Integral Leadership in Action 2012, Evolving Leadership for an Awakening World: Transforming Leadership through Theory, Action and Application

Lisa Norton and Lynne Palazzolo

Lisa Norton and Lynne Palazzolo

Lynne Palazzolo

Lynne Palazzolo

Lisa Norton

Lisa Norton

LN: The Integral Leadership in Action (ILiA) conference May 17-21, 2012 in Santa Cruz, CA, created both an emergence and a continuance of the WE space in the Integral Community. During DJ Sosan’s fabulous dance party, Jennifer Blalock asked me if I would like to write a brief post-conference reflection. Upon returning home to Chicago, my solitary efforts did not begin to convey the shared feeling of ILiA. It seemed that Lynne Palazzolo had experienced some powerful insights, so I invited to her join me in co-authoring this reflection and happily she agreed.

LP:  When Lisa invited me to co-author this reflection, I was thrilled. The juicy conversations, the presentation of mental models, the experiences of awe and wonder, and periods of cognitive and emotional dissonance continued into our process of writing. What follows is how this story unfolded for two newbies at the ILiA conference.

LN: On the sheer exuberance and sense of possibility inspired by the Integral Leadership Collaborative and ILC Town Hall Meetings, I felt called to attend my first ILiA conference. Being a first timer I didn’t know what to expect nor was I familiar with the history of ILiA and its evolution from 2004. Conceived as “a tapestry of finely orchestrated large group experiences, small group breakouts, community building, cutting-edge media explorations, self reflection and integral life practice, fellowship and dancing[i] The dedicated ILiA Board and the team of volunteer contributors that surrounded them created a challenging and delightful space that invited active participation. The wide-open We- space was remarkable from start to finish and contributed to the strong correlation between aims, expectations and actualization.

LP: I came to the beautiful city of Santa Cruz with my dear friend and soul-sister, Jen Blalock. My purpose for attending with Jen was to source/support her as a Board Member at the conference and to understand what Integral theory was all about.  I was not only an ILiA conference newbie, but also an Integral VIRGIN. 

Jen and I had a vision about integrating a team development program called Building Team Spirit, authored by Dr. Barry Heermann, and Integral Theory into a practical application to assist human systems transformational change.

Jen had been teaching me and telling me over the years about Integral Theory.  Sometimes she would remark, “You just speak this stuff.”   She explained to me about I space, WE space, the rainbows within Don Beck’s Spiral, First Tier, Second Tier, it all made sense to me when I looked at it all together. I just couldn’t really make my mind/emotions/body/spirit tear it apart and categorize it.  I just felt it. We wanted to combine some of our work together AND, I felt it necessary to do my due diligence and enter into this extraordinarily complex world of Integral Theory at a more cognitive level. I had not read one book, or listened to one audio program or watched a video.  A choice I began to regret when I listened to all of the brainpower in the room the night of registration. I remember thinking…”Wow, these folks are so brilliant, I hope I can keep up.” 

LN: This year’s organizers Jennifer Blalock, Michael McElhenie, Kim Harpham, Terry (T) Poling, and Victoria Wilson-Jones, and guest board member, Christine Brautigam, stated their collective intention as being “to inspire and activate the best you have to bring to the emergence of integral leadership; to weave together opportunities and experiences that reveal and nurture integral leadership in ways that are applicable and actionable in service to the world; to discover the needs of our awakening world and reframe and reposition integral leadership as an emerging force for change; to create and participate in a unique interactive learning and practice experience”.[ii]

LP:  The best I had to bring was a beginners mind, my self doubts, and the intention to be in the space with an open, loving heart. My fears were allayed as I listened to Victoria Wilson-Jones and Jeff Salzman speak. The intention they set and I agreed to, came to fruition for me the first night.  It wasn’t so much what they spoke about, it was a place beyond words. It was more about what I heard in the timber in their voices, and how they held themselves and us in the space. The gifts of that conference continued that evening when Christine Brautigam and Jen Blalock gifted me with a crash course on the back deck amongst the wildflowers of the home we were staying in together.  They wanted me to feel more competent the next day, and had the means and the spirit of service to deliver.  That was MY first taste of Integral Feminine Leadership.

LN: The ILiA seems to collectively live the question how shall we define integral leadership? One of the key themes of the conference was the evolving and multiple natures of our knowings and our interpretations. The ILiA collective, like integral theory, is neither monistic nor dogmatic. In fact it is from within dialogical intimacy that the theories and their applications are tested and expanded.

