ILiA 2012

Mark McCaslin

Evolving Leadership for an Awakening World: Transforming Leadership through Theory, Action and Application

Mark McCaslin

Mark McCaslin

I had the opportunity to travel to Santa Cruz, California to attend the Integral Leadership in Action conference. With my increasing involvement with the Integral Leadership Review I was very excited about the opportunity to learn more about this emerging age of leadership. I was also looking forward to engaging others in the field in discussions and through a rich variety of presentations. As I prepared for this conference I had an opportunity to examine the program and want to first thank the ILiA Board; Victoria Wilson Jones, Michael McElhenie, Ken Harpham, Terry (T) Polling, and Jennifer Blalock for creating such a rich and dynamic program of work. I appreciated the intention of this conference to issue a deeper call to service and to lay the foundation for all participants to create together, discuss, inspire, educate, and enjoy each other as we discussed leadership in this emerging age. At the outset I was further encouraged and motivated by the inclusion of one of my favorite Rumi poems as a way into the conference’s program:

The breeze that dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill where the two worlds touch.
The door is around an open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

-Jelaluddin Rumi
From The Essential Rumi, page 16.

Being new to ILR and to this community of learning I really knew no one in particular and yet found myself feeling comfortable and engaged. This was in large part due to the conference organizers planning and community building processes and exercises that we experienced at the opening. Even my often reserved personality (INTP) was encouraged to jump in and enjoy the community. I had many enjoyable conversations that first evening. Most notable was my meeting Dean Anderson. He is a very warm individual and one who I also had opportunity to listen to later in the week as he presented his program on consciousness change leadership. My encounter with Dean is an example of the many rich conversations that happened during the course of this week. I was most intrigued about his book, Beyond Change Management (2nd Edition, Pheiffer, 2010). I have ordered it and I look forward to reading it. During the community building processes I found the questions to be deepening, the approach to be broadening, the conversations to be welcoming, and the sharing to be free and stimulating. It was a rich and fulfilling opportunity for me.

The community building process was maintained throughout the conference. It created a deep and rich container for dialogue that is certain to expand beyond the boundaries of the conference. I saw this as an opportunity to build the relationships and bridges that will inspire ongoing investigations and conversations as we individually and collectively address Integral Leadership.  I want to express my gratitude for the conference opening and welcoming conducted by Victoria Wilson and Bert Parlee as it really helped us move into a better awareness of each other and the space that we were to be holding together.

Friday morning brought one of the week’s richest surprises for me in that I had the opportunity to hear Don Beck discuss Spiral Dynamics in a way that I hadn’t really quite experienced in the past. Sure, I’ve read the book and I’ve heard and participated in discussions on the topic. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of what this developmental model and process was all about, both theoretically and practically. Yet upon hearing Don Beck talk about it I had my lens of understanding drawn open and began seeing it in a new and elegant way. I will forever be grateful for having the opportunity to actually be present and to participate as Don interactively moved the group forward, showing us how this notion of Spiral Dynamics can build the leadership for the future. Don brought me alert and presented me an opportunity to really think about these constructs from a more holistic framework. With his facilitation I began to see, perhaps for the first time, what was meant by the concept of spiral wizardry. At any rate upon my return home I immediately began rereading Spiral Dynamics with new eyes and new understandings.

Don’s presentation was entitled; Experience the vMemes: Natural Design in Action. He took us from theory to practice through several exercises. He presented some practical examples of how to use the Gravesian model within an organization. His lineup exercises really brought the lessons home.

Later on that day we had the opportunity to listen to Dean Anderson talk about conscious change leadership insights from 30 years of bringing integral to business. I found Dean’s presentation to be quite useful and quite good. I enjoyed his approach to not only presenting the material but also how he engages the community. His presentation was entitled” Conscious Change Leadership: A Successful Framework for Bringing an Integral Message to Corporations and Leaders. Dean asked the question, “How do you frame the message, make it meaningful so that it connects, and deliver substance that produces substantial results leaders seek, while waking up people and transforming the culture?” As I left this session I had a greater understanding of conscious change leadership and how I might put that to work within my own organization.

Other presentations on this first day included the following:

Leading the New Meta-Organization – Sean Esbjörn-Hargens

The last two years Sean has been building MetaIntegral a new kind of integral organization (See Russ Volckmann’s interview of Barrett C. Brown in this issue). MetaIntegral is an inter-organizational ecosystem comprised of three distinct companies: the training Academy, a consulting firm, and the grant giving foundation. In his presentation Sean provided us with an overview of MetaIntegral and then led us through the experience of matching one’s interior complexity with the exterior complexity of organizational structure.

