A Fresh Perspective: Generating Leadership Mike Jay and Generati

Russ Volckmann

Mike Jay is one of the most interesting people I have ever met. He is a bit of a diamond in the rough as a former collegiate football quarterback, US Marine Corporal and recovering consultant and aspiring developmentalist. Prolific in his intake of information and ideas, as well as his integration of these in constructive ways, he constantly pushes the envelope. Today he is the founder, creator and continuing innovator of B\Coach Systems, LLC, a world-class developer of business and executive coaches. One of his more recent innovations is a program on spiral coaching in which he includes integral theory, spiral dynamics, and the Leadership Development Profile presented and interpreted by Susann Cook-Greuter. Let it be known that he is one of the best teachers I have ever had. Visit for info. I began the interview by asking Mike about a concept that is central to his work.

Q: What is this concept of generati?

MJ: I developed it as a result of trying to find “the keys to leadership.” I studied leadership both in and outside of corporations. I’ve been a leader all my life. I’ve always gotten out front and I’ve always been out front-sometimes for the wrong reasons. People have put me there and I’ve always led things. I think in large part that is due to a lot of innate hardwiring: my dominant traits and my influence traits. Some people say I have the gift of gab and stuff like that. I think that there is both an innate reason and a nurtured reason – a conditioned reason.

When you go into military service you’re naked. Nobody knows who you are. They don’t care who you are. They don’t care where you’re from; you’re just one of the troops. And yet, when you rise to the top you have to look back and say well, what is it that makes people leaders? That’s the one thing that I tried to figure out and I still don’t really know the answer.

Along the way I studied as much about leadership as I could and then applied that using my experience to discover what worked and what didn’t work. I came up with six core competencies in the beginning, which were attention, intention, capability, alignment, coaching and this concept of generati.

Later, I realized that generati itself was not a competency, that it was a state that the other five produced when they all were integrated as meta-competencies. I began to talk about integrating leadership a long time ago, just like a lot of other people have. You were one of them. So a natural integration is just natural development that a person goes through as they ascend through more complexity. They uncover this and that and all of a sudden they really begin to realize that they have to integrate things. Otherwise they leave stuff behind.

So this concept of generati came from the literati, the digerati. I thought we can have a generati, because the whole idea is to create these generative states when you are a leader. In other words, not just win, not just win-win, but find a way that the win-win produces an additional win in the ecology of things. Then you’re not picking up the pieces after you win-win. That’s the philosophy that is guiding what I’m doing right now in terms of…how does that apply to the world at large.

I want to combine a way to put mind, body, spirit together with the issues of business and the issues of wellness. One of the things that I believe strongly is that most of the social change that is going to take place over the next millennium is going to come as a result of what happens around business. I know individuals are extremely important. They are business. At the same time I believe that business, because of resources, because most people spend their time there…as entrepreneurs, self-employed people, business owners, even investors…they’re constantly hooked into business.

I see so many people each day that are ignoring the relationship that we have to have with business because they don’t like what’s going on in corporate America. In a lot of cases I don’t blame them. But I believe that we can make the changes from the inside much faster than we can from the outside, even though it might seem that it’s hopeless.

I visited the International Holistic Health Association, which is a movement that has been around since the seventies, I believe, and formally in the eighties. They are now starting to hold worldwide conferences on holism. It really intrigued me. But when I I read their principles, they had literally forgotten about business. How can you be holistic and forget about business? Capitalism may not be the best thing to create humankind’s consciousness and growth, but how can you possibly talk of holism when you don’t talk business. That’s the thing that I’m bringing to the table.

I have this idea…I have this dream about society having a better workplace, about society having a better life, about us taking care of all the people, not just some of the people. While there has to be merit and incentive, there can also be ways that we feed that back into the system so we don’t leave half of the population like we are right now. To me, this whole integral thing is more than just a bunch of words. It’s about a commitment to create generative conditions and to find a way to get other people involved even though I’m not the easiest person to get involved with because of this passion and intensity.

