Leader Self-Development, Maturation, and Meditation: Elements of a Transformative Journey

  • Denise FrizzellEmail author
  • David K. Banner
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The global work environment is placing increasing demands on leaders to develop and actualize more of their potential. However, these growing demands require more than acquiring new general knowledge and skills. They require turning inward and embarking on a transformative journey of psychological maturation and vertical development. Consequently, there is a growing interest in transformative practices, to include mindfulness meditation, to support and facilitate the type of deep changes needed for leaders to effectively navigate our increasingly complex, uncertain, and interconnected world.


Leader self-development Maturation Meditation Mindfulness Vertical development Transformation 

The healthy (and mature) ego is the hero that struggles successfully to be free from fears and attachments so that he or she can join the forces of the light. Our interior journey throws that light of consciousness on every holdout of the ego. Spirituality then comes to mean that love has released us from the ego-bound world. We treat others with respect and drop our ego defenses as we let go of the need to be right, to be in control, to use or abuse others, and so on.

From Shadow Dance by David Richo


There is growing awareness that deep understanding of complex human and social phenomena such as leadership and organizational life requires more comprehensive or holistic frameworks. Ideally, these frameworks need to include the individual subjective dimension, the individual behavioral dimension, the collective interior dimension, and the collective objective or systems dimension (Wilber 2001). Historically, organizational change initiatives have focused on behavioral and systems domains of organizational life such as employee performance, structure, performance metrics, information systems, strategy formulation, and mergers.

However, while addressing behavioral and systems dimensions of organizational life is essential, lasting, and deep, organizational change or transformation requires attention to individual and interpersonal transformation as well, particularly as it relates to founders and senior leaders who usually have significant influence within an organization. Leaders must transform themselves to facilitate lasting transformational change at the interpersonal, team, cultural, and organizational levels. Consequently, this chapter focuses on leader self-development, psychological maturation, and meditation, as elements of a transformative journey.

Leader Self-Development

Humans have multiple intelligences or developmental lines that differ in potential (Gardner 1983). While there are different developmental models, Gardner originally proposed seven intelligences (linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) and later added an eighth intelligence (natural). Other intelligences or developmental lines include self/ego, moral, needs, values, and emotional (Wilber 2000), which may progress through stages of increasing maturation over the course of one’s life. While humans naturally learn and grow throughout their entire lives, the term self-development frequently refers to voluntary and intentional actions to learn or develop in one or more intelligence.

However, when discussing human development, it is important to distinguish between two general types of development, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal development, or conventional learning, refers to the acquisition of general knowledge or skills (e.g., learning how to create a company budget). Vertical development or transformational learning refers to shifts in perspective to more complex and inclusive views or structural changes within intelligences or developmental lines. Vertical development may assume a proactive and voluntary approach to the actualization of human potential. However, it often results from disorienting life events because such events disrupt or “unfreeze” underlying worldviews, beliefs, assumptions, and identities, thereby creating space for alternative ways of seeing and thinking (Mezirow 2000).

While numerous developmental stage conceptions exist, Kegan and Lahey (2009) presented three different plateaus in mental complexity that they identified in adults – the socialized mind, self-authoring mind, and self-transforming mind. The authors described the socialized mind as the “team player” and “faithful follower.” The adult at this stage of development is shaped by the definitions and expectations of their social environment. Cohesion and loyalty to one’s tribe, cause, or community are central to one’s identity. Thus, one’s communications and actions are tailored toward what he or she thinks the pertinent other wants to hear and see. The socialized mind filters, interprets, and acts to maintain harmony with the idealized other(s).

In contrast, the self-authorizing mind is highly independent and driven by one’s agendas or personal compass. The adult at this stage of development is able to take a step back from his or her social contexts and offer a critique based on one’s own worldview or belief system. One’s communications and actions are primarily a function of what he or she thinks others need to see and hear to support one’s agenda. As highlighted by Kegan and Lahey (2009), it is easy to see the admirable expansion of mind that occurs with this shift.

However, the self-authoring mind is vulnerable to filtering out or dismissing critical information that challenges one’s agenda. In addition, it is also important to note that as an adult develops from one stage to another, he or she does not lose capacities associated with earlier stages. Thus, individuals are able to “transcend and include” aspects of preceding stages into one’s newly acquired stage (Wilber 2000). Alternatively, as Kegan and Lahey (2009) present, what was once subject becomes object.

