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Leadership Development - An Integral Approach from a Christian Perspective

Updated on May 27, 2013

Faced with the onslaught of burgeoning globalization, Wilber (2000) postulated an integral system approach to organizations and leadership within organizations which he called a Theory of Everything (Wilber; Haladay, 2006). This integral system approach or construct posited that organizations are collective wholes and that each part of an organization (both individuals and groups) can only be understood in light of the organization as a whole and its other constituting parts.

Moreover, Wilber demonstrated that leaders who want to move their respective enterprises to greater heights in the 21st century must develop themselves in a manner that takes into account all constituting aspects of the organization. Those aspects include (a) their own personal lives; (b) the members of their workforce and other stakeholders; (c) their business enterprise and its environment; (d) their existing and potential customer base; and (e) their social responsibility to society at large.

This hub outlines an integral system of leadership development from a Christian perspective including self-analysis and review in order that Christian executives and other organizational leaders may be more effective in leading their enterprises in the 21st century. Given the space and scope of this hub it is not possible to cover all assessments and action plans available to the leadership practitioner so only a few essential points will be touched upon along with some of the instruments and tools one can employ to develop as an integral leader.

Four Quadrants of Leadership Development

In positing the integral system construct, Wilber (2000) divided all aspects of individuals and organizations into four quadrants of human potentiality. Looking at Figure 1 below, the four quadrants of human potentiality were partitioned vertically according to the internal-external interactions and horizontally according to the individual-collective interactions with (a) self and consciousness or the intentional (the individual - internal) placed in the upper left hand quadrant; (b) brain and organism or the behavioral (individual – external) in the upper right hand quadrant; (c) culture and worldview (collective – internal) in the lower left hand quadrant; and (d) social system and environment (collective – external) placed in the lower right hand quadrant.

Following Wilber, Haladay (2006) showed that how a leader acts in one quadrant impacts his or her attitudes and behaviors in respect to each of the others, demonstrating the need for 21st century leaders to develop their knowledge and skills on all fronts of the integral continuum (p. 26). Accordingly, this integral system of leadership development suggests a full four quadrant approach and is focused into training pursuits related to each of Wilber’s four quadrants including such things as (a) personal mental, emotional, and spiritual growth (interior-individual or upper left-hand quadrant); (b) personal outward behaviors (exterior-individual or upper right-hand quadrant); (c) internal mechanisms and relationships within the organization (interior-collective or lower left-hand quadrant); and (d) sustainable competitive advantage and social responsibility (exterior-collective or lower right-hand quadrant). Specifically, and in accordance with these four quadrants, the would-be integral leader is encouraged to develop in four styles of leadership corresponding to the four quadrants including

1. Spiritual leadership – pertaining to the self or the intentional;

2. Servant leadership – pertaining to the behavioral;

3. 360˚ Leadership – pertaining to the culture within the organization;

4. Cross-cultural leadership and social entrepreneurship – pertaining to leading organizations that have a positive impact on society as a whole.

Upper Left Quadrant – Spiritual Leadership

This integral system of leadership development begins by focusing on the personal internal growth of the leader himself, focusing on the emotional and spiritual aspects of the individual. It seems rather common that leaders get wrapped up in the day to day grind of the organization that they neglect their own continued inner personal development and growth. This point was emphasized at a recent leadership conference in Cambodia where the speaker admonished local church leaders and teachers to never stop learning and growing to the end of their respective lives (personal communication, 2010). If pastors and other church leaders want the members of their congregations to grow spiritually, then they will pursue and model personal spiritual growth. Blackaby and Blackaby (2001) wrote

…ultimately leadership is more about ‘being’ than about ‘doing.’ Leadership development is synonymous with personal development. As leaders grow personally, they increase their capacity to lead. As they increase their capacity to lead, they enlarge the capacity of their organization to grow. Therefore, the best thing leaders can do for their organizations is to grow personally. (p. 31).

So, developing as an integral leader includes personal spiritual growth and development. What resources are available to the Christian organizational leader to assist them in personal spiritual formation and growth?

Besides joining a Bible study or small group in a local church, one suggested resource for personal spiritual formation and growth is Renovaré. “Renovaré is a nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God” (p. 1). Some of the programs made available by Renovaré include printed materials, annual conferences, and local chapters in the United States and other countries around the world from where small groups and accountability partnerships are made available to interested parties. Renovaré makes a special emphasis on spiritual formation through the regular practice of spiritual disciplines e.g. Bible study, meditation, prayer, fasting from food and media, times of silence and solitude, and practicing the presence of God throughout the day. Another resource from this organization is the Renovaré Institute with a concentrated curriculum dedicated to personal spiritual formation. For this integral system of leadership development, it is suggested that the Christian organizational leader join a Renovaré group and work through their apprentice program or enroll in their Institute which will prepare the participant for a lifelong journey of personal growth.

