5. Understanding People

The first four sections of this manifesto lay a necessary foundation for the centerpiece of the Integral Leadership model: the practice of “Understanding People.” I define this practice as accurately recognizing worldviews and matching them with the respective universal leadership style. This practice unlocks and amplifies the potency of the other principles and practices associated with Integral Leadership.

As I mentioned in the Integral Frameworks section, Integral Leadership is most fundamentally about “perspective taking.” Integral Leadership involves using numerous frameworks as “lenses” which provide visibility into dimensions of reality that conventional leaders are unaware of, overlook, or ignore. The result of these superior (more accurate) lenses and precision perspective-taking practices is greater awareness, better approaches, and more skillful action.

While Understanding People is at the center of the practice of Integral Leadership, it in no way represents the totality of it. Rather, it provides a logical and helpful orienting framework—like the conventions of North, South, East, West on a geographical map—to ensure that the integral leader is headed in the right direction. The remaining sections of the manifesto then build on this foundation to help integral leaders engage followers’ hearts and minds through “meaningful motivation,” influence with skill and precision through “conscious communication,” and elevate their own and their followers’ abilities through the developmental mechanism of “making subject object.”

As you read this section, please be mindful of the fact that this is merely an introduction… a high-level overview of the Understanding People model and practice. Much nuance, along with many examples and leadership templates (for each style) are included in the full-length book.

It should be obvious that understanding people is central to leadership effectiveness. In fact, all comprehensive leader development programs teach some method for understanding people. Some simply teach listening skills, many teach various kinds of personality typology systems, and a few use lines/levels (stages of development) to help leaders better understand their followers and what makes them tick. I’m going to use an American idiom—being “in the ballpark”—as an analogy to illustrate a crucial point. Those personality types, situational leadership tactics, and get-to-know-your-people methods are like finding your section and seat at a large baseball game. Assuming that you are in the correct stadium, knowing the exact section, row and seat number is very helpful. But here’s the catch. In this analogy, your follower’s worldview (their values and universal beliefs) represents the stadium. If you fail to accurately recognize your follower’s worldview, then you are not even in the right ballpark; therefore the details about personality types and behavioral tendencies (even a person’s goals) are essentially useless.

I first introduced the term worldview in the Integral Framework section. As you will recall, a worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world. A person’s worldview defines what they care about, what motivates them, what they believe is worthwhile, and what they believe lacks value or is “wrong.” And as we now know, it also dictates which leadership style they are likely to be resonant with, and follow…. as well as which approaches are likely to backfire. If you want to understand people, you first need to get “into the right ballpark” by identifying their worldview. I believe that the failure to grasp meaning making systems—what I am calling worldviews—lies at the heart of the problem with conventional approaches to leadership. Those approaches often wrongly assume that people’s motivations are homogenous.

Most conventional approaches to leadership (and also management) fail to adequately take into account the fact that people with different worldviews value different things, interpret the same facts differently, and subsequently have very different priorities.

As such, a leadership approach that is extremely resonant with one employee, team or department will be ineffective or even offensive for another. The troublesome issue is: “How in the world do you know which approach will be be effective and which will be offensive?” The answer, of course, is worldviews. As I mentioned in the previous section, The Leadership Rosetta Stone, integral psychology shows us that about 95% of the the values/belief systems that today’s leaders are likely to encounter fall into four broad worldviews.1 For some readers, this fact is not new. Most readers are already familiar with Modern, Postmodern, and Traditional worldviews. However, few people are aware of the fact that these value systems predict with astonishing accuracy which leadership style will be resonant and appreciated, and which styles will be met with resistance and/or rejection. It is hard to overstate the significance of this. In essence, this deceptively simple model aggregates, synthesizes, and integrates, more than a 100 years of leadership theories. Moreover, once sufficiently internalized, in practice, this model allows integral leaders to effectively motivate and influence followers (of all kinds) with a level of precision and efficacy that is rarely witnessed.

Values Research

As mentioned previously, worldviews are composed of values and universal beliefs. Values are perceptual filters minds use to determine (“evaluate”) what is important in any given situation. Universal beliefs are broad-based beliefs about self, others, and system (how the world is perceived to work). In terms of knowing which leader a given person is likely to follow (or elect given the choice), in terms of knowing what people care about, in terms of knowing what motivates people, in terms of understanding people in the most fundamental sense, nothing is more germane than values.

The conceptualization and use of values models is widespread and informed by a multitude of different approaches that differ in details but are quite similar in principle and overarching conclusions. Values research is widely used by psychologists, political scientists, and marketers. The pervasive role of values in all aspects of human life has motivated hundreds of studies in the disciplines of psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, and consumer behavior. A large body of research has shown conclusively that values represent both a powerful explanation of and influence on a variety of individual and collective behaviors. In fact, in recent years, the study and measurement of values has become one of the most dynamic research areas in the social science disciplines (management, leadership, marketing and consumer behavior). Several values measurement methodologies are currently available and more are surfacing.2

Students of integral theory will recognize the colors I use in this section. This popular color-coding scheme was originally developed at the National Values Center (under the leadership of Don Beck). This convention has proven to be extremely useful and has seen widespread adoption among integral researchers, theorists, and practitioners, and has been featured in numerous books by Ken Wilber and other integral authors. Using colors as a reference code provides a useful learning device, and a kind of shorthand, capable of referring to the categorical similarities between the many different values/worldview models while transcending the varied terminologies employed by each. (It is important to distinguish the values color scheme used here from Wilber’s “altitudes” colors. Values/worldviews can be adopted by people at any altitude and therefore should never be reduced to, confused or conflated with them.)3 These worldviews, along with their correlating universal leadership styles, cut across nationalities, ethnicity, and culture. There is nothing inherently American or North American (or European or Caucasian) about these worldviews and leadership styles. However, I live in the U.S. and most of my work has involved leaders in the Americas. The examples and illustrations I tend to draw upon in my teaching reflects my experience.4 Also, in this presentation, I often use the term “mindset” in place of or in addition to the more academic term “worldview.”

