Innovation = Regenerating Knowledge | Integral Worlds Theory

The Integrators Theory

Interestingly enough, leadership does represent some kind of evolution from pioneering entrepreneurship and “differentiated” management, so to speak. Yet this is only so if the individual leaders are ecosystemically aligned with an evolving form of “integrated” organization. We call those, duly aligned with their organisations and most especially with their societies, not entrepreneurs, nor managers, nor leaders, but organisational and societal integrators, each one personally and culturally distinctive.

Starting Point: Leadership Frustration

This development of the theory and practice of Integrators was born out of a particular frustration, on the one hand, and a glorious opportunity, on the other. And the two are connected. First comes the frustration. As a student, teacher and practitioner of, and consultant in, management over the last fifty years, in America (Harvard Business School in Cambridge), Britain (City University Business School in London), continental Europe (IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland), and South Africa (Wits Graduate Business School in Johannesburg) as well as Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe University Business School in Harare), I (Ronnie Lessem) was enormously frustrated by the recent eclipse of management, in favor of individual leadership.

Having been immersed for decades in the inordinate richness of management and organizational literature, spanning not only all the variegated business functions but also the development of self, organization and society, I find the excessive focus on individual leadership today, bereft of the management of organizations, to be incredibly myopic. In fact, as the Dean of Harvard College, Professor Rakesh Khurana has put it, in his Higher Minds to Hired Hands :

“.. Eventually business schools began responding to the clarion call for developing leaders, not managers. In the 1990’s, for example, Harvard shifted from its emphasis on general management to “educating leaders who make a difference in the world”. One of the central features of a bone fide profession is a coherent body of expert knowledge built upon a well-developed theoretical foundation. The renowned American business executive and writer Chester Barnard in fact observed in the 1930’s that the “Great Man” view on leadership generated “an extraordinary amount of dogmatically stated nonsense”. Leadership, as such, lacks a usable body of knowledge to go with it.

Fellow Integrators’ Opportunity

The opportunity that has risen, for me especially over the course of the past two decades, more recently together with my Trans4m partner Alexander Schieffer, is that we have had the good fortune to work closely with some extraordinary integrators, from Africa, Europe and Asia, albeit all of us influenced by America.

These notable integrators, and their organisations, form the practical substance of this book, serving to embody, as we shall see, so called “spectral”, and “integral” theory, developed over the past four decades.

Embodying such, all close associates of ours to be introduced to you, we have Dr Ibrahim Abouleish as founder of the Sekem Group in Egypt; Father Arizemendi (sadly late, but well known to us in spirit) the co-founder of Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain; Dr Hassib Sayhoun, co-founder of Medlabs Laboratories in Jordan; Father Anselm Adodo, founder of Pax Herbals in Nigeria; Frans van der Colff, co-founder of Foodlovers spread across Africa; A.T. Ariyaratne, founder of Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka; Indy Johar, co-founder of the worldwide Impact Hubs; and notably Richard Branson, creator of the global Virgin Group, known to us through the inimitable CEO, and integrator, of Virgin Money, Jayne-Annne Gadhia. We are privileged then to be fellow travelers with these illustrious integrators, spread across, and duly embodying, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

Integrator and Integration

Entrepreneur to Integrator

As such we make the case for what we – that is my partner Alexander Schieffer and I as co-founders of Trans4m ) – term an “integral” approach, where personal origination, for one character or another, in one place/ society or another, is followed by managerial and organizational foundation. Thereafter, individual leadership has its subsequently emancipatory place, only when set within a developing self, and organization as well as a particular society. Finally and ultimately for us, integral transformation follows when all of such is not only differentiated but also integrated : self, organisation and society, set within a particular world, in relation to other worlds, psychologically and culturally.

