Feature Article: Filling in the Blanks: The Developmental Challenge – Integral Leadership, Part 16

Russ Volckmann

Our efforts to describe, define and develop leadership in business and other organizations have pretty much focused on the individual as leader. Only in rare cases has leadership been considered a collective phenomenon as well. Consequently, much of the literature on leadership has resulted in a collection of stories, models and guidelines for individual effectiveness.

To this point, the articles in this series have sought to describe a model of leadership that is integral. The model includes four quadrants (individual values, beliefs, mental models; individual behavior; values, beliefs and models held in the culture; manifestation of culture as systems including structures, processes and technology) and four levels (member/group, contributor/ organization, player/team, entrepreneur/enterprise).

Taking an integral approach is not about negating the work on leadership that is predominantly individually focused. It is about providing a framework or a lens through which that work can be examined and evolved. Adding the collective perspective is not about recognizing only that leadership involves a relationship with followers. It also involves relationships with other leaders in the same organization, with customers and competitors, and with the structures, processes and technologies of organizations.

There are at least two strategies for identifying the content in each of the quadrants at each of the integral levels. Strategy one would be to sort through all of the theories and models and demonstrate how they can be included, if not even transcended, within an integral framework. For example, if we look at the emotional intelligence competencies of Boyatzis and Goleman et al in Primal Leadership, we are able to begin the task of sorting through how each competence becomes important in the inner life and behavior of individual leaders. Or, if we look at the requirements for effectiveness laid out by Kouzes and Posner in their several books, we can see again a set of prescriptions that are about the inner lives and behaviors of individuals in relation to one set of stakeholders in particular–followers.

These contributions are useful and not to be dismissed. Rather, they become a part of the mental models that leaders themselves take on through their education, training, reading and exchanges with others. And it is here that a second strategy suggests itself.

The quote from Sir Laurens above makes all of the sense in the world if we view it from the lens of traditional leadership. However, Integral Leadership is a perspective and approach that includes both the notion of leadership and the self-responsibility he suggested. I think that an integral approach to leadership addresses the need for the leadership function and the capacity of the individual to join with others in providing what is needed.

These are times that severely test our notions of business leadership. We have before us a very interesting situation in our thinking about core values in American society and in the world. The last few years have seen a growing hegemony of capitalist values in the world. I do not mean to suggest that competing values have in any way disappeared. Rather, this phenomenon has provided the foundation for competing values to contest this hegemony.

And now capitalists have provided grist for the mill of calling into question the very enterprise that has helped them buy power in the United States and much of the world. We find that the very successes upon which they claim their right to power rest upon a bed of lies and deceit.

Strong language? Perhaps. And it speaks to the phenomenon that provokes Sir Laurens’ comments. Not only have many “leaders” in business engorged their greed and ambition, we also are faced with our responsibility for creating these situations in which poorly developed, shallow men have manipulated and used our own greed and ambition to enrich themselves.

Leadership development is about developing ourselves and developing the cultures and systems in which our leadership can be played out with that of others. It is about both our individual and collective development. If one is sacrificed the other will suffer.

Leader development must move along several lines. For simplicity sake, the individual lines, body, mind and spirit, will serve. We could elaborate them by adding categories about emotions, ethics and soul. For now, let’s stay with the simpler framework and build on that. The implication is that leader development is about development in all of these lines.

Collective leadership needs to develop along several lines as well. Categorizing these is more of a challenge, but let’s begin with ethics, community and learning. Or, using the model that this series of articles has been addressing, the leadership system needs to evolve to engage with ever growing complexity by addressing culture and systems at the level of the leadership group, organization, team and enterprise.

The models will evolve and change over time. So will those in the minds of individual leaders. This is why leader and leadership development can best be achieved, not just in all quadrants and all levels, but all lines, as well. This can take many forms and include education, training, dialogue, systems development, teamwork, coaching and a host of other possibilities.

I believe that the Integral Leadership approach offered in these pages provides a viable framework to begin that development. It offers a context in which to address issues of individual and collective ethics. It provides a place to examine mental models of organization, teamwork and engaging with change. It provides a foundation for examining those complex relationships with the stakeholders of business leadership to foster a developmental and evolutionary process for engaging with and including the leadership provided by stakeholders.

In one executive group recently, they have identified the forging of synergistic relationships with stakeholders as essential to the future of their organization. Individually, each leader has been able to identify the key stakeholders with which they connect. Consequently, each has developed innovative approach for working with these relationships and the organization is thriving.

We must work with each other to foster this kind of development or be condemned to repeat practices of greed, control and ambition that repeatedly arise over history in business systems that have lost sight of the essential lines of leadership. This is both an individual and a collective challenge. What we have learned from spiral dynamics is that these things don’t go away. They are transcended and included. This provokes a pretty fair challenge for each and every one of us.