4. The Leadership Rosetta Stone

The Rosetta Stone is an ancient Egyptian artifact on which the same information is inscribed in three different languages: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Demotic, and Greek. Once discovered, the Rosetta Stone allowed researchers to decode the language of Egyptian hieroglyphs for the first time in history.

Today, the term “Rosetta Stone” is used idiomatically to describe any critical key that unlocks something previously impossible to decipher.

Integral Leadership represents a synthesis and integration of many useful frameworks and insights from the past 100 years of management and leadership theory, sociology, and psychology. The field of leadership theory points to many different approaches and “leadership styles.” The field of psychology (various branches) point to a myriad of factors that influence people’s motivation and behavior. The “Leadership Rosetta Stone” is a meta-framework that integrates the most important and useful of these leadership theories and psychological models.

In terms of leadership theory, this model represents simplicity on the other side of fifty years of theoretical complexity. In terms of practice, this methodology allows leaders to quickly and accurately assess a given situation and people involved, zero in on the key motivational drivers (cares, concerns, values), and select the leadership approach that is most likely to succeed.

The model is comprised of two core components: worldviews and leadership styles. Integral psychology shows us that the vast majority of the values and belief systems that most leaders encounter fall into four broad worldviews.1 Our big breakthrough in the development of a practical approach to Integral Leadership came when after years of research we discovered that the entire body of leadership theory can be broadly situated into what I call the “four universal leadership styles” that correlate to the four common worldviews.2 Therefore, the profoundly simple and powerful key to understanding, motivating, and influencing people is this: use the leadership style that is most resonant with the person’s (or group’s) dominant worldview. For purposes of ease of use, in the illustration below, I use the term mindset in place of worldview. The nuance with these terms will be explained more fully in the Understanding People section that follows.3

[ Continue to the next section: Understanding People | Or Return to Table of Contents ]



  1. Despite employing differing terminologies, a massive body of research points to a surprisingly consistent range of worldviews. The four most common worldviews are well known to social scientists as: Modern, Postmodern, Traditional, and Imperial. Extensive empirical data and peer-reviewed articulation of these models suggest that underlying, organizing similarities between worldviews occur broadly across cultures and historic periods.
  2. I summarized the other major schools of leadership in The Problem with Leadership Theory section. In the Understanding People section, I will give examples of how the numerous leadership theories and styles fit into these four broad categories, along with specific authors, books, and recommendations for learning materials to enhance your versatility with each of these styles. These universal leadership styles do not replace previously-developed schools of leadership and so-called “styles;” rather, these broad categories transcend and include them. These categories provide a framework of orienting generalizations that can be used to determine which specific leadership approaches and techniques are likely to work in a given situation with specific people.
  3. The model presented here is intended to be a summarized and simplified presentation of worldviews geared for leaders. The conceptualization and use of values and worldviews is widespread and informed by a multitude of different models and approaches that differ in details but offer many helpful overarching principles and conclusions. Values research is widely used by psychologists, political scientists, and marketers. The pervasive role of values along with the large body of research we have drawn upon will be discussed at more length in the Understanding People section. My colleagues and I have drawn from numerous values models in the development of Integral Leadership. Perhaps the most well known values framework is called Values in Action (VIA) developed by Positive Psychology pioneers Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson and popularized by Marcus Buckingham, author of the bestselling book, Now Discover Your Strengths and the associated “StrengthsFinder” assessment now used by tens of thousands. (For a mainstream audience, Buckingham recast Seligman and Peterson’s “values in action” as simply “strengths.” In doing so, he created a model that is more concerned with ability / talent / skill than “values” per se.) Another well-known and useful framework that informed our work is the Competing Values Framework developed by Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn (also students of Ken Wilber). This is a complex and sophisticated values and leadership model that is geared toward leaders of large organizations. It emphasizes the need for leaders to have a more integral approach to business that can be achieved through the integration of the opposite values of control (quality/efficiency), creativity (innovation, growth), competitiveness (speed, profit), and collaboration (community, knowledge-sharing). Using a different methodology and theoretical framework, they came to a similar conclusion that we did: different circumstances require and benefit from very different leadership approaches/styles and that the most effective leaders use approaches that are congruent with the organization’s dominant culture. Further, that paradoxical and flexible leadership that integrates opposite values/wordviews (what we call Integral Leadership) is the most effective. We also drew upon the Rokeach Value Survey (RVS), the Values and Lifestyles (VALS) methodology developed at SRI International, the List of Values (LOV) developed at the University of Michigan Survey Research Center by Lynn Kahle, the Emergent Cyclical Levels of Existence Theory (ECLET) by Dr. Clare Graves, Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Chris Cowan which is based on the Graves model, and the Holonomic Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness model (HTEC) by Jenny Wade. As seen in many Ken Wilber books, integral theory adopted the color-coding scheme originally developed at the National Values Center (under the direction of Don Beck) to refer to values systems. This convention has proven to be extremely useful and has seen widespread adoption among integral researchers, theorists, and practitioners, as color-coding provides a useful shorthand to refer to the categorical similarities between different values/worldviews models while transcending the varied terminologies employed by each. I am a Don Beck certified practitioner of Spiral Dynamics and have drawn much inspiration from his pioneering values research and application. To help differentiate values from “stages of development” along specific developmental lines, in 2005 Ken Wilber introduced a separate color scheme for what he calls “altitudes.” Of course, I use the values colors here and not Wilber’s altitude colors precisely because values/worldviews can be adopted by a person or group for any number of reasons (seen in all four quadrants, especially circumstances and culture) and therefore should never be reduced to or conflated with altitudes (stages). This latter distinction is such an important point that I will revisit and expand upon it in the Understanding People section.

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