As such, we give rise to the new notion of the “Integrator” in the 21st century. Such an integrator, emerges as a further evolution of personal entrepreneurship (or “intrapreneurship”) in the 19th century, management in the 20th, and leadership, in the 21st, centuries. Moreover, such an integrator, in each particular part of the world, only becomes fully such, by virtue of such differentiation and integration, to the extent that he or she gives rise to a newly evolved form of enterprise. Such an entity, in most cases transcending the corporate or organizational form as we know it today, has in fact already been anticipated in theory, as we shall see, but not yet, overall, been realized in practice, within particular societies. So the conventional business enterprise, and corporate institution, continue to rule the roost, around the world, whether it is appropriate or not, whether either is “pioneered”, “managed” or “led”.

Such differentiation and ultimately integration, that we are seeking then, arises out of both a personal individuation, that is self actualization, and of societal acculturation, or organizational-and-cultural evolution.

The Evolution of Enterprise

The late and great American management guru, Peter Drucker, who almost singlehandedly invented the discipline of management in the first half of last century, made the following critical point in his Management: Tasks, Analysis and Practices, published in the 1970’s:

The change from a business which the owner-entrepreneur can run with “helpers” to a business that requires managers, is a sweeping change. It can be made only if basic concepts, basic principles, and individual vision are changed radically. You can compare two such different kinds of business to different kinds of organism: the insect, which is held together by a tough, hard skin, and the vertebrate animal, which has a skeleton. Land animals which are supported by a hard skin cannot grow beyond a few inches in size. To be larger, animals must have a skeleton. Yet the skeleton has not evolved out of the hard skin of an insect; for it is a different organ with different antecedents.

So, from our point of view, rather than face up to the limitations of “skeletal management”, in Drucker’s terms, we all too simplistically “go back to the insect”, the entrepreneur or charismatic leader so to speak, for a new lease of life. The only difference now, in the new millennium is that such an insect as it were, as an entrepreneur definitively speaking, can be social as well as business oriented. Like Henry Ford said, “you can have any car as long as it’s black”. So, today, you can have any kind of person at the helm, of a social or economic, public or civic enterprise, as long as he or she is an “entrepreneur” or more especially now a “leader”. The fact that there can be much more to leadership (we are not throwing out the leading baby with the integrating bathwater!), if it is aligned with an evolved form of organization, has passed most people by. For we like to keep things simple, and we are also creatures of habit!

What then gets left out of account, at least in our view, as for Harvard based Khurana’s (see above) is three things. Firstly, an entrepreneur, and enterprise, should befit one kind of distinctive person, and indeed culture, or another. That is why I came up with the term Intrapreneurs, in the 1980’s, to reflect such a variegated spectrum of initiative-takers, from innovator to adventurer, as opposed to one singular type of “entrepreneur”, with many in between. Secondly, such pioneering enterprise, subsequently differentiated management and organization (see Lievegoed’s “Developing Organization” below), followed by would-be integrated leadership and organization – leadership being thereby a transitional rather than ultimate category – should follow each other developmentally, each inclusive of what has come before.

Moreover, most significantly, ultimate integration, and the integrator to go with it, transcends the very notion of an enterprise (entrepreneur), organization (management), or indeed leader (and the equivalent new “organization” form). We shall see all of such operationalized through the life, work and organizations of our integrators, each in their particular societies, in the practical chapters that follow the theory, manifested over the course of their individual and institutional development. What about, then, the initial theory that underlies such?

Developmental Management and the Developing Organisation

In the 1970’s and 1980’s in fact, a new breed of business academic emerged, with a view to taking management theory, and practice, onto a next level of its evolution, leadership at that point not having assumed its current-day dominance. Preeminent amongst these thinkers, for us, was Hollander Bernard Lievegoed who, in The Developing Organisation, argued that the next phase in an organization’s evolution, from pioneering (entrepreneurship or our intrapreneurship) and differentiation (scientific management) was that of Integration. In this phase, for him, it was crucial, that the organization develop a social (unfortunately he did not distinguish between different forms of “social” and cultural – be they in our case for example English or Palestinian, Nigerian or Sri Lankan) subsystem and integrate it with the already existing economic and technical subsystems. For Lievegoed this is a gradual process, but an essential one. The ultimately integrated organisation is characterized by the following :

  • Interlinked, smaller, relatively independent units are set up.
  • Self-planning, self-organisation and self-control ensue.
  • It rests on the conviction that every person can and wants to develop.
  • Personal fulfillment can be achieved in the work situation.