In contrast to the social mind and the self-authoring mind, the self-transforming mind holds contradictions, leads to learn, sees the interconnectedness of all life, and honors interdependency. In this stage of development, adults are able to step back and critique not only one’s social environment but also his or her own worldview, ideologies, and personality. In addition, the self-transforming mind is friendlier to contradiction and paradox. An adult at this stage of cognitive development can still focus on advancing an agenda; however, he or she is also able to modify one’s plan or agenda when additional relevant information arises. In other words, the self-transforming mind is able to hold one’s relationships, worldviews, identities, and agendas as objects.

Kegan and Lahey’s (2009) model represents one developmental framework within the realm of developmental psychology. However, there are numerous other developmental theorists and frameworks to include moral (Kohlberg 1984), ego (Loevinger 1982), needs (Maslow 2014), emotional (Goleman 1995), values (Graves in Beck and Cowan 2006), and consciousness (Wilber 2000). Wilber (2000) presented an analysis of over 100 developmental theorists and frameworks East and West and determined that they could all be generalized in a nine-stage model, which he later reduced to a two-tier, eight-stage model. Adapted from Spiral Dynamics, Wilber uses unique colors and descriptive terms to distinguish each stage within the overall model (see Table 1).
Table 1

Select developmental stage conceptions

Theory – theorist(s)

Integral theory – Wilber

Cognitive – Kegan and Lahey

Spiral dynamics – Graves, Beck, and Cowan

Tier 2

Turquoise, holistic

Self-transforming mind

Turquoise, holistic

Yellow, integrative

Yellow, integrative

Tier 1

Green, sensitive self

Self-authoring mind

Green, communitarian

Orange, scientific achievement

Orange, achievist

Blue, mythic order

Socialized mind

Blue, purposeful

Red, power gods


Red, impulsive

Purple, magical-animistic


Purple, magical

Beige, archaic-instinctual


Beige, survival

Note: From Wilber (2001), Kegan and Lahey (2009), and Graves in Beck and Cowan (2006)

According to Wilber (2001), tier 1, stage 1, or beige, archaic-instinctual (note: in his extensive body of writings, Wilber frequently uses different terms to refer to the same concept) represents infantile consciousness that does not have a sense of a separate self. In other words, infants cannot tell where their bodies end and others begin. Tier 1, stage 2, or purple, magical-animistic, which generally occurs around 18 months, represents the capacity for an infant to distinguish his or her self from others and its surroundings. In tier 1, stage 3, or red, power god, as the child continues to grow and differentiate itself from its environment, it gains greater awareness of its separateness and develops power drives to protect its own security and safety.

Beginning with the tier 1, stage 4, or blue, mythic order stage, as highlighted by Wilber (2001), the self starts to empathize and identify with others and groups with which it associates or belongs (e.g., family, community, race, religion, etc.). This represents a significant shift from an egocentric (I) to an ethnocentric (us) identity. At the next stage, tier 1, stage 5, or orange, scientific achievement, the self gains the ability to form a scientific, objective, universal view and shift from an ethnocentric identity to a global or worldcentric identity. Tier 1, stage 5, or green, sensitive self, the last tier 1 stage in Wilber’s developmental framework, represents the capacity to contemplate and criticize institutionalized perspectives and honor multiple diverse perspectives (i.e., pluralism). All of these tier 1 stages have positive and negative characteristics as well as significant limitations. The most restricting quality of all of them is that they have little tolerance for folks from other levels.

Tier 2 and the remaining stages, yellow, integrative, and turquoise, holistic (or more simply combined as integral) in Wilber’s model, represent a major leap in human consciousness. Tier 2 folks can see the value of all the lower stages and understand them. As highlighted by Wilber (2001), “it (Tier 2 stages) is the most inclusive, the most sophisticated, the most complex, the most conscious, the most embracing, and includes the greatest numbers of perspectives, of any levels to emerge in all of history, and truly marks a ‘monumental leap in meaning.’ It is the first level in all of human evolution that believes all other levels have some importance, while those levels themselves believe only they are important (audio).”