A deeply sourced purpose was invoked by Victoria Wilson-Jones and Bert Parlee in opening remarks on the first evening, followed by ice-shattering real-time speed dating with Kim Harpham-Smith and Jeff Salzman. This mutual invitation to openness and risk carried us through the entire experience. In “What is Integral Leadership?” Brett Thomas, T Poling, and Michael McElhenie courageously shared professional insights in an open and receptive session that set the tone for several rich dialogues on this key question.

LP:  I remember being enveloped in the warmth of Victoria and Bert’s presence. And on the heels of being in a warm interior cocoon, we were asked to enter the fear and discomfort of the initial exercise of the speed dating.  I experienced both my own personal discomfort, and the discomfort of the collective. For me, the discomfort was the fear of exposing oneself, and the risk of not being met. It is the moment of courage that comes when a human being looks into another’s eyes without knowing him/her, and hoping to find compassion, understanding, and connection.  It is also hoping what one gives out is compassion, understanding and connection.  There is always a moment of uncertainty, not being quite sure how your gaze will be met, or how it will be received.  Is this person open enough to drink me in?   Am I a clear enough channel to really see them? The person who entered the space in front of me was Cindy Wigglesworth.  I had known Cindy and followed her career since 2002.  I was introduced to Cindy through a beautiful scholar, Spiritual Edgewalker, and musician named Judy Neal. Cindy and I had spent some time working with the Association for Spirit at Work. I had never been in her physical presence.

Seeing Cindy at that moment…evoked a memory of our shared history.  In the moment our eyes met, I wondered, “Will she remember me? Will she see my face?”

I told her my name, and she said, “I know I know you, I can’t place it, though…I am sorry.”  I said, “It was Judy Neal, the Association of Spirit at Work.” I laughed and reminded her she had never seen me.

She smiled, relaxed, a distant memory emerging, and said, “I am an INTJ, and a five on the Enneagram, these things are always kind of hard for me.”  I experienced what later Jeff Salzman would describe as the compassion of non-duality. He described that moment as the moment, “When someone tells you something, and you just grab your heart, and go, ‘AWWWW.”  Cindy and I just grabbed each others’ bodies in a hug instead.   The intimacy I began to experience was profound.

LN: Amidst intense days and peak experiences this group, many who were first-time attendees, were held a safe container crackling with promise. At the risk of sounding like Lieutenant Uhura, I am an INTJ too!


LN: “Not what I want to do but what needs to be done” urged Don Beck. The call to service as evolutionary impulse was a strong connecting thread in this carefully crafted tapestry. A lot of energy was dedicated to global ‘acupuncture points’ as evolutionary knowing converged around emergent high-leverage situations. In Experience v Memes: Natural Design in Action, Don Beck urged us to attend to the whole spiral. The following day we were fortunate co-participants along with featured colleague Elza Maalouf via Skype in Emerging Narrative in the Middle East: A New Birth in Bethlehem, Don urged us to “Read the patterns and codes and do the strategic work where passion and panic converge”.

LP:  Not what I want to do, but what needs to be done? Holy CRAP. Okay, I am there at passion and panic… NOW WHAT?  That simple statement frightened me.  As a nurse, that call to service can also lead to personal burnout and ill health. Holding the polarity between the I space and the WE space.  The passion in service is to experience the absolute joy it is to serve.  I experience that when I know the service I am competent to provide emerges in the same space with a need to be filled.  It is the moment when what I want and what needs to be done is one in the same.  The difficulty for me as a Type 2 on the Enneagram, comes from my own unasked question, “what do what I NEED for ME, in order to get done what needs to get done for others?  I have been a registered nurse for 20 years and sensed the shadow of the prostitute lurking behind this question.  The archetypal shadow dance between Warrior (Physician=Male) and Prostitute (Nurse=Female) playing itself out in my life, as well as in hospitals across the country.  I began wondering how I have lived in the shadow of the prostitute as nurse, and wondered why I choose to remain in a system that was predicated on the domination of women?  This question was both personal, and impersonal.  It became bigger than me.

