“The Leadership Integrity Challenge” by Edward E. Morler is the most important book I have come across in at least a decade. And I am a voracious reader.
The book is about.
The lack of emotional maturity is at the root of all our problems. That is the main message of the book.
The author lists a variety of issues from highway littering, corporate fraud and terrorism to rainforest destruction.
Although our happiness and perhaps very survival demands mature adult judgement and action, we continue to react and behave like insecure self-absorbed adolescents
Unlike many other leadership or personal development books, “The Leadership Integrity Challenge” does not offer any quick and easy remedies. Morler also takes on a much more direct approach than many other authors in this category, which I find invigorating.
Furthermore, the book is free of any “New Age” blather, widespread in the self-help industry. Because maturity is not about something “out there” to lean on, or to justify our own excuses. It is about you, me and all of us.
Concepts such as integrity and emotional maturity are not described in sweeping terms. Instead, much room is given to thorough explanations, and more importantly, to their impact.
The book is for whom.
The book is for those of us who have understood it is not sufficient just to believe that we need to grow up. It is vital and urgent.
With this book you can find a way to utilise that insight.
The author primarily addresses leaders, but this book is helpful to anyone, no matter your career or position. It is also written for the whole world. I cannot imagine a setting or a culture where Morler’s teachings would not be useful.
What the author wants to achieve.
This is not a self-help book, but an us-help book. Its aim is to facilitate the formation of emotionally mature entities: A business, an organisation or even a whole society.
To achieve that you need a critical mass of true adults. Since most of us are not very mature, we need to find ways to lift ourselves up from our present, rather sad, state.
[Emotional maturity] means…. to responsibly confront and deal with all issues of life- the ‘bad’ as well as the ‘good.
What content adds the most value.
The author presents a large number of sensible, down-to earth arguments for why we need to grow up.
And the huge consequences of not doing so.
Immaturity simply affects us in every aspect of life.
The world has improved in many ways. Still, we battle with old plights such as war and poverty while facing unprecedented threats. Many live relatively wealthy, yet unhappy and limited lives, with jobs they detest. Often affiliated with some kind of addictive or numbing behavior.
According to Morler, the only way we can sustainably address those problems, and prevent ourselves from creating new ones, is to enhance our emotional maturity.
The first step is to acknowledge that everything we do or avoid to do, has an impact.
Some of the core content in the book.
The child in an older body
Many are still emotionally children or adolescents occupying older bodies…
Emotional maturity is related to our ego development from infant to adult. The sad fact is that most of us continue to act like children or adolescents even though our birth certificate says otherwise.
The typical “child in an older body” is self-absorbed, materialistic, focused on competition and very concerned about their personal image. To them, other people fall into two main categories: You either pose a threat or you are a source to extract approval from.
The immature is often addicted. Be it to drugs, food or work. (Or to your mobile phone for that matter). Snobbery is just another way of numbing yourself. Because that is what addictions are: distractions, to deny or repress something you do not dare to deal with.
Or you take those emotions out on others. Incessantly blaming others and defending yourself, is another hallmark of an immature human being. Since you fear any kind of change, you are not able to learn from your experiences.
Altogether, not a good life strategy.
The true adult,
is able to face their fears, and thereby become less self-centered. They constantly ask themselves, “what was my role in that”, without taking on other’s responsibility.
Emotionally mature people feel their emotions, even the negative ones, and use them to positive action: they are resilient, trustworthy and productive.
With increasing self-respect comes an increasing respect for others. Therefore, mature beings need not spend much energy on fighting battles. On the contrary, they establish good relations with a wide variety of people.
At the same time, they are brave and willing to confront whatever needs to be confronted. They constantly seek out differing viewpoints.
The six levels of maturity
The author presents a framework consisting of six levels of Maturity. Each corresponding to the ability to cope with life.
No matter culture or personality, people at the same level share the same beliefs and attitudes. Even though these can be expressed differently. It is not just applicable to individuals, but also to organisations, governments and whole societies.
Only the top level 6 is considered truly mature, and the levels 1-3 as dysfunctional. Or as the Morler so frankly puts it: “they are … a liability to themselves and others”. The characteristics of each level is described according to a range of parameters.
A few examples:
Level 1 –the Victim: Zero productivity. Learning-capacity non-existent.
Level 3- the (angry) Opposer: Irresponsible. Angry at most things. Destructive. Must control others. (Dictators are usually at this level, Hitler included.)
Level 5- the Doer: Will try to do it attitude. Motivated by personal growth opportunity. Trustworthy most of the time. “Life isn’t bad.”
The higher our level, the more positive impact we have. The lower, the more negative impact on ourselves, and all around us. The author estimates that the average in society (in the U.S.?) is between 3 and 4. Building good teams is only possible among people at the highest levels. (the reason why so many teams fail).
Level 2 – The manipulators
I will not dwell on the different levels, but I will say a few words about level 2 individuals, since they can often be found in higher positions, where they cause much damage and suffering.