Single Mindset vs. Mindset Combinations

This presentation uses broad and somewhat simplified examples of single mindsets that helps new students of Integral Leadership become familiar with their basic appearance and function. If you can’t identify the mindsets in singular (pure) form, then it would be impossible for you to recognize them when they appear in combination in a single person. Although in this introductory presentation I describe singular mindsets, in practice, most people you encounter will have a combination of two or more (often configured as a “Primary Mindset” and “Secondary Mindset”). Experience shows that once you can correctly identify the individual mindsets, recognizing them in combination is not difficult. 

People with an Achiever mindset identify with being highly rational, competitive, ambitious, autonomous and elite. They emphasize success and/or status as defined by material acquisition and “upward mobility.” They value excellence, advancement, prosperity, achievement, and status. Most importantly, they prefer to follow leaders who are perceived to have the most expertise and ability to achieve goals. In other words, they follow leaders who use the Strategic Leadership style.  The Achiever mindset (and the Strategic Leadership style) is well suited for the following environments and circumstances: sales departments, professional services firms, innovation-driven organizations, senior management positions, and in roles that require advanced levels of education such as scientific research.5

Profiles of People with an Achiever Mindset

I’m a research scientist who’s convinced that most of the world’s problems can be solved with the right technological advancements and tools. I think that many people hold superstitious, irrational beliefs that are detrimental to society’s interests and retard scientific progress. While I enjoy my work during the week, I pursue my real passion on the weekends. I’ve completed over twenty triathlons and placed in the top five in most of them. My training schedule could probably qualify as some sort of third world form of punishment, but when I cross the finish line in first place it’s all worth it. There’s a force in me that’s relentless in its determination to win. There’s something exhilarating about testing your limits and pushing your personal edge.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Second Place is the first loser.
Favorite Brand: Nike
Favorite Movies: Rocky, Top Gun, Wallstreet
Favorite Book: Its Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong
Favorite Form of Recreation: Running, cycling, chess, investing
Personal Hero: Lance Armstrong
Prefers Leaders Who: Have a demonstrated track record of success


I just graduated from Harvard Law School and am joining one of the most prestigious firms in the country. I grew up in a two-parent working class household and was a latch-key kid. My parents were focused on providing necessities for us. They helped me to see that through hard work and determination are key. While I respect my parents “traditional” ways, I knew from a young age that I wanted to work smarter, not harder to enjoy the finer things in life. And while my parents religious orientation works for them, I wasn’t satisfied with simplistic answers to complex questions.  To be honest, I believe that the world would be a better place if more people would put their faith in reason and look to science rather than religion for answers.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: A fish with legs (Darwin symbol)
Favorite Brand: Dior
Favorite Movies: Atlas Shrugged (based on the book by Ayn Rand)
Favorite Magazine: Harvard Law Review
Favorite Form of Recreation: Pilates
Personal Hero: Martha Stewart
Prefers Leaders Who: Can accomplish what they set out to achieve



I own a small web-based company that produces and sells custom laptop cases for the fashion-conscious consumer. As a start-up, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing but decided to take some calculated risks while telling myself that failing wasn’t an option. I became incredibly focused and goal-oriented, and within two years I was featured as Entrepreneur of the Year in a nation-wide magazine.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal
Favorite Brand: Dolce & Gabbana (D&G)
Favorite Movies: The Social Network
Favorite Book: Good to Great by Jim Collins
Favorite Form of Recreation: Sailing
Personal Hero: Jack Welch
Prefers Leaders Who: Are the most intelligent and most capable

Seeing the World Through an Achiever Lens

In academic circles this worldview is sometimes referred to as the “Modern worldview” (as contrasted to the Traditional and Postmodern worldviews). When you look at the world through this lens, you see a playing field full of possibilities to explore and opportunities to achieve. You will emphasize the scientific and rational dimensions of what you see. The key to life is to strive for, and achieve “success.” Through this lens, it becomes easy to believe in the advancement of humankind through the application of the highly disciplined rational mind and its scientific, technological, and medical manifestations. Life is to be met and mastered by finding the best way to act on its limitless opportunities.

Understanding People with an Achiever Mindset

People with this mindset tend to believe that while there are many valid ways to think and behave, there is always one best way.6  People with this mindset want to feel they are at the “top of their game” and that they have earned (quite literally, in some cases) the recognition of belonging to an elite group. They are not satisfied to simply “play by the rules;” rather, they want to fully understand the rules to gain a competitive advantage over those with less acuity, with the ultimate ambition of becoming so successful that they might eventually “change the rules of the game.” Many of the their decisions will be motivated by the promise of success and status, as well as an awareness and fairly sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of the overall system within which they operate (company, church, nation, global marketplace). 7 Some examples of occupational roles that tend to epitomize the Achiever mindset include salespeople, attorneys, research scientists, marketing agents, PR and advertising representatives, many elected public officials, architects, and physicians in conventional practice (as opposed to alternative medicine).