Kegan and Lahey’s (2009) self-transforming mind represents the type of psychological maturity of organizational leaders necessary for organizational transformation from Wilber’s tier 1 to tier 2 interpersonal relationships, teams, culture, processes, and systems (Laloux 2014). The growing pressure to evolve from tier 1 to tier 2, individually and collectively, is mounting as numerous global challenges threaten humanity’s future. However, the majority of organizational manager-leaders are currently at the tier 1 orange-achiever stage (Joiner and Joseph 2007). Consequently, this begs the question: what practices are available to foster the vertical development and psychological maturity necessary for leaders to transform organizations into entities that support individual workers in fulfilling their potential and contribute to solving society’s most pressing global challenges?

However, before exploring this question, several additional factors related to psychological maturation must be considered to include self-identity and moral development, developmental readiness (DR), persona and shadow, and motivation and will.

Psychological Maturation

Identity, oriented in the work of Erikson, Loevinger, Kegan, and numerous other developmental psychologists, is a term that references how individuals view themselves in relation to different levels of the environment: others, society, and the planet. In addition, self-identity refers to the integration of various dimensions of the self, which changes and evolves over the lifespan. Identity and identity formation have significant implications for leader development because developing as a leader, in part, requires viewing oneself as a leader (Day et al. 2012). Therefore, self-identity informs and directs decision-making and behavior in addition to moral sensibilities.

According to moral development theory, with roots in the work of Kohlberg, Gilligan, Graves, and others, individuals develop more complex, inclusive, and flexible views of right and wrong action over the lifespan due in part to life experiences such as formal education (Wilber 2001). As highlighted by Day (2011), practically every decision made by a leader has ethical implications. In addition, leaders are role models and are frequently emulated by others, especially followers, and they greatly influence organizational climate and culture (Day et al. 2012). Furthermore, developmental readiness (DR) and willingness are essential for individual leaders and organizations to optimize learning and growth opportunities.

Hannah and Avolio (2010) defined DR as “the ability and motivation to attend to, make meaning of, and appropriate new leader KSAAs (knowledge, skills, abilities, and attributes) into knowledge structures along with concomitant changes in identity to employ those KSAAs” (p. 1182). This definition highlights the significance of volition and willingness in DR as development, particularly vertical development , must be freely chosen. In addition, leadership research literature underrepresents DR and how it is determined (Day 2011), which is inconsistent with the billions of dollars invested each year on leadership development. To correct that discrepancy, the authors proposed that more leadership research focuses on DR, including metacognitive capacity (i.e., the capacity to think about thinking), which supports deeper processing and interpretation of life experiences.

Furthermore, Kaiser and Kaplan (2006) wrote that sensitivities frequently hinder DR and underlie unskilled behaviors that can derail managers and their organizations. The authors defined sensitivities as “a set of emotionally charged beliefs and expectations generalized from experience that serve to protect the individual from repeating a painful injury, physical or psychological” (p. 466). Without a baseline of self-awareness and self-regulation to govern the impact of one’s sensitivities on perceptions, motivations, and behaviors, performance deficits repeatedly surface in every work/life setting. Unfortunately, traditional growth-oriented interventions often do little to address underlying sensitivities (Kaiser and Kaplan 2006) or the role of the personality, persona, and shadow in the journey to psychological maturation.

The topic of personality is a familiar one with many students of leadership and organizational theory. The term personality refers to common patterns of motivating or energizing, information gathering, decision-making, and orienting or relating. While there are numerous personality typologies, three popular models in management literature are the Big Five, Myers-Briggs, and the Enneagram. The Big Five or Five-Factor Model utilizes broad categories to portray the human personality along the spectrum of five characteristics – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (John et al. 2010). In contrast, the Myers-Briggs typology uses 16 types, combinations of four pairs of traits to include extraversion/introversion, intuition/sensing, thinking/feeling, and sensing/judging (Keirsey 1998). The Enneagram typology uses nine basic personality types (Riso and Hudson 1999). It is one of the few (if not only) personality typologies with an expressly spiritual component, making it useful for working with vertical development.