What Is Integral Leadership? Brett Thomas, T Poling, and Michael McElhenie

Brett, T, and Michael led us as we engaged in a very interesting conversation on the characteristics, meaning and value of integral leadership and the awakening world. They engaged their own coaching and consulting work with leaders from a variety of organizations that help generate deeper levels of understanding and dialogue. It was also one of the first opportunities we had to engage in small-group conversations which I found exceptionally powerful.

Integral Consultant Development: Stories from Australia to Russia… With Love – Dana Carman, Danielle Conroy and Jesse McKay

Dana, Danielle and Jesse shared their experiences regarding what has been most powerful and transferable Integral approaches across cultures and geographic boundaries. They indicated what they have learned about the practical application of Integral theory and practices in their own consulting work. Participants were invited to reconnect with their own experiences and share their best practices expression of evolutions commitment to the next level Integral Praxis.

From Training to Transforming Leaders and Organizations: A Transformational Methodology – Gilles Brouillette

For Integral coaches, trainers and facilitators it is becoming increasingly evident that one of the most powerful strategies for leadership development is the transformation of consciousness. Although many practitioners are aware of this, we still do not have many concrete, simple and powerful methodologies to achieve this within the context of leadership development in the workplace. Gilles’ presentation introduced us to the practical transformational methodologies to generate leadership and organizational transformation. We explored consciousness through the lenses of mental models and we looked at how consciousness emerges and evolves, how it shapes the way we think and act, what role it plays in determining heroic and reactive leadership status, and how we can consciously shift it to post-heroic levels in order to develop and sustain higher levels of leadership effectiveness.

Excellence Training at EnlightenmentNext: How Collective Awakening Changes Everything – Jeff Carreira

For 25 years EnlightenmentNext has been exploring and developing methods that unleash the power of collective intention by bringing individuals together in a way that supports their going beyond the self-centered motives of ego. In the Excellence Training Program EnlightenmentNext Director of Education, Jeff Carreira, described how his work was successful and influential for individuals who want to develop the ability to come together beyond the limited perspective of the ego and facilitate others to do the same. Jeff shared what is identified as the fundamental skills and attitudes that must be adopted to facilitate this miraculous shift in perspective and the methods he is using to train political and business leaders to put them into practice.

One of the presentations that I most enjoyed, among many high quality presentations, was Brett Thomas’s presentation, The Leadership Rosetta Stone: Simplicity on the Other Side of Complexity. What stood out for me as I began to really examine and listen to what Brett was talking about was how he used the term “skillful”. We need to be skillful at using Integral Theory in a way that is directly useful for students, leaders, managers – the people that we engage in the field. I have for some time thought that putting Integral theory, these wisdoms, to work in the world comprises the greater part of our effort. I found Brett’s presentation both useful and inspiring. I’ve often felt that we do a wonderful job talking to each other, but how do we engage the world? How do we really put these concepts and constructs to work in a way that people can grab on to, hold on to and move with to make not only their individual lives better, but also their organizations? I think Brett Thomas really moved us along the way by informing our currently held best practices. Whether you agree or not with the premise the discussion was thoughtful and thought provoking. I really enjoyed many of the attributes of his presentation to include the Universal Role Translator reference sheet that he presented and how we can begin to examine how collaborative leadership, strategic leadership, authoritarian leadership, and autocratic leadership can work together. I found this presentation to be insightful and valuable.

Saturday brought some wonderful surprises. It began with Jeff Salzman’s Integral Emergence and World Events. I enjoyed the energy and the freshness by which Jeff engages big problems and big challenges. I found his presentation to be rich and authentic and in many ways I’m still processing much of what was shared. The Integral stage of development is arising in the world under its own power. Part of our job as evolutionaries, according to Jeff, is to notice and take heart. Jeff looks at the real-time emergence of Integral consciousness and current events: politics, economics, culture and spirituality.

Embodying Radiance: Integral Femininity at its Core – Willow Dea and Mukti

We were introduced to the notion that being in the presence of the feminine is nothing short of grace. All our lives are filled with outward action. The potency from which these actions arise is of prime importance. Leadership is an expression of our deepest commitments, enacted as coherently as we are capable of being. In service of our leadership we will come together and return to the source of the feminine potency, to rest in the fullness together. In doing so we understand that in any movement that arises it is intimately sourced in the mystery that emanates from each breath. Drawing from the coherence of our breath, body, mind and heart, we will know the radiant feminine and enjoy her. Guided meditation and body practice and discussion comprised this session.

Later that day I had the opportunity to listen to Barrett Brown’s Leadership at the Edge: Insights from Late-Stage Leaders on How to Design and Engage in Complex Change Initiatives. (See Barrett Brown’s interviews with Ken Wilber and with Russ Volckmann in this issue.) I found the presentation to be scholarly and highly researched within a platform that was rich with potential. As a research methodologist and as a person who’s been leading doctoral dissertations for 15 years I see a lot of promise in Barrett’s research abilities and in his abilities to engage others in his important work. I felt that there were many levels to what Barrett was trying to present and I very much appreciated the depth, intensity and clarity from which he presented this material. I look forward to learning more about his work.