Strategic Leadership

People with an Achiever worldview prefer to follow leaders who embody personal excellence and success and who are perceived to be most likely to achieve pre-defined goals. In this form of leadership, the person with the most expertise leads via strategic planning and tangible incentives. It is characterized by incentivizing teams to execute well-conceived plans to outperform their competitors. In academic terms this approach is sometimes referred to as “transactional” to differentiate it from the “transformational” quality of the Collaborative Leadership style.8

Most MBA students get a degree in this “Strategic” management style. If you take a job in most mid to large-size corporations, you will be initiated into strategic leadership. One of the very best ways to become more familiar with the strategic leadership style is to read the Harvard Business Review as well as the books by the authors featured in the magazine.

It’s easy to see how the Achiever mindset finds this strategic, goal-oriented leadership approach resonant. In fact, as we shall see, the developers and advocates of the many “schools of leadership” that fall into this category nearly always possess the corresponding worldview. This explains why academics / researchers / authors who are enthusiastic proponents of each leadership style believe that their style is the best and should be used in every situation. In other words, if you are a person with a Modern worldview then you are looking at the world through an “Orange” lens. You will naturally perceive an Orange world, and probably assume Strategic Leadership (in any one of its numerous expressions) is the best leadership approach.9

When you are with a group of people who share the same values system, if you pay attention to their language you will notice that they have a way of communicating with each other that reflects their common values and beliefs. Ken Wilber refers to this as the “Dominant Mode of Discourse.” I use the shorter term “Values Dialect” (or simply dialect). While it may be true that English is the international language of business, there is no doubt that Orange is the dialect. Leaders who’s primary mindset is Pluralistic (Green) or Traditional (Blue) and who want to be taken seriously in business need to learn to speak the Achiever (Orange) dialect.



People with a Pluralistic mindset identify with being nonjudgmental, egalitarian, and socially and environmentally conscious. They value connectiontolerance, cultural sensitivity, diversity, sustainability, and interdependence. They strive for fulfillment as defined by personal growth, increased awareness, harmonious relationships, and “making a difference.” Most importantly, they prefer to follow leaders who are perceived as being aware, sensitive to the wellbeing of others, value consensus, and always treat others as equals; in other words, leaders who use a Collaborative Leadership style.

Profiles of People with a Pluralistic Mindset


Right out of college I joined the Peace Corps. At some point during my senior year I realized that most of the world’s population will never have the opportunities I once took for granted. Today I work as a diversity consultant in the public sector, which basically means I help people in organizations accept and find strength in each others’ differences. There’s a real tendency in all of us to feel our own way of looking at things is intrinsically superior, and it’s this attitude that is responsible for most of the world’s conflict. If everyone would accept each other’s differences, we’d finally have a peaceful planet.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Intolerance will not be tolerated
Favorite Brand: Starbucks
Favorite Movies: I Am
Favorite Book: The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
Favorite Form of Recreation: Experiencing other cultures
Personal Hero: The Dalai Lama
Prefers Leaders Who: Care more about people than profits



At eighteen I founded my own music label because I wanted to promote social justice and retain artistic integrity that a corporate mentality wouldn’t allow. After selling over 50,000 of my albums, the major labels came courting with huge deals. Because they wanted me to compromise, I declined. Today my label is an internationally known icon for independent art, political action, and grassroots sponsorship.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Coexist
Favorite Brand: Prius
Favorite Movies: An Inconvenient Truth
Favorite Book: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Favorite Form of Recreation: Working with inner-city youth
Personal Hero: Oprah
Prefers Leaders Who: Treat followers as equals



I’m an MD and the founder of a holistic health care company that’s committed to people and planet first and profit second. I’ve taken great care to give everyone in my organization an equal voice; there is no hierarchy to speak of, and decision-making is done by consensus. As far as I’m concerned, a good business should function a lot like a democracy to ensure that too much power isn’t invested in any one person. Its clear to me that the modern lifestyle being commercialized and unrelentlessly promoted by megacorporations is environmentally unsustainable for the planet. When I recognized I was part of the problem, I decided to become part of the solution by simplifying my life and limiting my consumption.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Simplify
Favorite Brand: Whole Foods
Favorite Movies: What the Bleep Do We Know?
Favorite Book: The Wisdom of Teams by Katzenbach and Smith
Favorite Form of Recreation: Drum circle
Personal Hero: Richard Branson
Prefers Leaders Who: Who take a holistic / sustainability perspective on actions

Seeing the World Through a Pluralistic Lens

In academic circles this worldview is referred to as the “Postmodern Worldview” (as opposed to the Modern or Traditional). Sociologist and bestselling author Paul Ray uses the term “Cultural Creatives” to describe people who identify with the worldview. In his book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, he summarizes research on 50 million adult Americans (slightly over one quarter of the adult population). The book presents a significant amount of demographic and psychographic research comparing and contrasting this worldview to the Traditional worldview (he calls “Traditionalists”) and the Achiever worldview (he calls “Modernists”).10

When you look at the world through this Pluralistic lens, you see a diverse ecosystem where cooperation leads to synergy. The dictionary definition of pluralistic is: “a social perspective that believes no single explanatory system or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life; rather there are many (plural) truths. Further, it is desirable to have numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups present and tolerated in society.”

