Integral City EXPO & eLaboratory

Marilyn Hamilton

Grow Leaders ? Grow Habitat; Add Speed Bumps, Surprises and Synchronicities

Marilyn Hamilton

“Make no small plans for they do not have the power to move human’s souls.”

Create a Learning Habitat

Marilyn Hamilton

In integral circles, when we talk about designing leadership development capacities, some of us have been known to talk about “creating habitats for leadership learning”. What on earth (or heaven?) does a habitat for learning leadership look like? Is it a bootcamp? Is it an Executive MBA with all the bells and whistles? Is it a meditation retreat? Or is it a design challenge that stretches everyone on the team in unexpected, emergent, generative ways?

Our current experience in designing the Integral City 2.0 Online Conference (Expo and eLaboratory) is that it is all this and more!! This experience reminds me about what I have learned teaching in the Schools of Leadership and Sustainable Communities (at Royal Roads University) – you need a dynamic habitat (aka community) to raise a leader – just the same as you need that village to raise the child.

Watch for Informal Leadership

One of my students who works for a ministry of environmental sustainability undertook a study to find out about informal leadership in her work place. What she found was that most of the initiatives that took place in the field came from people who were not positional leaders. Nevertheless their peers and co-workers knew who they were and naturally sought them out. Effectively these informal leaders were volunteering to lead when they faced unexpected challenges in their work habitats, and their communities of practice recognized them for that.

On the project team for the Integral City 2.0 Online Conference that we designed for live delivery for four weeks, in September 2012, we found that leadership broke out everywhere. The project we took on – to co-create the future of the human hive, by asking “how do you design a new operating systems for the city?” –  was bigger than, more different than, more complex than most of us have encountered before. These are all conditions for a habitat that creates problems, difficulties, speed bumps, resistances and blocks – in fact everything that Clare Graves predicted was needed in order to create the conditions for change.

Every person who volunteered to be on the development team had core competencies that they put on offer. Before they turned up, their lives were running relatively well with most problems solved. But when we hit unexpected problems related to their project tasks, their life conditions changed quickly from fair weather to foul. Sometimes we even hit a tsunami of surprises where resources disappear (e.g. family members demand our time and attention as priority one); restrictions flare up (e.g. competition from other programs rears its head) and tensions stop the flow (e.g. personal styles block communications).

These are the life conditions that can stop us in our tracks, lead to melt downs, burnouts or bailouts and demand re-framing, re-sourcing, re-thinking and re-generating.

They are also exactly the life conditions that are needed to grow leadership capacity. Because these were the times, when we saw leaderful practise in and on and as the team. The pattern went something like this:

Problem arises. Tensions emerge. Someone calls for a pause. Silence creates a container of non-anxiousness. Quietly someone has the courage to voice a possible solution or name the seemingly undiscussable tension. Someone else has already tried a different way and reports why it won’t work. While yet another person figures out not just the needed work-around but an inspired elevation to another level. We breakthrough and move on.

The principles of leadership that emerged in the teamwork align with what integral frameworks tell us is possible:

  • Practise mutual trust and respect
  • Be mindful of self and others
  • Listen
  • Be curious
  • Take courage to try something different
  • Ask for help
  • Identify tensions when they happen – don’t carry them around as withholds
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Never stop repeating the higher purpose we are called to serve – that is our anchor and our reference for coherence, decision making and aligning resources.

When we have practised these ways of working as a team, we have attracted new volunteers (Linda invited Shyrl and Karen and she invited Sylvia; Shyrl invited Kathy; Eric attracted Alia and DavidB; Brett brought in Ewan; Beth found DavidF). We found new solutions for old problems (eg. using Maestro for weekly team meetings). We imagined new outcomes (creating both Expo and Collective from the original eLab). And we attracted new alliances (with Royal Roads University, International Institute of Sustainable Development, Rabobank and Kosmos).

Leadership On Purpose

For in this project, we were called in service to a purpose that seemed inspiring enough to overcome the difficulties. The idea of “co-creating the future of the human hive by designing a new operating system for the city” was appealing and daunting. But somewhere, everyone on the team claimed their willingness to contribute to a vision larger than any one of us or even all of us together.

Such purposes are psycho-active and they have a way of incenting the team to ever greater acts of leadership.

As we started the intensive work on the project, the Olympics 2012 were moving into their closing ceremonies. Looking back, it seems to me that, the upliftment of all the world’s athletes was not equal to the acts of individual and collective leadership we experienced on this team.

When we completed the live events of the conference (no matter the outcome of its next phases), this team was positioned to pay forward to other spheres of influence, the experience of growing our leadership in a dynamic habitat that demanded we wake up, grow up and take responsibilities just like the conference challenged the human species to do so on behalf of our planet of cities.

Invitation to Grow Your Leadership

If you’d like to grow your leadership in a growing habitat – come see what continue to work on at the conference here – .  We’d love to have you join the leadership stretch!!

You’ll have the chance to learn from the wisdom of over 50 amazing global leaders and practise your leadership skills with a dynamically inspiring project team: Marketing and Web developers Brett Thomas, Ewan Townhead, Cheryl Neary and Alia Aurami; co-pilot and partner collaborator Cherie Beck; Speaker Supporters Linda Shore, Shyrl Kennedy, Kathy Taberner, Sylvia Storry, Janna Jorgensen; Volunteer Supporters Karen Storry and Jordan Allen;  Maestro Hosts Eric Troth and; Harvesters Beth Sanders, Erin Elliott, Rob Elliott; Interviewers Beth Sanders, David Faber; and Member Support Team Jake Jennings and Alia Aurami, and all the volunteer leaders who are still contributing to the conference.

We look forward to sharing our learning and leading with you.


Graves, C. (1974). Human Nature Prepares for a Momentous Leap The Futurist.

Hamilton, M. (2008). Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive. Gabriola Island BC: New Society Publishers.

Hamilton, M. (2012 in press). Leadership to the Power of 8: Leading Self to Supra System. WiPsy.

Integral City Collective, eLaboratory and Expo

Integral City Meshworks Website:

 About the Author

Marilyn Hamilton, PhD, CGA, CSP,  is founder of Integral City Meshworks Inc. and TDG Global Learning Connections . She is a charter member of Integral Institute, Globe Sustainable City Awards, Centre for Human Emergence: Canada, Canadian Professional Sustainability Institute and Training Trainers for Spiral Dynamics integral. Author of Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive (2008, New Society Publishers) Marilyn hosts, applies and teaches Integral City intelligences for designing change in the city that is ecologically informed and operationally integrated with a community of practise in Canada, USA, Mexico, Scandinavia, Europe, Russia, Asia and Australia. Gender, generations and evolution have been themes on which she has recently published.

Contact: ; ; blog; twitter integralcity  Integral City Meshworks Inc. Unit 24-4001 Old Clayburn Rd., Abbotsford, BC, Canada V3G1C5; Royal Roads University