview with James O’Toole in this issue of  Integral Leadership Review.

The use of scenarios is not a new idea. Shell’s pioneering efforts have been noted in earlier articles here and elsewhere and an Internet search will expose numerous efforts in which simulations and scenarios are being used in leadership development. But nowhere have I found an integral approach to the use of scenarios for this purpose.

A feature of an integral approach would be an integrally-informed design of the scenario itself. Another would be the processing of the analysis of the scenario through an integral lens. If we take such approaches seriously, stages of development may become apparent. A necessary pre-condition for that I believe to be attending to the questions of lines.

We can undertake this exploration keeping in mind Ken Wilber’s admonition:

“Let me point out…that any such integral approach needs to be implemented withthe utmost care, concern and compassion. None of the levels or lines or quadrants are [sic] meant in any sort of rigid, predetermined, judgmental fashion. The point of developmental research is not to pigeonhole people or judge them inferior or superior, but to act as guidelines for possible potentials that are not being utilized. The prime directive asks us to honor and appreciate the necessary, vital, and unique contributions provided by each and every wave of consciousness unfolding, and thus act to protect and promote the health of the entire spiral, and not any one privileged domain.”

> A Theory of Everything, pp. 102-103

The most familiar treatment of lines are Ken Wilber’s discussions and lists such as those offered by James Flaherty. Wilber has spoken to the question of  lines in many of his publications; he provides as examples in A Theory of Everything the following:

  • cognitive
  • linguistic
  • interpersonal
  • moral
  • kinesthetic
  • affective
  • somatic
  • and adds “etc.” to indicate that there are many possible elements in this list

Flaherty offers six lines in his work (see “A Fresh Perspective: Integral Coaching: An Interview with James Flaherty,” Integral Leadership Review, Volume IV, No. 4, October 2004):

  • cognitive
  • emotional
  • somatic
  • relational
  • spiritual
  • integrating

Neither of these lists is intended to be complete, but suggestive. Note, however, that all of the lines indicated are easily identified with the UL (internal/individual, “I”) quadrant of the holon. Certainly there are also lines that correlate to these in behavior (UR), culture (LL) and systems (LR). I am not aware that anyone has developed these correlates, as yet, except at the highest level in Wilber’s work.

For the purposes of scenarios and the use of an integrally-informed approach to leadership development I would suggest that lines offer an important contribution to the design and analysis of scenarios that can be used for an effective approach to leadership development. While an elaboration of lists such as those above may be useful, there are other approaches we can take that might be equally fruitful. In keeping with Wilber’s admonition above, there is nothing inherently true about any of these lists, but they are useful tools.

James O’Toole (see the interview below) reports on such lines in the systems, lower right quadrant that may also offer us a useful starting place. While he was working with Booz-Allen & Hamilton and the University of Southern California’s Center for Effective Organizations they undertook a study (that continues today) for the World Economic Forum on strategic leadership. They found that leadership emergence in companies was supported by combinations of the following organizational systems:

Vision and Strategy: Extent to which corporate strategy is reflected in goals and behaviors at  all levels.
Goal-Setting and Planning: Extent to which challenging goals are used to drive performance.
Capital Allocation: Extent to which capital allocation decisions are objective and systematic.
Group Measurement: Extent to which actual performance is measured against established  goals.
Risk Management: Extent to which the company measures and mitigates risk.
Recruiting: Extent to which the company taps the best talent available.
Professional Development: Extent to which employees are challenged and developed.
Performance Appraisal: Extent to which individual appraisals are used to improve performance.
Compensation: Extent to which financial incentives are used to drive desired behaviors.
Organizational Structure: Extent to which decision-making authority is delegated to lower levels.
Communications: Extent to which management communicates the big picture.
Knowledge Transfer: Extent to which necessary information is gathered, organized, and disseminated.

> James O’Toole, “Leadership as an Organizational Trait,” in Bennis, et al, eds.,
The Future of Leadership, p. 165.

Each of these systems could be thought of as lines of development in an organization. If O’Toole’s hypothesis is correct, the challenge of each organization is to find the mix that supports the emergence of the qualities of leadership required throughout their organization and in their context. In all likelihood we are led back by this analysis to the idea that leadership is an art and that these systems are important ingredients in the construction of a collage that will be successful in a market, at a given stage or time in the development of the business or in any of the “life conditions” faced by organizations.

Exploring this approach in the use of scenarios with an integral perspective enriches the potential for this work exponentially. There is still much to be developed, but I believe this is a fruitful path to explore. For example, developing the corollaries between the lines suggested by Wilber and Flaherty with the systems identified by O’Toole and his colleagues would be useful in crafting coherence in the model. Examining the systems in terms of stages and levels of development holds possibilities. How does Torbert’s model help us here? How does the model offered in earlier issues of Integral Leadership Review relate? How can Mark Edwards work help in examining these relationships?

So far, the work reported by O’Toole does not address questions of what mix of systems is required under what organizational life conditions. And it need not. They can guide the design of scenarios and aid in exploring the analysis for the relationships among quadrants. The use of scenarios is ideal for exploring such questions with the understanding that they will not reveal the truth or predict the future, but that such explorations are a most powerful approach to leadership development.

> Russ Volckmann