Understanding People with a Pluralistic Mindset

Historically, leaders with a Pluralistic mindset were responsible for the human rights and environmental movements. People with this mindset tend to display egalitarian, tolerant attitudes, and are often enthusiastic endorsers of equal rights and equal opportunity for all people in all situations. People with this mindset want to feel as though they are “making a difference.” Their decisions tend to be motivated by the belief that their choice will help them (or their organization) continue to grow and develop, and that the world will be positively impacted (or at least not negatively affected) by their actions. Whereas people with the Achiever mindset emphasize external/material accomplishments (financial success, material acquisitions, status), people with this Pluralistic mindset prefer to emphasize internal/intangible accomplishments (awareness, human connection, emotional fulfillment). As such, they are more motivated by personal growth, people, and relationships than by material gain. Of course this group can be highly motivated to achieve material success for a social or environmental cause as long as this is accomplished without sacrifices of personal growth or rewarding relationships.

People with this mindset gravitate toward communities that value tolerance for multiple perspectives, interdependence, creativity, diversity, activism, and “progressive” approaches. They prefer nontraditional, “humanized” workplaces where self-expression is encouraged and rewarded; where contribution to social, political, and environmental causes is mission-critical or intrinsic to profitability; where duties and roles are actively interchanged in the service of a nonhierarchical, egalitarian approach; where team and roundtable gatherings are standard to internal operations and decision-making; where the job requires higher education; and where ongoing growth and development along with “work-life balance” are encouraged.

Collaborative Leadership

As mentioned above, people with this mindset prefer to follow leaders who are perceived as being aware, sensitive to the wellbeing of others, value consensus, and treat others as equals. People with the pluralistic mindset believe that  leadership is not vested in any single person; rather it should be consensus-based in the sense that self-managed teams should lead themselves.

This approach is considered “transformational” and involves inviting people’s perceptions, feelings and intuition via roundtable discussion and dialog to arrive at consensus, then work collaboratively toward common goals that serve the greater good. Leadership is also likely to be understood as situational and temporary; nearly all position-based authority is therefore highly questionable or even rejected outright. Unlike the Traditional mindset, people with the Pluralistic mindset abhor hierarchy and will tend to either ignore or seek to actively undermine it.

Many of the books that promote work-life balance, emotional aware “resonant” leadership, and “appreciative inquiry” are both popular with people with a Pluralistic mindset and were written by people with Pluralistic mindsets. Katzenbach and Smith’s bestselling book, The Wisdom of Teams, was mentioned in the earlier “Problem with Leadership Theory” section of this manifesto. When authors are subject to their own worldview (and fail to recognize the different worldviews at play in the workplace), they tend to advocate their approach as the best approach. In fact, it is collaborative leadership (also called “transformational leadership”) that is currently in the vanguard in popular business literature. For many leaders, this humanistic, transformational approach is a welcome shift away from the transactional (and traditional) approaches that have been popular for so long.

However, integral leaders see the flaw in this thinking. There is no best leadership approach for all types of people. The best leadership approach is the one that will be most resonant with the people you hope to lead. Collaborative leadership works great with people with Pluralistic mindsets. However, people with an Achiever mindset consider it to be too touchy-feely, people with a Traditional mindset consider its relativistic values to be immoral, and people with a Power mindset interpret kindness and sensitivity as weakness and steamroll right over it.

People with a Traditional Mindset identify with being responsible, purposeful, and self-sacrificing. They seek a reassuring sense of stability, security and belonging by conforming to a worldview that they unambiguously describe as the tried and true “natural order of things.” This natural order of things is defined by the long-standing traditions of the culture in which they were socialized. As you would expect, people with this mindset prefer to follow leaders who are perceived as having positional and/or moral authority; in other words, leaders who use an Authoritarian Leadership style.

Profiles of People with a Traditional Mindset


It’s true, I’ve been called “straight laced” more than once. But people who know the Truth have a duty to defend it, even if it means being politically incorrect. People talk about “shades of gray” but as far as I’m concerned, right is right and wrong is wrong. Ultimately, almost everything is black and white, and those who suggest otherwise are just avoiding moral responsibility.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Got Purpose?
Favorite Brand: Ford Trucks
Favorite Movies: The Passion of the Christ
Favorite Book: Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Favorite Form of Recreation: woodworking
Personal Hero: Sean Hannity
Prefers Leaders Who: Share my beliefs



I love God, my family, and my country—in that order. I’m particularly proud of my nationality—when I hear people criticizing the leaders of my country I tend to feel rather insulted and often angry. I really feel that some things are simply not ours to question, and that obedience and loyalty are the highest virtues to which a person can aspire. I work as a school counselor. I’m sometimes baffled why so many of today’s kids go to such great lengths to be “different.” By striving to be such “non-conformists” they don’t fit in.  Also, I feel frustrated by our school’s tolerance for modes of dress and conduct that I find socially unacceptable and are against the family values that all schools should reinforce.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Liberalism, Socialism, Communism–Is there a difference?
Favorite Brand: Fox News
Favorite Movies: High School Musical
Favorite Book: Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin
Favorite Form of Recreation: Volunteering at my church
Personal Hero: Sarah Palin
Prefers Leaders Who: Lead fairly but firmly