Upper Right Quadrant – Servant Leadership

The second area of this integral system of leadership development focuses on the leader’s personal outward behavior which Wilber highlighted in the upper right quadrant of his integral scheme. Each person is more than just an internal self; they also exude an external presence in the world. Leaders particularly exist to influence others and their personal outward behavior can inspire or squelch productivity (Maxwell). Two leadership styles which are practically synonymous and focus on the external behaviors of leaders are servant leadership and agapao love leadership. Servant leadership, first posited by Greenleaf (1977) and more recently by Patterson (2003), gives priority to the needs of the follower over against the needs and objectives of the organization or the leader. Greenleaf observed that a true leader is motivated first to serve others and then to lead them. Patterson outlined seven characteristics fundamental to servant leadership beginning with agapao love which guides a leader to (a) act with humility; (b) be altruistic; (c) be visionary for the follower; (d) be trusting; (e) empower followers; (f) and serve them (Patterson, 2003; Dennis & Bocarnea, 2005; Waddell, 2006).

Wong (2003) observed that some workers may not be prepared to work under a servant leader and outlined guidelines for workers and leaders attempting to work in a servant leadership context:

1. Both leaders and workers need to treat each other with respect and dignity as human beings.

2. Both leaders and workers need to give each other honest feedback in a safe and trusting environment.

3. Both leaders and workers need to be honest and truthful with each other, because without trust, it is difficult to work together.

4. Workers are entitled to know what direction the company is going, and why, but they are not entitled to know all the information leading to that direction.

5. In the event when there is the need for a drastic change of direction, which seriously affects the workers, it is important to inform and consult the workers first.

6. Leaders are not under any obligation to explain their every decision, but when their decisions have a direct negative impact on the workers, they really need to justify them.

7. Both leaders and workers need to put aside their ego and selfish agenda in order to implement SL successfully (p. 11).

Recently, two assessments have been created to help an organizational leader discern how they are progressing in their competency as a servant leader including (a) the Servant Leader Profile – Revised developed by Wong and Page (2003) and (b) the Servant Leadership Assessment Instrument created by Dennis and Bocarnea (2005). The instrument by Wong and Page helps the leader assess his own leader styles while the second instrument by Dennis and Bocarnea is administered to followers and specifically measures the presence of the seven characteristics outlined in Patterson’s theory of servant leadership. To grow in his outward behaviors as a servant leader, the Christian organizational leader is advised to utilize the two instruments then devise an action plan for improvement based on the results.

Lower Left Quadrant – Capacities Related to the Internal Environment of the Firm

The third quadrant in Wilber’s integral system focuses on the internal environment of the organization (or the collective-internal). It addresses the leader’s work inside the organization and the organizational culture. From the theories of quantum physics, Wheatley (2001) demonstrated the importance of relationships on every level of existence down to the most microscopic quantum particles. She showed how particles collide together for brief moments in time to create new particles informed for some momentary task before disbanding or dissipating altogether. From these observations, Wheatley argued for participative leadership which allows members from all levels of the organization to be involved in the design and development of corporate or departmental strategy and practice. In setting forth her argument for participative leadership, she highlighted how each person comes to an organization with different insights and competencies that corporate limits the growth of the organization when it restricts information processing and decision-making.

To grow in the collective-internal quadrant of life, the would-be integral leader is encouraged to grow in competency as what has recently been coined “360˚ Leadership”. 360˚ leadership is participative in nature. 360˚ leaders openly interact and build relationships with members from all levels of an enterprise including superiors, peers, and subordinates for the common good of the enterprise (Maxwell, 2005). Many leadership consulting firms these days offer resources for developing competencies in 360˚ leadership including Maximum Impact; The Leadership Circle; The Crawford Group, and The Center for Creative Leadership. For the purposes of this integral system of development, it is suggested that the practitioner access the resources made available at The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL, 2010). CCL has leadership development programs related to all four quadrants in the integral system including 360˚ assessment tools and consultants to aide in the development of a 360˚ organizational culture.

Lower Right Quadrant – Capacities Related to the External Environment of the Firm

The fourth quadrant in Wilber’s (2000) integral system addresses the collective-external aspects of leadership and organizational behavior. Like individuals, corporations are not merely the sum total of their internal processes, but exist to impact the world at large. As such, organizations have a social responsibility to act in ways that benefit society as whole. Furthermore, in these days of globalization and cultural amalgamation, leaders need to develop cross-cultural competencies or risk becoming ineffective and irrelevant including the ability to communicate well in cross-cultural settings. Areas of leadership development related to the external environment of the firm include corporate strategy and vision, social responsibility initiatives, and interacting with principals of other firms including those from other cultural backgrounds.

To grow in the fourth quadrant competencies, three suggestions are made here. First, transform your organization into a learning organization by becoming a strategic leader as defined by Hughes and Beatty (2005) in their book by the same name Becoming a Strategic Leader.In the book Hughes and Beatty outline a step-by-step process to convert an organization into an entity which is continuously ready to adapt to changes in the external business environment. The book also includes an assessment instrument STRAT to gauge strategic leadership within the organization. Take the assessment and then develop an action plan for improvement.