These are the skillful manipulators. They belittle and humiliate others, often through sophisticated and subtle methods. They are adroit at hiding their true intentions, and can be very charming. Hence, they often climb the ranks.
For a manipulator it is all about winning, and making you lose. Showing honesty or compassion is to them a sign of weakness. They have a very polished social facade, and manifest sociopathic characteristics.
Taking responsibility is not within their horizon. When confronted with their behavior, they often claim it was a joke or a misunderstanding.
People at the higher maturity levels often do not understand this irrational behavior, and hence do not see through it, while the manipulators try to take advantage of their naivety.
How to facilitate emotional maturity.
….true empowerment is not and cannot be given by some other person or entity. It can only be given to us, by ourselves. Others can only provide a supportive environment ( or not.)
A condition for any of the tools presented in the book is, that those carrying out these trainings are mature themselves.
Furthermore, the processes suggested are not for amateurs.
Having that said, much of what is outlined can be drawn on or used as an inspiration both for individuals and for organisations.
Two of the methods recommended.
Assessing people’s level of maturity
I do not see how an amateur will be able to make accurate assessments of an individual’s level of maturity.Nonetheless, becoming better at discerning the “functionals” from the “dysfunctionals” could be very useful – especially to resist their manipulation techniques. And subsequently, avoiding them being employed, promoted or elected.
In order to assess a person’s true level you need to observe that person over time. We are all able to, for shorter periods, to be at any of the levels. (feeling extremely sorry for yourself, temporary tantrums you later regret, and so on). What matters is your most permanent state, what Morler calls the chronic level.
One of the other main recommendations in the book is to deal with repressed communication.
How an individual or a group communicates,….. is one of the best indicators of that individual’s or group’s level of emotional maturity.
Without open communication true collaboration cannot take place, having severe effects on productivity and creativity. For communication to open up, you need to establish an environment where people dare opening up, and express what they truly feel. (Building such trust takes time, and presupposes a mature leadership, which is often the core problem).
Politeness has become a justification for not speaking up. My take is that the more politeness and formality within an organisation, the more dysfunctional it is.
What should have been discussed further.
The most interesting part of the “the Leadership Integrity Challenge” is a small subchapter on democracy. More specifically, about the western world imposing democracy on societies not ready for it. Morler does not mention any specific, but with his background as a U.S. naval officer, it is hard not to think about troubled countries like Afghanistan or Iraq.
When your basic needs for security, food and shelter are not met, you are not able to make sound judgements on who are best suited to govern your country. Furthermore, forcing democracy (or anything) on people is counterproductive. It generates resentment and erodes trust. I wish he had elaborated further on this issue, but I can see why he does not. The same regards his statement that the six levels of maturity are applicable even to societies.
According to my experience the less developed a country is, the less mature. That may to a larger part be due to circumstances beyond its influence, but it is limited how long you can blame your state of affairs on colonialism or on other exogenous circumstances.
Lesser developed countries too often have incredibly immature leaders, who more than well fit the description above of the child in an older body. People from western democracies, claiming it is just as bad in their own countries, evidently have not spent much time in the poorer regions of the world.
It is not that the people of Afghanistan, or any other tormented nation, will never, ever be able to build a stable democracy, if that is what they want. It is just that for the time being they are not capable, and it is not what they need.
As mentioned, the recommended processes in this book are not for beginners. I can easily see that a half-baked coaching attempt, or a badly managed communication session, could create hostility, have a dampening effect on people’s self-esteem, and impede the intended outcome.
Besides, changing attitudes and behaviour takes time and perseverance. Another reason why the suggested processes should be left to those with the adequate skills and experience.The main reason why so many trainings fail is that they are conducted as one-time events. (How many team-buildings have I not taken part in that accomplished absolutely nothing? Apart from resentment towards the next team-building?)
I have reread the book, twice, and yet I am confused about the connection between maturity and integrity. Morler mentions that “at the core of emotional maturity is integrity.” That these concepts are “inextricably intertwined”. Or that “integrity is the essence of emotional maturity”. It is still not clear to me what is the cause and what is the effect. However, I choose to see them as one concept. Whether you act with integrity because you are mature, or whether integrity leads to maturity, does not take away their immense impact on our own and our planet’s well-being.
Some good reminders from Morler.
The state of the world is a reflection of our overall level of maturity.
We need to stop supporting immature behavior, we are only preventing people from facing their fears and responsibilities.
In order to help other people become mature, we need to be mature ourselves. You can only lead people up to your own level of maturity.
As an immature you live a restricted life.
“Am I making this choice because I am afraid to choose something else?”
The author is the CEO of Morler International, offering various training programmes focusing on assessing and facilitating emotional maturity. Before reading the book you could start by reading one of his articles: “The Whispers are screaming.”
Note: Despite Morler also being certified in what are, within the field of psychology, regarded as alternative methods with no scientific evidence, I have not found any direct reference to these methods in the book. Moreover, it is beyond my competence to make any plausible assessment of the methods or methodology referred to in “The Leadership Integrity Challenge.” I leave any such review or criticism to qualified scholars.