I teach a vocational rehab class for single parents and one of the things I stress to my students is that if you follow the rules—both in my class and life in general—you’re bound to come out all right. With the world as unpredictable as it is, it just doesn’t pay to take many risks or deviate from what’s been proven to work. What most important is having stability and knowing that you and those you love will have a secure future.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: A fish (Christian symbol)
Favorite Brand: Wrangler
Favorite Movies: When We Were Soldiers
Favorite Book: Culture Wars by Bill O’Reilly
Favorite Form of Recreation: Fishing
Personal Hero: Glenn Beck
Prefers Leaders Who: Do the right thing even if its unpopular

Seeing the World Through a Traditional Lens

You no doubt recognize that this is what academics refer to as the “Traditional worldview” (contrasting it with the familiar Modern and Postmodern Worldviews).11 When you look through this Traditional lens, you see an ordered existence under the control of a higher authority and ultimate Truth. Although Blue is the common-used color code for this worldview, when you look through the lens, what you actually see is black-and-white. People who use this lens exclusively perceive a concrete, literal, dualistic world of right and wrong, insiders and outsiders, believers and non-believers, and good and evil.

Understanding People with a Traditional Mindset

People with Traditional mindsets tend to be dedicated, reliable, loyal, responsible, conscientious, and can be expected to think and act in routine, predictable ways. They are oriented around learning and following the rules defined by authority, and are more than willing to subjugate their own impulses and desires in the service of a greater calling, cause, or mission that they find meaningful, purposeful and in accord with their traditional beliefs. While appropriately named “Blue Collar jobs” are typical, people with this mindset are especially attracted to work that promotes what they consider to be the moral good (e.g., ministers, teachers, police officers, guidance counselors, children’s athletic coaches, etc.). In addition to preferring jobs that require routine and discipline, this group thrives in circumstances that others might view as repetitive or tedious. Consequently, they can excel in standards and compliance roles as well as organizational and system maintenance jobs. People with this Traditional mindset value hierarchy; therefore, they respond best to clearly defined rules, deadlines, responsibilities and a well-defined chain of command. They also appreciate a written code of conduct to refer to, especially one that offers clear protocols for action and predictable consequences for success and failure.

Wherever in the world you encounter the Traditional worldview, it will define acceptable and unacceptable gender roles, sexual orientations and practices, food and drink consumption, and of course spiritual practices based on the long-standing traditions endemic to that culture. There is one and only one right way to think and behave.12 Conforming to authority’s prescribed “right” way to think and behave is the key to ensure future rewards. It is very important to understand that while the details of the local customs and culture (including religious practices) will differ, the broad-based core values and universal beliefs that comprise a Traditional worldview will be identical anywhere on the planet, whether it be Tehran, Turkey, Thailand or West Texas. As an integral leader, you must understand that in Traditional cultures, Modern and Postmodern values tend to be viewed not only with skepticism and suspicion, but also with fear and in some cases, hatred (see Ann Coulter’s books). Fear is a major motivator underlying a feeling of “us vs. them” in the form of a common enemy that threatens the traditional way of life.13  Proponents of the Traditional worldview (regardless of country or culture) understand these drives inherently and use positional or perceived moral authority to galvanize loyalty and motivate followers. In the U.S., books such as Hannity’s Deliver Us from Evil and O’Reilly’s Culture Warrior make a convincing case that Modern and Postmodern values are a dangerous threat to our traditional way of life.

Authoritarian Leadership

People with a Traditional worldview believe that “leadership” resides in the position. Therefore, if a person has a title of authority, then they are “the leader.” People at the top of a company’s organizational chart are leaders by virtue of their position and title. Similarly, in the view of those with a Traditional mindset, persons that have been appointed or elected into positions of authority such as “Minister” are “Mayor” are the de facto leaders. However, as mentioned previously, people only willingly follow leaders who they believe share their values. So although the person in position of authority is considered “the leader,” people with this mindset will only trust and follow a leader who they believe share their Traditional values.

In this Authoritarian Leadership style, the person with positional authority leads via chain of command. This approach is considered “Hierarchical” and is characterized by compliance with the rules to meet the requirements dictated by the person with authority. While fear and guilt are primary motivators for people with a Traditional mindset, they do not want their leaders to show either of these emotions. Effective authoritarian leaders intuit this and rarely, if ever, admit they don’t know something or admit when they have made a mistake. George W. Bush, a well-known authoritarian leader, understands this implicitly. In his eight years as President of the United States, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence of poor judgment and costly errors (financial, military, international affairs), he never admitted making mistakes. While many have criticized this behavior, to his credit, this was exactly what his large base of “traditional values voters” wanted in their leader. People with other mindsets tend to view this trait as an inability to admit mistakes or learn from them, yet people with this Traditional mindset will describe this same behavior as “principled.”