Barrett knows how to ask good questions. What happens at the intersection of complex consciousness and complex leadership issues? What do leaders and change agents who have access to post-post conventional ways of making meaning actually do when they design and engage in sustainability initiatives? What does late stage leadership look like in action, and what can we do to accelerate the development of our own consciousness? Barrett offered insights into these questions based upon his research on sustainability leaders and change agents who were assessed at the very latest stages of meaning making that science can measure. Ken Wilber calls this work “a timely important significant very telling empirical study on some of the highest stages of human development.”

Another presentation that I found most engaging was Tapping into the Infinity Factor by Bert Parlee, Allison Conte and Dana Carman. I was in particular struck, as a research methodologist, by Allison’s discussion on polarities and how we can use these polarities to really understand the dynamics that are happening within any situation. I found it to be a very usable quantitative model that is richly informed by qualitative data. This was a very smart application and I look forward to examining this process more closely. This was a very enlightening and very usable presentation.

The presentation was participatory and experiential. We were invited to explore our inner complexity, while discovering the simplicity on the other side. Amidst unity, interdependent pairs dance, intersect and resolve themselves into one another in an endless embrace, where creative/destructive gives birth to novel emergence. Our ability to recognize and innovatively invent with dialectics, polarities and opposites is a hallmark of generative play and productivity.

The Emerging Narrative in the Middle East: A New Birth in Bethlehem – Don Beck

Don Beck reported on the results of the summit on the future of Palestine 2008 and what it has to offer the rest of the world. Don Beck, from Texas, and Elza Maalouf from Lebanon, along with their Palestinian colleagues, designed an innovative and far-reaching initiative that offers a fresh and dynamic approach to large scale systems transformation. (There have been several articles and Notes from the Field about this in Integral Leadership Review.) This event was based on decades of research and years of application experience in trouble spots around the world, coupled with an in-depth understanding of Arab-based point of view, as well as Israeli contributions and needs. This represented the most sophisticated application of the Integral perspective in a realistic setting with specific focus on the historic work of Prof. Clare W. Graves and the contemporary field-tested wisdom from Spiral Dynamics in the newest insights from their emerging quest for the Master Code.

Integral Optimism: How to Approach our Epic Global Challenges with Informed Hope and Faith – Bert Parlee

Global warming, nuclear proliferation, transcontinental pandemics, economic meltdown, weapons of mass destruction, overpopulation, extinctions, ethnic cleansing and genocide, poverty and starvation, ecological disasters – the nightmare list seems never ending. Everyone seems to agree: something bad, and something catastrophic is happening as we speak. We do well to question assumptions behind both alarmist and naïvely idealistic responses to a global crisis. This presentation explored how we move towards a more balanced and authentic sense of optimism by cultivating our highest spiritual awareness. How can we show up as we most fundamentally are: as One, as Self, as All-pervading Spirit? How do we re-author the narrative of our times, providing reasons to feel hopeful about the prospects of life – not only surviving, but also thriving in more advanced forms in the time ahead?

When the last day of the conference began I found myself rather amazed at how full I was with ideas bouncing every which way. I realized that it was going to take a good deal of study and reflection to really gain a full insight of just how much was gained. I think that process is still ongoing. I really enjoyed Cindy Wigglesworth’s Spiritual Weightlifting for Integral Leaders. I found it to be a very crisp and direct presentation that really allowed me to begin summing up and encapsulating many of the ideas that I had engaged during the course of the week. It was particularly interesting to me to begin thinking about the allergies I might have to the various levels and dynamics.

Our individual interior affects our exterior behaviors. Specifically our stage of development, which is interconnected with our lines of intelligence, impacts how we see the world and how we formulate options for interacting with it. We often complain about lack of leadership – in business, in politics and even an integral movement itself. But what can we do about it? Cindy’s basic premise is that we have to lead ourselves first from the inside out with the model what we hope to see in others and in the world. We know about ILP and its value. Cindy adds the “SQ” or spiritual intelligence schema so we can assess, develop and live from our own leadership potential.

As a way of really understanding the happenings of the conference I would be remiss if I did not talk about how every day began with Integral Life Practices in morning sessions that were aimed at preparing the body, mind, shadow and spirit for full participation within the conference. I want to again give my gratitude to the conference planners for having these opportunities to really set the intentions of the day.

This was an exceptional conference. I look forward to continuing the discussions and to generating a greater and greater understanding of Integral Leadership. Thank you to all who made this experience so fulfilling.



  1. Lisa Norton on July 5, 2012 at 10:53 am

    Thanks Mark for this vivid summary, it took me right back. It was a really high-value experience and I’m still processing too. I plan to attend the spiral dynamics trainings I and II with Don Beck this September!