Second, assess your organization’s commitment to social responsibility. The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) (2010) has made available a number of instruments that measure commitment to social responsibility including the Social Responsibility Maturity Matrix that can be used to evaluate your firm’s progress in social responsibility efforts. Take the assessment and create an action plan to strengthen your organization’s impact on the external environment.

Third, understand your own leadership type and your wants and needs in interpersonal relationships. While this suggestion may cross into quadrants one and two aforementioned above, knowing yourself will help you know how best to approach relationships in cross-cultural settings and those outside the firm. CPP is an organization that developed two assessment tools for this purpose including the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and FIRO-B. The MBTI has been used extensively around the world to help members within organizations understand their differences in personality types and how to work together given those differences in personalities. The FIRO-B allows individuals to understand their behavior and that of others in interpersonal relationships by helping them identify their wants and needs in a relationship. It is suggested that you take both the MBTI and the FIRO-B. After they are scored, CPP will provide a summary report with explanations and helpful tips for future personal and business interactions. It is suggested here that you take both assessments and devise action plans based on the feedback in the generated reports.


Faced with the onslaught of burgeoning globalization, Wilber (2000) postulated an integral system approach to organizations and leadership within organizations which he called a Theory of Everything (Wilber; Haladay, 2006). This integral system approach or construct posited that organizations are collective wholes and that each part of an organization (both individuals and groups) can only be understood in light of the organization as a whole and its other constituting parts. This study outlined an integral system of leadership development for Christian organizational leaders in order that they might by more effective leaders in the 21st century. Given the space and scope of this brief study it was not possible to cover all assessments and action plans available to the leadership practitioner so only a few essential points were touched upon along with some of the instruments and tools one could employ to develop as an integral leader.


(2009). Online Assessment Delivery.

(2010). Social Responsibility Maturity Matrix. ISM.

(2010). Programs. Center for Creative Leadership.

(2010). Who We Are? Renovare USA.

Blackaby, H. & Blackaby, R. (2001). Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Dennis, R. S., & Bocarnea, M. (2005). Development of the servant leadership assessment instrument.Leadership & Organization Development Journal; 2005; 26, 7/8; pp. 600-615.

Haladay; Diana, J. (n.d). Integral leadership: A case study of Dorothy Day's leadership of the Catholic Worker movement. Fielding Graduate University, Retrieved from ProQuest: ABI/INFORM Complete database.

Hughes, R. L. & Beatty, K. C. (2005). Becoming a Strategic Leader. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Maxwell, J. C. (2005). The 360˚ Leader. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Patterson, Kathleen Ann (2003). Servant leadership: A theoretical model. Ph.D. dissertation, Regent University, United States -- Virginia. Retrieved July 2, 2010, from Dissertations & Theses @ Regent University.(Publication No. AAT 3082719).

Waddell, J. T. (2006). Servant Leadership. Servant Leader Research Roundtable.

Wheatley, M. J. (2006). Leadership and the New Science. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Wilber, K. (2000). A Theory of Everything. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications.

Winston, B. (2002). Be a Leader for God’s Sake. Virginia Beach, VA: School of Leadership Regent University.

Wong, P. T. P. (2003). An Opponent-Process Model of Servant Leadership and a Typology of Leadership Styles. Servant Leadership Roundtable – Trinity Western University.

Wong, P. T. P. & Page, D. (n.d. b). Servant leadership profile revised.


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    • serenityjmiller profile image

      Serenity Miller 2 years ago from Brookings, SD

      Splendid analysis. I'm sharing this one!

    • profile image

      RGoreckiJr 5 years ago

      I recently stumbled across your works... great stuff here in this article. Missing Figure 1 below, the four quadrants of human potentiality though. Can you fix?

    • heart4theword profile image

      heart4theword 7 years ago from hub

      Looks like you put allot of time into the hub? Some of this, I have to admit was over my head. Of course that might not take much, I guess I am not much of a philosopher:) Good Job!

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 7 years ago from Corona, California

      Dave, I agree with you that Wilber does not have Christians in mind nor is he a disciple of Jesus Christ. In fact, I believe that the only truly integral framework for life is found in God and his Kingdom as revealed through the Bible. However, we Christians continue to allow New Age philosophers and other seculr thinkers like Wilber to hijack the principles of God's Kingdom. God through his Scriptures addresses the whole person - mind, body, and soul and his Scriptures demonstrate that salvation through Jesus is open to every man, woman, and child from every tribe and nation on earth. God's principles are meant to impact every area of our lives. God's Word testifies to the only true integral philosophy of life. All others like Wilber's are false. Let's stand for the true source of a complete life.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      This Wilber Haliday definitely did not have Christians in mind, as none of this is tied into Holy Bible Principles and therefore cannot be applied to Christian Lifestyles or business ethecs.

      Brother Dave.


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