Ideally, personality typologies provide insight into psychological and behavioral tendencies of self and others to enhance awareness, interpersonal relationships, and effectiveness (individual and collective). However, it is essential to note that personality types represent tendencies not absolutes. Furthermore, personality patterns and types can change and mature over the lifespan such that people become more balanced, integrated, and intentional in their self-expression. However, the healthy evolution of the personality requires an understanding of the persona and shadow (Jung and Campbell 2014).

Persona is the term (Jung and Campbell 2014) used to refer to one’s social face or mask. Our social face, molded over time, is an aspect of our personality that one becomes dependent upon for securing social approval and navigating the world. While there is nothing inherently wrong or dysfunctional about our social face or persona, overtime, people tend to overly identify with the persona and repress conflicting qualities, desires, memories, or life experiences. Elaborate defense mechanisms and controls may be constructed to protect the persona. Therefore, any person or situation that threatens the persona is inclined to encounter an inauthentic and potentially harmful force or shadow.

The shadow or lower unconscious refers to the dimension of the psyche where unwanted aspects of the self are unconsciously repressed from awareness, often during childhood, for coping or survival reasons, initially. However, over time, coping mechanisms can evolve into habitual patterns that result in disconnection from one’s internal world and undesirable consequences for self and others due to an unwillingness to face, recognize, and accept repressed aspects of the self. However, shadow material does not go away. It frequently and repeatedly surfaces in various ways such as projection of repressed anger onto other people. Thus, instead of being aware that “I feel angry,” I perceive others to be angry.

For the average person, the persona and the shadow operate unconsciously and habitually. This phenomenon is a source of significant personal and organizational turmoil. Healing and self-development necessitate facing and feeling the unacceptable parts of ourselves (Banner 2014). Consequently, psychological maturation requires that every individual gets to know their personality, persona, and shadow and work to integrate them into their operational field of awareness (Assagioli 2000) or ego awareness (Jung and Campbell 2014). However, this is and can be extremely difficult and emotionally draining work because frequently, to varying degrees, childhood wounds and traumas lie underneath.

Thus, this type of work often requires long-term self-compassionate effort and the assistance of a therapist, a strong support network, and/or some other type of reputable deep healing program (e.g., The Presence Process by Michael Brown 2010). Consequently, one has to be extremely motivated to engage in this intense work and consistently and compassionately employ the will to reveal, reclaim, and reintegrate the persona, shadow, and personality to develop into a healthy and mature adult human being. In addition to a lower self or shadow element, several developmental theorists (e.g., Assagioli, Jung, and Wilber) include a higher self or golden shadow in their models of the human psyche.

The higher self includes one’s highest inspirations, intuitions, values, and aspirations for self and humanity (Assagioli 2000). However, similar to the lower self, throughout childhood, we can receive messages from our parents and other authority figures that particular characteristics, traits, or self-expressions are undesirable. For example, a male child may be ridiculed for being overly expressive or a female child may be shamed for being too assertive. This type of shaming can lead to suppression of positive qualities or authentic expressions.

Sustained suppression of innate qualities and characteristics hinder access to intuition and vitality, which over time can lead to physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual diseases (Assagioli 2000). Consequently, it is essential to acknowledge, allow, accept, and reintegrate aspects of the higher unconscious for general wellness, development, and psychological maturation. However, the inner work of integrating the lower and golden shadows requires understanding of the roles of motivation and will in leader self-development and maturation.

Motivation refers to the degree of internal intensity to gratify an aspiration, desire, need, or goal. Will refers to the volitional capacity and discipline to respond to the internal force of motivation by dedicating time, resources, attention, and effort toward goal fulfillment. Assagioli (2010) argued that healthy and mature adults need balanced wills that are strong, skillful, and loving.

Motivation and will are central to leadership and organizational life in general. Furthermore, both are highly significant to leader self-development, because deep psychological healing and maturation (mental and emotional) typically require intentional disciplined effort to consistently engage in practices that facilitate the degree of growth necessary to reach Wilber’s (2001) tier 2 stage (Richo 1999; Wilber 2001). It is important to note that the role of will in psychological healing and maturation is in contrast to a more nuanced dance of effort and grace involved in spiritual enlightenment discussed later in this chapter. While there are numerous transformative practices, one psycho-spiritual technology backed by ancient wisdom and a growing body of supportive evidence is meditation. Meditation is the only evidence-based technique for fostering vertical development or stage progression in adults (Wilber 2001). Furthermore, as highlighted by Wilber, the transformative potential of regular meditation increases when it is part of a more holistic or integral practice that honors body, mind, and spirit in self, culture, and nature.