Using the same Traditional lens, popular leadership authors and theorists (including many “leadership experts”) write books about the innate “character traits of leaders,” the enduring “laws of leadership,” or the “steps to being a great leader.” Author John Maxwell’s bestselling books are excellent examples of the traditional view of leadership. While Modern and Postmodern writers criticize what they consider to be reductionistic approaches to life and leadership, it is very important to remember that advocates of this worldview (such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter) are so wildly popular precisely because a large percentage of the population (estimated 40% in the U.S.)  have adopted this Traditional worldview. Integral Leadership is concerned with seeing the world as it actually is and meeting people in it as they actually are. Integral leaders realize that although the Authoritarian leadership style may lack a certain nuance as compared to other styles, it is exactly the approach that a very large percentage of the population is most resonant.


People with a Power-centric mindset identify with being strong, courageous risk takers, who are capable of defending themselves in a dangerous world and getting what they want, when they want it. They emphasize personal power as defined by the ability to live outside conventional rules and gratify their desires. They value power, protectionfreedom, respect, and control. Most importantly, they prefer to follow leaders who are perceived as being the strongest, toughest, and most dominant; in other words, leaders who use an Autocratic Leadership style.

Profiles of People with a Power Mindset


I grew up in a tougher part of town—maybe that explains why I’ve always felt most comfortable in situations where it’s “do or die.” I did well in school but was bored with it. I dropped out of college and worked as a bouncer for a few years.  I enjoyed it but I wanted to make money, so I parlayed my intellect, instinct, and charisma into a successful career in mergers and acquisitions. Its a ruthless business well-suited for me—I was never shy about drawing blood. I work hard and play hard. I generally stay out of trouble though I have had a few close calls. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you there’s never a dull moment.


Favorite Bumper Sticker: If you don’t like the way I drive get off the sidewalk
Favorite Brand: Affliction
Favorite Movies: Fast and Furious
Favorite Book: I don’t read a lot of books…
Favorite Form of Recreation: Watching UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship)
Personal Hero: Charlie Sheen
Prefers Leaders Who: Do whatever it takes to get the deal done



I’ve hosted my own radio show for about five years now. It’s a tough gig, but fortunately, I enjoy a game of hardball. Though I’m charismatic, I’m known for going for the jugular and being able to verbally dominate a caller, even if their argument is better than mine. Basically, I operate on the premise that if somebody’s not strong enough to hold their own with me, they don’t deserve much respect.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: Everybody’s entitled to my opinion
Favorite Brand: Harley Davidson
Favorite TV Show: The Sopranos
Favorite Book: The Art of War by Sun Tzu
Favorite Form of Recreation: Riding my motorcycle with my friends
Personal Hero: Howard Stern
Prefers Leaders Who: Take charge and solve problems any way it takes


I learned a long time ago that power leads to getting what you want, and that a woman with sex appeal has power over most men. Today, I’m a waitress in one of the most exclusive clubs in town. I basically make a killing by pouring on the nice and, when necessary, flashing a bit of skin. But it’s not just about the money, I like the feeling that I’m in control. And I like working in an atmosphere where people aren’t concerned about anything but having a good time.

Favorite Bumper Sticker: My Pitbull is smarter than your honor student
Favorite Brand: Juicy Couture
Favorite Movies: Mean Girls
Favorite Book: Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson
Favorite Form of Recreation: Playing with my Pitbulls
Personal Hero: Paris Hilton
Prefers Leaders Who: Are badasses



Seeing the World Through a Power-Centric Lens

Academics refer to this worldview as the “Imperial worldview“. Its easy to see this worldview dominating many periods of human history. You have probably heard it described as “Machiavellian.” This term derives from the book The Prince written in 1513 by Niccolo Machiavelli as a pragmatic guide to getting and keeping power in a dangerous world. In The Prince, Machiavelli famously advocates “the ends justify the means.” This pretty much sums up the Imperial worldview and the Autocratic Leadership style that is best paired with it.

When you look at the world through the Power lens, you see a jungle filled with predators and self-centered people, where only the strongest and most cunning survive and thrive. If this is your world, or at least your worldview, you tend to view others as competitors for scarce resources and will tend to interpret hesitation, softness, or even kindness, as signs of weakness. From this point of view, team members are useful allies in the on-going quest for power and when a common enemy is identified, the team can marshal its resources quite effectively. 14 Above all, people with the Power mindset demand respect and will respond favorably only to those capable of commanding it.

Understanding People with a Power mindset

People who identify with the Power-centric mindset tend to be persuasive, egocentric, courageous, impulsive, and often charismatic. People with this mindset play crucial roles in society: the need for people who possess great courage and inner strength, and are willing to take enormous risks. However, people with this mindset are not always appreciated, because they also tend to be fiercely independent—“I live by my rules alone” and are disinterested in conforming to the status quo (including many societal norms). They have a tendency to think mainly of themselves and can be insensitive to others’ needs and desires in their own uncompromising push to break free from limits, satisfy their desires, or impose their will. Although both the Power and Achiever mindsets are driven to “win” (or “dominate”), the Orange drive is fueled by excellence / competitiveness / status while the Red drive is motivated by power / respect / glory.

The Imperial worldview/Power mindset can be found in every socioeconomic system, but may be more readily noticeable in inner cities and in isolated rural areas. It is common to encounter people with this mindset in tough environments such as reform schools, heavy construction, oil and gas refineries, and prisons. These are the life conditions that give rise to and reward Power mindsets. Oftentimes people with a Power mindset were raised in or spent many years in these life conditions. When they move on to new circumstances they may carry that worldview with them.  As you would expect, people with this mindset gravitate toward social groups that value toughness, aggression, and physical prowess and that encourage behavior sometimes considered “beneath social norms.”