So that’s why generati is here and that’s why I believe in what you’re doing and I believe in a lot of the things that people are beginning to talk about: the movement from first tier to second tier, the movement from conventional to post-conventional, the movement from a self-authored state into a state of higher levels of self-awareness.

I teach this and believe in it significantly. I believe that it is worthy of a commitment that I have for the rest of my life. I don’t know how that’s going to come about. The only responsibility that I’ve taken so far is for my own action. I’m not going to be too much attached to any outcomes because I believe that if I just take action and the universe knows that I’m taking action that things will work out the way they need to.

Q: How do you make this real for issues of leadership when you’re working with other people?

MJ: I talk to them about what I’m talking to you about now. In fact, I think I’ve gotten to the point where a lot of people see me as more of a missionary than a leader, because I constantly question people about whether they’re being generative and not questioning them from the standpoint of saying, “Hey you! You go be generative.” I look for ways to help people begin to look at a broader perspective.

I talk about personal, business and network domains of effect as equivalent to the “I, we, it” domains. Like most of the people who have come to this integral place, I realize that there are some common denominators in humankind and consciousness. When we get people to consider the facts of their decisions and their actions in not only their personal domain but in the business domain as well as in the network domain…decision quality improves dramatically.

Add to those three domains of effect the invisible domain–the implicate order. None of us really have access to that. If you had access to the implicate order, direct access, then you would probably not be dual anymore. In that case (non-dual) my question is…are you in fact human? I don’t know about that. I’ll leave that to somebody else to figure out. But that’s where I draw boundaries. In other words I know there’s an implicate order. I know that there’s a field out there that represents the infinite intelligence and the collective unconsciousness. To the extent that we can access that through personal action, the consideration of business consequences, the consideration of consequences in more than one order in the network domain, that is probably the key thing in generative leadership.

Q: You’ve mentioned three domains, internal, business and network, and getting into questions about how we develop and grow in an integral sense in these areas. I think most people who read this are familiar with a wide range of things around internal and business, but perhaps not about network. Could you say some more about that?

MJ: I got introduced to the network domain and its meaning with Kevin Kelly’s book, Out of Control. I remember him writing about the formations of network and connectivity. When you begin to understand things like Metcalf’s Law, which states that the value of the network increases at the square of each additional node, you begin to understand how human connectivity is going to change the world and how, instead of living in societies we may live in networks.

The network function describes much more about our ability to relate to people than to perhaps any other things. We’ve used things like communities, organizations, nation states, regions and continents to describe organization in the past. There are some new rules around network, because of not only the influence of software and connectivity, but the fact that we’re beginning to see that connectivity hasn’t relieved us of the chain of being bound by our physical presence.

There is a way we can connect with people who are of like desire: people from all over the world, from every culture, all kinds of networks. And all the networks that I have are special because they are centered around a particular aspect that draw people to them. There is an interesting book that I would encourage everyone to read called Netocracy [] They began to talk about where the world is headed. And I do think that we’re headed in this particular direction just as a result of our current level of consciousness and current evolutionary path.

I believe in this philosophy of integrating personal freedom with business reality. I believe that we all have the personal right for expression but there comes a time when we have to pay attention to business reality in the collective, in the personal and business and network domains. I think that there are so many things to think about as we move forward in terms of network: how they’re going to work; what the causal effects are going to be as a result of people realigning their lives in terms of the network. For instance it is very difficult for me to align around a political persuasion that defines me with tighter boundaries than I would prefer. I find myself gravitating towards an apolitical position even when I know that it is important in our democratic society to take an active part.

Q: That brings us back to this notion of developmental levels. Networking probably means that we’re going to expand the scope of our relationships across developmental levels as well. At least there’s that potential. What ideas do you have about this notion of developmental levels and what leadership might look like in a networking environment?