LN: Coming full-circle Dean Anderson generously shared key career breakthroughs in Conscious Change Leadership: Insights from 30 Years of Bringing a Conscious Approach to Business. At the cusp of an auspicious beginning, journeyman Sean Esjborn-Hargens was the embodiment of integral methodological pluralism as he walked us through the elegantly situated MetaIntegral inter-organizational ecosystem that boldly seeks to enact loving-kindness over an astoundingly long time horizon. Working also from a global planetary perspective, Barrett Brown articulated next steps beyond the inspiring ramifications of his PhD research in Leadership at the Edge: Insights from Late-Stage Leaders on How to Design and Engage in Complex Change Initiatives in sustainability related networks.

LP: I felt the resonance with energy of the Bodhisattva in Sean Esbjorn-Hargens’ presentation.   It was after his presentation that I could not absorb any more, and needed to process all of the intensity that was being brought forth. So I missed Barrett’s presentation and a few others.  I went and sat in the sun, and talked to Victoria and her husband Steve in order to ground myself.  I was met with a beautiful container of love and healing.

LN: In his or her own unique way, every ILiA attendee was a presenter.  The We-space was choreographed to move through a dynamic flow of mind, body, spirit and shadow- engaging activities. Adam Leonard led Integral Life Practice sessions to begin each day. I opted for extra sleep and later regretted it. We shared gorgeous food, drink, dreams and chocolate mousse every day in the lovely setting of the Chaminade Resort.

LP: The biggest bonus for me, was being able to return each night to a beautiful shared space with two other women.  We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.  We did energy work on one another, and shared a deepening intimacy. The balance between the energy of the conference and having a feminine retreat to return to was the embodiment of perfection.

LN: Another thread was an active presencing of non-dual states and spaces expressed in a communal ‘allergy’ to binaries and categorical oppositions whether of male/female; masculine/ feminine; action/inaction; being/doing, etc. Polarities were honored and managed. Jeff Salzman skillfully guided us to bring the curiosity of beginner’s mind to media messages and debates in Integral Emergence and World Events, and challenged us to be willing to hold the both/and in tension in the global sphere of current affairs. Bert Parlee demonstrated the power and equanimity of Integral Optimism as a crack of awareness that reconciles death and finitude, attachment and letting go. Bert’s deft presentation touched me very deeply. I will never forget it. How might we individually and collectively integrate and enact compassion with clarity, interiorities with efficacy? Sean Esbjorn-Hargens summed it up as “embodied practitioners sourced in open, broken hearts and clear minds”.

LP:  Bert’s presentation hit the core of the vice-to virtue conversion of my typology.  The polarities he chose to present were Pride and Humility. In the Compassion School of The Servant Leadership School of Greensboro, the vice of pride is defined as an “inability or unwillingness to acknowledge one’s own suffering”. [iii]  The virtue is described as a, “sense of benevolence for self and others; the love I am participating in is free and real”. Both of these polarities were very present and real for me during this exercise, as we continued our individual and collective journey into intimacy.

LN: When Willow Dea and Mukti courageously showed up and allowed the unscripted Embodying Radiance: Integral Femininity at Its Core to remain open to the energies present moment to moment, group energies found an uncensored outlet where sex, gender and creative polarities came to the foreground. Plates were ever-shifting, spinning and crashing. How shall we define integral feminine leadership? Quadrants, lines and types were gingerly differentiated and bookmarked for future reference, while together we inquired into power and full self- expression within ILiA, the integral movement and beyond. The courage to surrender prevailed. Although more remains to be discovered in dialogue, one thing seemed clear: the ILiA organization is comprised of conscious men and women representative of a full continuum of sex and gender spaces.


The courage and surrender being brought forth by the experience was marked by archetypal roles emerging in the space.  Dancing between the patterns of light and shadow,  issues of male and female, I noticed the roles of the Provocateur/Fool and the Innocent Child emerge to combat the shadow of the Warrior and the Prostitute.  I could feel the tension in the room, pain unspoken, both my own and the collectives. There were many conversations that the women participants had shared with me in private moments.  They noticed how many white males were presenters, and how few females.  I had no judgment about it really.  I was curious as to how that happened.  So I brought the question to the group during Willow Dea’s and Mukti’s presentation, “Embodying Radiance: Integral Femininity at Its Core.”  It was a scary moment for me, because in the past when I have noticed and spoke the question into the room about an imbalance of power, I have been met by the shadow of both the warrior and the prostitute.  But I couldn’t  keep silent.  With my heart racing, I asked the question.  I said, “I am wondering why there are so many male presenters and so few females?”