Autocratic Leadership

People with this Power-centric mindset only willingly follow leaders who they respect, and they do not respect weakness. Therefore, they tend to follow leaders who are perceived as having the most power, in other words, leaders who use an Autocratic Leadership style. Autocratic leaders are motivated by power and respect, not by “people skills.”  Their approach is considered “Unilateral” and can be summed up as follows: impose one’s will through reputation, fear and respect, tightly control information and choices, reward compliance and punish disloyalty.

One of the most respected leaders who used this style was legendary General George S. Patton. This American war hero has been called a military genius, a legend, “Old Blood and Guts,” and a “son-of-a-bitch.” His strong, charismatic leadership inspired soldiers efforts to fight and destroy the enemy, contributing in no small part to ultimate victory in World War II.  Patton’s leadership style was characterized by a ruthless drive and will to conquer.

What about other circumstances that do not involve killing on a battlefield? Recall how the world appears through the Red lens. If you perceive the world as a jungle or battlefield, then you are likely to believe the best way to advance toward your goals is always protect yourself, gain power, and outmaneuver others perceived as obstacles or threats. Bookstores are filled with popular titles that advocate the Autocratic leadership style. These books would not be so popular if there wasn’t a market for them.

Stanly Bing is the author of two such popular titles: What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness and Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the Real Art of War. He suggests that Machiavelli would feel at home in industry today. According to Bing, we live in a vicious, highly competitive workplace environment, and things aren’t getting any better. Jobs are few and far between, and people aren’t any nicer now than they were when Ghengis Khan ran around killing people in unfriendly acquisitions. “Work is war-like; only the mean advance,” he advises. “We must expect nastiness. We must be prepared.”

Robert Greene, the author of The 48 Laws of Power, is another popular advocate of the Autocratic leadership style. He co-authored his most recent book The 50th Law with infamous rap musician 50 Cent. Greene writes, “Learning the game of power requires a certain way of looking at the world, a shifting of perspective.” From this perspective, everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others.15

Many people reading this manifesto will find this Autocratic style of leadership unappealing. People who primarily identify with the Pluralistic mindset find the Autocratic style appalling and think such leaders should not be allowed to lead. People who primarily identify with the Traditional mindset believe these Red folks have lost their way and need to be “saved.” People who primarily identify with the Achiever mindset consider the Autocratic style to be a bit extreme, but a potentally useful tool for difficult employees or suppliers that won’t respond to any other tactics. Understandably, many new students of Integral Leadership have difficulty imagining themselves using the Autocratic Leadership style. However, the truth is that people who primarily identify with the Power mindset are extremely unlikely to respond to the Strategic, Collaborative or Authoritarian leadership styles. What do you do if you encounter, or manage, these folks?  Integral leaders understand the importance of recognizing this mindset when they encounter it, and if necessary, drawing upon aspects of the Autocratic style (hopefully in judicial combination with other styles) to connect with, influence and motivate people who only respect this style.

[ Continue to the next section: The Gift and Curse of Interpretation | Or Return to Table of Contents ]