Meditation, referred to by the Dalai Lama as “a technique for transforming the mind” (as quoted in Wallace 2005, preface), is often associated with the contemplative paths of the world’s great religious traditions, particularly Eastern traditions. While historically known as a path to awakening or enlightenment, Walsh and Shapiro (2006) defined meditation as “a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration” (pp. 228–229).

Historically, the family of meditation techniques falls into two general categories: concentration practices and awareness practices. Concentration practice is an essential element of the Buddhist Eightfold Path and other contemplative traditions, East and West. While concentration practices may differ across traditions, typically they include an object of attention (e.g., breath, an image, a sacred word, a word or phrase called a mantra) to which the practitioner returns, repeatedly, gently, and nonjudgmentally (Walsh 2000). However, the focus of this section is on mindfulness meditation, an awareness practice .

A prevalent understanding of mindfulness is “awareness of present experience with acceptance” (Siegel 2014). Consequently, mindfulness meditation practice involves intentionally cultivating “an open, accepting, and discerning attitude” through formal or informal practices (Shapiro et al. 2009, p. 13). Formal mindfulness practices orient around the Four Points of Mindfulness (body, feeling tone, thoughts, and senses) and include breath awareness meditation (also referred to as sitting meditation), walking meditation, and body scan meditation. Informal practices include bringing one’s attention to the current task (Siegel 2010, 2014).

Although mindfulness meditation has roots in Buddhism, many Western mindfulness-based practices are secular, straightforward, and completely accessible to diverse populations (Shapiro et al. 2009; Siegel 2014). In addition, although the majority of mindfulness meditation research is clinically oriented (e.g., chronic pain, substance abuse, and anxiety), researchers increasingly attend to its health-promoting and developmental potential. For example, Jain et al. (2007) found that mindfulness meditation and stress-reduction interventions reduced negative mental states and increased positive mental states for healthy college students. The authors determined that mindfulness meditation reduced distraction and rumination, whereas relaxation methods failed to do so.

Presently, Eastern psychology and philosophy underlie four popular secular mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) – mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and dialectical behavior therapy (Siegel 2014) – that accentuate experiential, meditative techniques as the principal mechanism for self-development and transformation . Other popular MBIs orient toward a synthesis of Western and Eastern psychological approaches to greater well-being.

Mindfulness, as measured by the Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale and fostered through mindfulness-based practices, benefits individual well-being (Shapiro et al. 2008). Chiesa and Serretti (2010) determined that graduates of a 10-day mindfulness meditation retreat experienced reduced stress levels for up to 3 months following the retreat. The authors also found a reduction in stress values of a group of healthy meditators, compared to a control group. However, Newberg (2011) cautioned that although mindfulness practices have the potential to facilitate perceptual shifts and enhance acceptance, self-doubt and frustration accompanying feelings of performance anxiety might hinder possible benefits. Therefore, one must have realistic expectations and patience when starting a mindfulness meditation practice.

Nevertheless, contemporary psychologists have adopted mindfulness as a supportive practice to enhance awareness and respond more constructively to personal and social situations (Siegel 2014). Mindfulness supported greater self-regulation and emotional well-being (Brown and Ryan 2003). People who regularly engage in meditation consistently reported greater emotional well-being, particularly individuals who practiced more frequently at longer intervals (Keune and Perczel Forintos 2010). Therefore, meditation, in a nonclinical setting , might support enhanced mental and emotional health (Keune and Perczel Forintos 2010) as well as moral reasoning and decision-making (Shapiro et al. 2012).

Thus, although one can easily dismiss mindfulness as the latest fad in organizational development or the latest quick fix for an overly stressed society, the mounting body of scientific literature, indicating impressive benefits for clinical and healthy populations, challenges such a position (Glomb et al. 2011). Consequently, the time is appropriate to investigate the potential impact mindfulness might have on leader self-development and psychological maturation.