MJ: I want to “”re-thank” Don Beck who urged me to do Spiral Dynamics work last year, because it really informed a large part of a philosophy that I could not give a name to. I kept feeling that it’s not an issue of getting everybody to go somewhere, getting everybody to be something or getting people to become enlightened. I don’t think that human consciousness necessarily needs that. What I think it needs may be more along the lines of the Dalai Lama in terms of compassion. We can use compassion to look at what Graves said, i.e., that people have a right to be who they are.

What I think of leadership doing is understanding people through understanding development. That’s the next frontier, if we’re not already in it. We should immediately get things like Spiral Dynamics, the integral work, the work that Bill Torbert and Susann Cook-Greuter are doing–all those kinds of things that Loevinger, Piaget, Kohlberg and all those have handed off to everybody, Kegan’s work–getting that is part of the leadership program. Because you as a leader have to begin to understand how to communicate not to someone but with everyone, to bring them into the field of consciousness that the organization is trying to create that is generative.

The only way to do that in my view is not to ask those people at particular developmental levels to say, “Hey, come over here and be in my level” but to go there and to respect and honor them where they are and to serve them in growing horizontally or vertically, whichever way for them is yielding the greatest level of well being.

Q: Your work involves integrating many different approaches, including developmental and integral theory in working with change in business through coaching. What are the key challenges you are facing.

MJ: I’d just like to muse on a couple of things. I continue to ponder the issues of conventional and post-conventional, the issues of first tier and second tier. I really believe that we do need people who are more integrated leaders. I believe that the problems that we have in the world today are beyond the capacity of much of the leadership that we have to solve. And I do not know the answers. I do believe that the conversation or the dialog should consider “what it is to be these kinds of leaders.”

I had a wonderful conversation the other day with Catherine Fitzgerald editor of Executive Coaching: Practices and Perspectives. We talked about coaching executives and the fact that there are times when she sees these leaders, these special people that are very different than the run of the mill, and she can tell that there’s something special about them. They are special in terms of their ability to create generative environments, the places where people can feel good about their contributing, be filled with energy and intrinsic motivation, care and love and hope for people and to continue to see their organizations move. They are very few and far between.

I find it difficult to describe these leaders because of the paradoxes of leadership that we have at high levels today. I think that a frontier is finding a way to get those leaders out somewhere so they can model their approaches. We know that learning occurs basically through vicarious processes. We’ve got to find and identify these types of leaders so that we can get them into places where they can do the kinds of things that the rest of us are led by…are influenced by.

Q: Wouldn’t this require supporting them or working with them in a way to help them create “right” results?

MJ: Yes, there’s no question about that. I wish I could point to one of them right now. I know some really good leaders, but they’re not the kind of leaders that we need. But the one thing that I’m curious about is how can leaders help us? How can they help us speak the language of people unlike them that will get people to understand that you can get results…this other way.

I know I’m really going out on a limb right now and I don’t want to criticize the Dalai Lama, but he’s a leader that many people have looked to and I certainly have enjoyed listening to him and studying his work over the years. I’m not sure that the organization that the Dalai Lama leads would be an effective business organization, although they have to pay the light bill as well. But I’m trying to think of leaders that both have the spiritual quality and at the same time have the ability to communicate to people at all levels of the organization…at the same time they create a generative environment.

People like you and I and most everybody else who have a retirement account or stocks get disenfranchised from our roles in our part of this integration. We end up unknowingly, unaware that we’re putting pressure on these leaders to operate in paradox in a way that is not generative.

I wish there was a way to get the Dalai Lama to find a way to do business so that we’d have a model. Currently, people look at him and say, “Well, that’s fine for spiritual stuff and that’s fine for that over there, but there are no business principles there.” Yet people at lower developmental levels can’t extrapolate from the higher levels of development into the lower levels of development…truly the paradox of which I’m referring.

