The Integral Leadership Collaborative has kicked off a four-week online gathering of Integral leaders with an impressive opening play. Ken Wilber, the “MPV” of Integral Theory and one of the leading public intellectuals of our time, spoke to the gathering yesterday.
The conference itself is one of the most ambitious online experiences that I’ve encountered. It is slated to run from August 15 through September 10, and includes live events as well as interactive discussions connecting practitioners of integral leadership with many of today’s integral thought leaders.
Firstly, Wilber explained the central tenets of his Integral Theory, including a look at concepts such as levels or stages, lines, types, states, and quadrants. Subsequently, he situated integral theories of leadership in the present context of other ways of thinking on leadership. He said:
What particularly distinguishes Integral leadership theories is their profound inclusiveness and comprehensiveness. Moreover, they’re one of the few models that explicitly include a developmental component: all lines go through the various levels. As also previously noted, these levels or stages have truly profound and significantly different characteristics. The cultural wars in the West for example are driven by three of the first-tier levels: traditional values, modern values, and postmodern values. And yet the role of these stages in culture wars is rarely if ever mentioned or even noticed. These levels of development are one of the most important molders of culture that is, and yet their role goes largely unnoticed.
The same is true of their impact on leadership theories. A theory stemming from modern values is significantly different from one stemming from postmodern, a fact very rarely noted. Except by integral theories, which go out of the way to include a developmental component, and often several of them, with different developmental dimensions for different quadrants and levels, and states for example. But one item is unmistakable: a truly comprehensive theory of leadership will definitely most include developmental or evolutionary dimensions. [Transcript by J.P.]
Wilber also says that integral theories of leadership are increasingly replacing postmodern theories in the practice of leadership. Older theories, he says, are winding down as new integral models arise which are able to make sense of more dimensions of leadership. He also addressed provocative questions about the differences between men’s and women’s leadership styles, whether Barack Obama is an example of an Integral leader, and the Dalai Lama’s leadership style.
Both men and women, Wilber said, have been found by Carol Gilligan and others to evolve hierarchically, even though men to think hierarchically more than women. Gilligan identified a fourth stage, called “Integrated,” which fits very much in line with other developmental theories. “Boys have wings, girls have roots,” Wilber quotes another thinker as saying, highlighting the tendency for men and women to have different leadership styles at least at earlier stages of development before the traits become more alike at later stages.
Ken Wilber says he saw Barack Obama’s campaign progress in the 2008 campaign as almost literally a transformation from a pluralistic, postmodern, green, highly liberal to an integral stance in which he started talking about trans-partisanship. Now that he’s in office, there seems to be a lot of disappointment about his performance. One way of reading the disappointment is to say that he’s transformed into a trans-partisan mentality which offends the highly partisan players in Washington. If that’s the case, then he’s showing us “what Washington is not quite yet ready for.”
Although registration for the ILC event is now closed, individuals may sign up to receive announcements about future ILC events. Meanwhile, if you’d like to be a fly on the wall, Awake, Alive & Aware will be blogging on highlights from the gathering over the next month.