Currently, while practitioners garner increased interest in mindfulness meditation and leader development, scholars conduct few studies on this topic. Mindfulness meditation allows a leader to appreciate the changing nature of reality and begin to relinquish over-identification with particular views or outcomes (Gelles 2015). Moreover, regular and consistent mindfulness practice helps leaders identify and replace limiting habits by helping them identify and accept current strengths and weaknesses (Goldman Schuyler 2010).

Opening up to one’s daily experiences and learning to be offset the persistent drive to achieve, which gives greater access to one’s innate inner wisdom (Carroll 2008). This opening offers leaders the opportunity to see and accept circumstances for what they are, not how they may wish them to be, before taking action (Gelles 2015). In addition, cultivating mindfulness allows leaders to make smarter decisions, because they are more aware of their inner world and, therefore, better able to connect with others and the conditions in their environment (Boyatzis and McKee 2013; Scharmer and Kaufer 2013). Whereas research on mindfulness in the work setting is young, the evidence indicates that it may have the potential to greatly contribute to several lines of management inquiry including leader effectiveness (Goldman Schuyler 2010).

Offering short-term workplace programs on mindfulness practices may be a valuable method for organizations to support the self-care and self-reflection necessary for leadership effectiveness (Pipe et al. 2009). For example, mindfulness training may help leaders develop the capacity to notice bodily sensations, thinking patterns, and behavioral patterns. Such insights allow leaders to loosen the grip such habitual patterns have on them and permit them to meet people and circumstances with more openness and receptivity (Karssiens et al. 2014).

Moreover, mindful leaders tend to have stronger intrapersonal and interpersonal skills; therefore, they frequently become more effective in fulfilling their leadership responsibilities and functions (George, as cited in Silverthorne 2010). Consequently, Ruderman et al. (2014) concluded that mindfulness and other types of contemplative practices offer leaders an assortment of techniques to interrupt habitual thoughts and reactionary patterns while creating opportunities for reperceiving, reinterpreting, and responding in ways that are more constructive. “Contrary to popular belief, cultivating the capacity for mindfulness is not just a nice-to-have or something to be done for private reasons: it is actually essential for sustaining good leadership” (Boyatzis and McKee 2013, p. 140).

Frizzell et al. (2016) identified ten developmental themes from 20 diverse manager-leaders with a regular (at least 3 days a week) mindfulness meditation practice for at least 3 months. The developmental themes included (a) more integrated/balanced leadership, (b) greater self-regulation, (c) commitment to the practice, (d) enhanced self-awareness, (e) improved work relationships, (f) greater inner calm and peace, (g) greater self/other empathy and compassion, (h) deeper listening and being present, (i) motivated by a personal or professional crisis, and (j) more tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. These developmental themes are indicative of increasing psychological maturation and wellness.

Research findings, such as ones highlighted above, are contributing to growing interest in and the use of mindfulness meditation by individual leaders such as Bill George (former CEO Medtronic), Bill Ford (Ford Motor Company), Peter Meehan (Newman’s Own), Jeff Immelt (GE), and Steve Jobs (1955–2015: Apple, Inc.). Furthermore, an increasing number of organizations such as General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Medtronic, and Google are offering mindfulness training to employees (Gelles 2015).

However, the practice of mindfulness is not a quick fix or instant remedy. Goldman Schuyler (2010) warned that cultivating mindfulness is comparable to starting an exercise program or engaging in other wellness-oriented activities rather than learning a particular management skill, which may explain its underrepresentation in the leadership literature. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize that the original and ultimate purpose of meditation is spiritual enlightenment.

Spiritual enlightenment generally refers to a direct experience of the unity of all life or one’s Supreme Identity (Wilber 2001). Humanity’s future depends on our capacity to fully mature and cultivate spiritual intelligence (SQ). SQ is the capacity to maintain equanimity regardless of internal or external circumstances and includes a sense of relatedness to life in all its diverse expressions (Wigglesworth 2012). Wigglesworth (2012) proclaimed that SQ, along with IQ, emotional intelligence (EQ), and physical intelligence, was a foundational intelligence for living a healthy and fulfilling life in the twenty-first century.