  1. Of course these four “types” of worldviews can be combined to produce many more subtypes—in fact most people you encounter have at least a primary and secondary worldview that are fairly obvious. Some leaders working in the developing world encounter the “Tribal worldview.” Since this is only relevant for a very small percentage of leaders who are working with indigenous “tribal” populations, I do not address it in this manifesto or the book. If you want to learn about this worldview, see the work of Clare Graves, Don Beck, or Chris Cowan. Also, some readers may ask, what about the only-very-recently emerging “integral worldview.” The point of this manifesto and the book is to help leaders take initial steps toward constructing an integral worldview. I’m framing the integral worldview in a very deliberate way that may be different from how students of integral theory may have seen it previously. Rather than introduce a new color that would accurately describe less than 3% of the population and confuse the other 97%, I frame the integral worldview as simply integrating the other four major worldviews. While veteran students of integral theory might consider the integral worldview as a fifth worldview (or sixth if you count “Tribal”), hopefully you can see why I don’t describe it that way. In my significant experience, it only creates unnecessary confusion for new students and practitioners of Integral Leadership.
  2. If you read the footnotes to the Leadership Rosetta Stone section, you will recall that 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). It was 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. 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.
  3. To help differentiate values (and the popular National Values Center color scheme) from stages of development along specific developmental lines, in 2005 Ken Wilber introduced a separate/different color scheme for stages, which he refers to as “altitudes.” Of course, I use the values colors here and not Wilber’s colors precisely because values/worldviews are not stages and should never be reduced to or conflated with them. It is absolutely crucial to remember that a person can espouse any value system/worldview for any number of reasons, including age, stage, circumstances, and culture. (The phrase “age, stage, circumstances, and culture” is another way to describe the four quadrants.) People adopt a worldview based on their current/changing life conditions, lifestyle, their physical or social environment, peer pressure, and so on. We should never assume that because we correctly identify a person’s espoused worldview that we know everything about that person. For example, we do not know why they see the world that way (how they “construct” their world nor do we know their configuration of stages along various developmental lines).
  4. I am very much looking forward to our international Integral Leadership colleagues (including readers and contributors of our international publication Integral Leadership Review) contributing examples and illustrations that reflect worldwide cultural details (especially the Middle East, Asia and Africa). I have set up a blog space on this site to encourage the contribution of these cross-cultural examples that will help flesh out the texture of the worldview/leadership style framework Integral Leadership provides.
  5. Here I use the easily accessible terms “environments” and “circumstances” in place of the integral theory term “life conditions.” In other places I use the term “worldspace’ to refer to this same dimension. Also see Footnote #9.
  6. This observation comes the groundbreaking work of values research pioneer Clare Graves.
  7. People with an achiever mindset are not bound to static sets of rules or compelled to obedience by perceived authority but instead differentiate societal viewpoints from interpersonal agreements and individual motives.
  8. It is important to note that many different theorists use different terms, or labels, for these broad categories of leadership approaches. We are limited by the English language and only so many words to go around. When integral theorists integrate numerous models into a single overarching framework, they try to choose descriptive terms that will be most resonant with the greatest number of people. Naturally, there will be some overlap and some nuance would be lost without adequate footnoting. James Macgregor Burns was an early pioneer of Transformational Leadership Theory and contrasted it with what he called “transactional” approaches. Many academics followed suit. These terms transformational and transactional are very close to—but not exactly—what my colleagues and I are referring to when we use the terms Strategic Leadership and Collaborative Leadership. I chose the term “Strategic” leadership to refer to the style of leadership most resonant with leader and followers with a Modern worldview and what I call an Achiever mindset. This approach tends to be transactional in nature. However, Bruce Avolio, a pioneering thinker and advocate of “Transformational Leadership” writes about what he calls “strategic leadership transformation” and points to a kind of “strategic leadership” that can transform an organization. I agree with Avolio that certain kinds of “Strategic Leadership” can transform organizations. However, the “Strategic Leaders” I’m writing about when I use that term are still “transforming” their organization so that they can have a large transaction in the form of an exit strategy that they fondly refer to as a “liquidity event” designed to extract their share of the value out of the organization in the form of a cash transaction. And that is definitely a “transactional” motive and not what “Collaborative” (Green) leaders mean by the term transformation! When Collaborative leaders use the term transformation, they are referring to higher consciousness of the individuals and even the organization in the service of society at large. This Collaborative approach is a very different mindset than the Strategic approach. I do not disagree with Avolio, we are simply using the terms strategic, transactional, and transformational in slightly different ways, with different emphasis and nuance.
  9. There are hundreds of theories as to why people view the world in a certain way. For this introductory presentation, I think the most important thing to emphasize is “life conditions” or more simply “environment.” For a mainstream audience, I find it useful to use the term environment to describe the combination of both the Lower-Left Cultural environment and the Lower-Right Systems / Marketplace / Physical environment. The terms life conditions and environment refer to the totality of the person’s environment (cultural, social, infrastructure, economic, legal, systems, etc.)
  10. The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World by Paul Ray. Like most advocates of a singular worldview, Paul Ray himself is subject to his own deeply ingrained Postmodern worldview and therefore believes that the Postmodern worldview is the best and should be adopted by everyone. Clearly that thesis is inconsistent with an integral view which holds that all three worldviews are equally legitimate and useful in the right context (paired with the respective life conditions and needs of those circumstances).
  11. A terrific source of demographic and psychographic data on these three respective worldviews can be found in sociologist Paul Ray’s book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World mentioned in an earlier endnote. However, as I suggested in that earlier endnote, if you do consult Ray’s research, please must bear in mind that he himself is subject to his own deeply ingrained Postmodern worldview, and therefore can’t help but think that the Postmodern worldview should be wholesale adopted by everyone instead of the less-desireable Modern or Traditional worldviews. This is the thesis of his book. Clearly that thesis is inconsistent with the integral view which would remind Ray that all three worldviews are equally legitimate and useful in the right context (life conditions and circumstances).
  12. This observation comes the groundbreaking work of values research pioneer Clare Graves.
  13. People with a Traditional worldview tend to be pre-occupied with “authority.” As a result, they often orient around “parent-child” metaphors—parents are the ones in a position of authority. They perceive their leaders as benevolent parental figures who have the maturity and wisdom to tell them what things mean (how to interpret facts) and the authority to guide them to salvation from whatever the impending (real or imagined) threat may be.
  14. To this worldview, might really does make right. The “haves” deserve their status and privilege because they are powerful and dominant, and the “have not’s” deserve their status because of their weakness or incompetence.
  15. Greene draws inspiration from leaders such as: Machiavelli, Bismarck, Catherine the Great, Mao, Kissinger, and others. His book illustrations are drawn from courts of modern and ancient Europe, Africa and Asia, highlighting the popularity that this style has enjoyed throughout our history.


  1. Neelesh says:

    In a sense this is market segmentation, as taught in Marketing 101, but somehow overlooked for leadership?

    A related, interesting question comes to mind: Can the same principle apply to Enlightenment Teachings? Asked differently, there can be no altitude-agnostic (or as in this case, worldview-agnostic) enlightenment teaching?

    Sounds odd, but sounds true?!

    To take a recent example, any reference to Andrew Cohen’s Evolutionary Enlightenment needs to appended with ‘For post- modern green and above only’? (The ‘above’ word makes it altitude- centric, but I use it because I cannot find a suitable preposition for worldview that denotes progression)

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