I heard a voice of one of the male participants in the room say, “I really don’t want to have this conversation again. Can’t we just get past this?  We have already had this conversation.”  In that moment, I felt like the space for dialogue was closing and wondered if this was a part of the shadow entering the room?

LN: Always holding, without controlling the space, the entire organizing team, the many volunteers and the conference attendees/participants kept things fluid.

LP: Jerry Mackel, a surgeon, said, “I just want to acknowledge Lynne’s purity in asking the question”.  He talked about the space of the innocent child, and that the question took courage.  Lynne Palazzolo, the nurse, and Jerry Mackel the surgeon…met in a place of mutual understanding of the purity of that innocent child (I could spend a year speaking about that as a miracle) and the danger of the shadow masculine/red? Jerry described it in  the phenomena that Ken Wilber calls, “Fuck it or Kill It”.  I think when you don’t know what to do with something, when someone or something creates a disturbance in the field, we can come from one of two placed.  The masculine place of survival energy, is an unconscious (and oh so human) protective response. “Fuck it or Kill It.” 

The after hours lessons of the “Trinity of Rainbow’s Party in the Garden” continued with Jen, Lynne, and Christine. We wondered what the feminine counterpart shadow red/feminine survival instinct would be?  We decided it was “Seduce it, or Deny it.” Oh my God, I realized how much of nursing and healthcare is predicated on these two shadow aspects.  I began to wonder what kind of conversations would we need to have to shift the energy of this dynamic.  How conscious do we need to be?  Do I need to be? How willing must we be to see from another point of view?  How does one stand in the WE space without negotiating away the power of the individual spirit by focusing on material considerations and security above self-empowerment?  I have been professionally acculturated into the shadow of the prostitute…and physicians have been professionally acculturated into the shadow of the warrior.  How do we become true partners, where there is no leader and no follower?

LN: Tapping Into the Infiniti Factor with Bert Parlee, Allison Conte and Dana Carman, was the perfect segue. Integral Chicks Nicole Fegley and Kelly Sosan Bearer conducted interviews on the topic of integral feminine leadership with Victoria Wilson Jones, Cindy Wigglesworth, Lynne Feldman, Willow Dea, and Mukti for feature presentations on the Integral Chicks website. [iv]

LP: I believed after the Tapping Into the Infiniti Factor with Bert Parlee, Allison Conte and Dana Carman presentation, that learning to stand in the polarities of shadow/light of the warrior, and shadow/light of the prostitute is definitely a four quadrant, all hands, all hearts on deck affair.  My sense of it was that the infinity factor held a particular key to our current imbalance in healthcare.  It was the thing I was the most excited about.   Fifty two days after the conference, I had my first conversation with Dana Carman.  We invited one another into another space by asking the question, “What is the nature of respect?”  This conversation is to be continued.

LN: The polarity of action/non-action as it relates to spiritual practice was expertly engaged from the standpoint of the collective by Jeff Carreira in Excellence Training at EnlightenNext: How Collective Awakening Changes Everything, and from the standpoint of the individual by Cindy Wigglesworth in Spiritual Weightlifting for the Integral Leader.

LP: Bravo/Brava for the embodiment of masculine AND feminine leadership of all of the conference planners, participants, hotel staff, etc.  Most importantly, thank you to Jen, and Christine for holding me in the womb of the divine feminine we created together.  And to Lisa for inviting me to share my story. It kept the energy of the conference alive for me. I am excited about our next chapter, and grateful to be given an opportunity to turn the page, and write another chapter. I would be interested to know what other “Miraculous” meetings emerged in the space WE created with and for one another? Looking forward to the next ILiA conference, and continuing our journeys together.


[i] ILiA 2012 program

[ii] Ibid.

iii. 2006 Compassion Circle Practice, Servant Leadership School of Greensboro

[iii] Ibid.

iii. 2006 Compassion Circle Practice, Servant Leadership School of Greensboro


About the Authors

Lynne Palazzolo, is a registered nurse consultant who facilitates cultural change in the utilization of the Electronic Health Record.  Her mission in life is. “To touch the heart of science, and heal the soul of the healer.”

Lisa Norton, Professor, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects, teaches, consults and facilitates organizational development and change via design. She is a columnist for ILR focusing on design and leadership.