Furthermore, while SQ is developmental, a temporary spiritual state experience is distinct from a permanent developmental stage progression (Wilber 2000). As highlighted by Wilber, higher states of consciousness tend to be temporary while higher stages of consciousness (which can be stimulated by higher states) are more permanent acquisitions of the person. In addition, Wigglesworth (2012) distinguished between the self of the ego and personality from the self of his or her divine nature, grounded in God, as a person understands Him/Her/It. Thus, one can have a spiritual experience at any level of development. However, unity experiences do not guarantee psychological maturity.

Consequently, people can be spiritually enlightened but be underdeveloped in essential developmental lines and also have problematic shadow issues (Wilber 2001). Wigglesworth’s proclamation about the essential nature of SQ in the twenty-first century has profound implications for individual leaders and organizations given that the topic of spirituality is often a forbidden one in the traditional work environment.


Humanity faces unprecedented global challenges such as climate change, terrorism, water scarcity, and growing social inequality in countries (Guillén and Ontiveros 2012). Humanity’s global challenges, along with other evolutionary drivers (e.g., the increasing demands from millennials for greater equity, meaning, and responsibility in the workplace), necessitate personal, relational, team, and organizational transformation. Consequently, every capable adult is being called to be and become a leader for his or her inner journey toward maturation and wholeness.

However, given the current reality of the developmental gap of formal leaders at this critical time in human history, transformation must begin with formal leaders and their development to include psychological maturation. As highlighted above, psychological and emotional maturation include issues of identity, moral, and ego development; personal mastery; personality integration and shadow work; and will (balanced) cultivation. Furthermore, this critical transformation also requires awakening to the ultimate unity of all life.

In today’s Global Age, access to instruction on contemplative practices that facilitate vertical development and foster unity consciousness is widely available. One extremely promising supportive and transformational practice is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices are not new. They have roots in the world’s ancient wisdom traditions. What is new, however, is the scale at which they are available. The mass availability of mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices is unprecedented. Therefore, the potential implications for individuals and organizations are extensive.

As evidenced by studies highlighted in this chapter, mindfulness meditation has salutary and transformative potential for individual leaders who regularly, consistently, and skillfully practice. Although one transformed leader may not be able to transform an entire organization, “transforming individuals through leader development efforts also transforms organizations” (Day et al. 2004, p. 11). Whereas one transformed leader with greater self-awareness and self-regulation can make a positive difference in an organization, investment in mindfulness training for multiple leaders or leadership teams might transform entire organizations. In turn, transformed organizations have the potential to transform societies and the world.

However, mindfulness meditation is not a panacea or quick fix for leaders or organizations nor is it an easy or pleasurable “do when you please” activity, as it requires a long-term commitment to regular self-observation and self-honesty. The Eastern approach to mindfulness, with roots in Buddhism, is part of a comprehensive path known as the Noble Eightfold Path. Although one does not need to be or become a Buddhist to practice mindfulness, the Eightfold Path includes three general categories of practice, ethical conduct (right or skillful speech, action, and livelihood), mental discipline (right or skillful effort, concentration, and mindfulness), and wisdom (right or skillful understanding and thinking; Gunaratana 2012). Therefore, without consideration of and commitment to these other dimensions, the transformative potential of mindfulness meditation is limited.

As highlighted by Reddy and Srinivasan (2015), leaders and organizations must consider the goals and objectives of talent development. If they desire vertical growth, they must initiate interventions that will facilitate such learning, which may require serious investigation of firmly held assumptions about leader development. However, organizations cannot mandate vertical growth. They can invest in, offer, encourage, and support leaders and all employees in exploring and experimenting with mindfulness meditation and other contemplative practices when conditions are suitable (i.e., readiness, openness, and commitment).

Leaders who yearn to make a difference and positively contribute to real solutions will have to access more of their potential. Traditional ways of learning, being, and acting will not suffice. People must open their hearts and minds to techniques and practices that foster vertical development and transformation , not with blind faith, but with genuine willingness and courage to experience for themselves whether these practices make a real difference in their lives.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Metamorphosis Coaching and ConsultingDurhamUSA
  2. 2.School of ManagementWalden UniversityMinneapolisUSA

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