So we need examples. We need concrete steps. We need a system that people are running and showing that they care about other people and it’s not just a system where everybody is following the guru. The thing that I see missing today is that we have this disconnect between the spiritual side of things and the business side of things. The business people rail about the spiritual things and the spiritual people rail about the business things, but there’s no integration.

Ultimately, I’m trying to find ways to do this kind of work. We’ve introduced models that oftentimes we call Trojan horse models. I am asking for a model of spirit that doesn’t look like a model of spirit, but to function with it you have to be spiritual.

I think that there are opportunities and I see lots of wonderful people. I mean, the first that comes to mind is Don Beck who is working all over the world trying to spread the knowledge that he has. And other people like Ken Wilber who is working in different ways with theory, ideas and strategies with business to help them move forward in these ways. These are the things we need to know more about.

Or maybe there needs to be more access. I had a very difficult time getting any access at all to people like this. It’s been very difficult. I’ve had to work; I’ve had to really earn my way into where these people would even consider my ideas or talk to me. That’s the kind of thing that makes it difficult when we have business people who can’t get access or spiritual people who don’t invite business people to come and be a part of their process and models. That’s what’s missing! We need to begin building some of these models and show people that we can get results without having to tear peoples’ hearts out. We need to show this can be done without having to steal all of the dignity and respect from our fellow man. We need to find ways to promote diversity in the ways of development, as well as gender, race and creed.

Then we can point to that and say, “Look! This is working. Let’s learn about that!” rather than just the business people going from business to business saying, “Let’s go do what IBM is doing.” or “Let’s go do what GE does.” or “Let’s figure out the HP way.” We know that’s all connected with spirit, but there’s not a model that we can show people. There’s separation of church and state and all of a sudden that’s a separation between spirit and business.

Q: When you talk about our needing to develop new models do you include models around the very notion of leadership itself? As you know, in my work I’ve been raising this question in lots of different ways about our continuing to think about business leadership as an individual act, an individual role, and not looking at it as both an individual role and a collective phenomenon. And I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about that.

MJ: Sometimes, when you become an executive you fail to remember that you’re still a person and other people fail to remember that you’re still a person. The first thing that came to me when you were talking is that we have an individual responsibility to the world: to be aware, to be generative. Yet when we take that into a business or organization we have influence over that system because of our leverage. That fiduciary responsibility is both individual and collective. In other words, there’s a loss of identity from the person into the fiduciary responsibility that relieves people of behaving as human beings.

And so, I think you’re on the right track. You and I are running parallel, if not converging, in terms of what we’re looking at. If I go back and revisit the five meta-competencies of our leadership model, we look at attention, which is really just mindfulness. We say attention because mindfulness is not a business term, per se, at least not in general.

We look at intention and that has to do with creating theories of right action that are based on a spiritual model. We look at capability which is important in all quadrants as well as alignment between the quadrants. And then, of course, coaching, which serves as a boundary spanner.

My idea of coaching is different than that of most people. For most people a coach is anybody who advises, gives information, support, anything can fall into that category. I read lots every day about how a person can coach if they can influence somebody. My idea of a coach is someone who builds capability rather than dependency. This is the essential business ingredient in management leadership today – capability. It is helping people become capable at their level of capacity, rather than dependent. I realize that’s a r\evolution. I’ve been in enough organizations and managed enough people and enough people have reported to me, that I know this is no easy task.

It can be done if you take this position of individual and collective responsibility. We have a responsibility to help others get what they need. We have a responsibility to help the business processes execute. We have a responsibility to make sure that the business process and the people getting what they need do not harm the network of vital relationships. At the same time we need to build increasing levels of capability. The reason why…because we have increasing levels of complexity every day. If we stay stagnant in terms of capability then the problems being generated by the current coping system we have are not going to be solvable. We won’t have people at a capacity to solve the problems or generate what is required. So in business and in society we need to continue to develop those people that want this journey of leadership and provide them with support and resources, as well as theory and practice for generative development.