I am grateful to the more than 400 subscribers to Integral Leadership Review. Your support means that we can move closer to a way of viewing and being in the world that is integrative, generative and supportive of our evolving integrity–learning to align our theory and our action, our values and assumptions with achieving what is important to us. Also, I am grateful to the many kindnesses, suggestions and offers of support we have received.
The mission of this e-publication is to be a practical guide to the application of an integral perspective to the challenges of leadership in business and life and to the effective relationship between executive/business coaches and their clients. My vision includes that this will be a place where others, as well as myself, can continue to develop and share ideas about Integral Leadership and integral coaching.
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As people interested in an integral approach to leadership, our attention has been drawn to Spiral Dynamics through the excellent work of Chris Cowan and Don Beck. Their extension of the work of Clare Graves has been a major contribution, not just to integral thinking but also to influencing a more peaceful change process in South Africa. There is hope that its perspectives can influence our thinking about dealing with differences and change.
Ken Wilber has embraced Spiral Dynamics as representative of developmental psychology. Other perspectives in developmental psychology have also been included in integral thinking, including the work of Robert Kegan and Jane Loevinger, particularly as extended by the work of Bill Torbert, Susann Cook-Greuter and Otto Laske. It is clear that at this stage of our thinking, developmental psychology offers models and concepts that parallel the idea of the holon and of the holarchy and their attendant concepts (like streams).
Recently Don Benson told me about a book that is also built on the work of Clare Graves. Note that Differential Management & Motivationwas also written by Chris Cowan (and others). Published in 1994 this work predates the more famous Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. Here I wish to share with you a couple of notions related to what stood out for me as I read this earlier work.
A core theme of Graves’ work is that we develop; we change in our lives. He identified a pattern that is most widely known as spiral dynamics with its use of colors to represent stages of psychological (and spiritual) development. These relative positions on the developmental spiral are based on the worldview we hold at each level.
One of the things that interested me about this work is the use of a staircase metaphor for development. “Graves’ data revealed that the staircase tends to spiral between Individualist/Elitist ways of thinking and Communal/Collective view.” Each step in this spiral staircase presents a developmental opportunity at that level. Each step is necessary to move up the spiral staircase.
When we use this idea to try to understand what is going on in our own lives or in others’ it is important to note that the model helps us understand how we think but not what we believe, why we might act but not what we can do. In other words, these stages are about how we make decisions in our lives. As such, they can provide useful insights to individual leaders. Each level has value and merit in its own terms.
The model is useful in understanding the dynamics of collective leadership and the diversity that is inherent in most collective contexts. It reminds us that growth and development, whether individual or collective, must address the issues of consciousness, awareness and knowing to move to higher levels. Furthermore, growth and development are multifaceted processes subject to challenge and reversal in the changing world around us.
The approach suggests that there are three conditions for this growth
- “Present Level needs must be satisfied.
- “Dissonance or a challenge must be present
- “Exposure to other types of thinking, acting, and behaving.”
The model and strategies laid out here are a precursor to Beck and Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics. And the authors of this earlier work point out “most people do not fit neatly into any single Level. Graves’ theory helps us think in terms of ‘types in’ rather than ‘types of’’ people. Most people are combination of Levels.” Somehow, despite this affirmation of how individuals do not fit neatly into boxes (a point of view that I read into Beck and Cowan’s work as well, returning to this earlier work is a welcome reminder.
Hopefully we can find a way to language developmental typologies so that we can drop labels for people and apply them to phenomenon that are widely shared by all human beings. Certainly, we all face developmental challenges. And we have achieved progress during our lifetimes. The authors of the two works considered here would no doubt agree that the popularization of their work has led to inappropriate labeling. But perhaps there will be more about these issues as they apply to leadership in subsequent issues.
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