Sadly, Lievegoed’s integrated words of organisational wisdom were thereafter eclipsed by a personalized approach to leadership, whether “transformative” or otherwise. Yet his developmental approach was by no means a voice in the wilderness. In fact, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, I co-evolved with the UK publisher Blackwell’s a whole series of books on what we then termed Developmental Management, involving the work of seminal theorists, spread across diverse cultures across the globe, with whom I had become personally associated, through our mutual academic and consulting circles. The likes of the Learing Organization (Senge), Spiral Dynamics (Beck and Cowan), Requisite Organisation (Jacques), and Transcultural Management (Koopman) are cases in point.

My own work at the time, in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, was based on Spectral Theory drawn from the seminal approach of British psychologist and social innovator Kevin Kingsland (see initial chapters to follow in this book). Such work of mine was first embodied in so called Intrapreneurship, which represented my variegated individual and cultural takes on the singular notion of entrepreneurship. Subsequently then, my Indian colleague Sudhanshu Palsule and I wrote a book on Managing in Four Worlds followed by my more academically based Management Development through Cultural Diversity, written in the 1990’s, combining the spectral now the integral (see below). Through this work I turned from a variegated spectrum of intrapreneurs to what I then considered to be more evolved managers, organizations, and leadership.

In the new millennium moreover, with the birth of Trans4m, together with Alexander Schieffer, our integral worlds came into being, applied to integral enterprise, economics, polity, research, development, and renewal amongst other things. Overall,  we brought together integral realities (south and east, north and west); realms (nature, culture, technology and economy), most especially for our purposes here integral rhythm (origination, foundation, emancipation and transformation), and ultimately integral rounds of self, organization, society and ultimately uni-versity.

What was missing until then, in individual person, was the notion of an integrator (see commonwealth to civic integrators below), serving to align the spectral and the integral, individually and institutionally, via thereby integration, in a particular part of the world, in specific relation to other worlds. Such an variegated integrator (integration) is both inclusive, but also a further accumulative evolution of, the intrapreneur (enterprise), the manager (organisation) and the leader (ecosystem). This then is what Integrators are about.

In the final analysis, while the evolution from enterprise to management was clear-cut, at least in its singular American context, the subsequent evolution of leadership, individually, was not matched, in practice, by a similarly coherent development of self-organization-society, ecosystemically. This is a matter we seek to address here, duly following our integral rhythm, from origination (entrepreneur) to foundation (manager), onto emancipation (leader) and ultimate transformation (fully fledged integrator), critically together with the organizational counterparts of each one. We then undertake such for each of eight individually and culturally differentiated kinds of integrator, and integration.

The end result of such a spectral and integral journey will be the cast of integrators, individually, and integration, institutionally, portrayed below, as Egyptian and Basque, Palestinian and Nigerian, South Africa and Sri Lankan, Anglo-American and Anglo-Indian, respectively :

  • Innovator Abouleish : Commonwealth Integrator : Sustainable Commonwealth
  • Enabler Arizmendi : Cooperative Integrator : Cooperative Association
  • Executive Sayhoun : Institutional Integrator : Integrated Organisation
  • Animateur Adodo : Communal Integrator : Communitalism
  • Entrepreneur Van der Colff: Corporate Integrator : Corporate Ecosystem
  • Adopter Ariyaratne : Individual-Societal Integrator : Collective Awakening
  • Adventurer Branson : Eco Integrator : Eco-service Provider
  • Change Agent Johar : Civic Integrator : Impact Hub


Note: This summary is based on Lessem R (2016). The Integrators: Beyond Leadership, Knowledge and Value Creation