Antioch Graduate School of Leadership and Change welcomes Ron Cacioppe, Visiting Professor for 2017-18. Learn more about Ron from an interview we published in the Spring ‘17 Antiochian Leader.
AU: Ron, we are thrilled you will be joining us this academic year. I know you have known about our program for a number of years and in fact have served as a mentor and an external member of several of our dissertations. What excites you most about our program?
RC: First, the program students who I have had experience with previously have been outstanding in that they are senior leaders in their fields and yet are keen to take on new ideas, and are willing to take advice and explore new concepts. I have also been impressed with their academic and scholarly professionalism.
Second, the Antioch faculty have varied backgrounds, both academically and culturally, and so have a different perspective on leadership. They are also all absolutely committed to the Antioch program, support each other and work together well. On the projects I worked on there were 3 or 4 faculty helping the student, all building on each others’ expertise rather than competing or confusing students with their special knowledge. Everyone works to help the student provide a high quality, worthwhile dissertation.
Third, the purpose and structure of the program is unique and different from any other PhD program with which I am familiar. The PhDs and DBAs in Australia don’t have nearly the level of developmental and guided progression to produce successful learners and scholarly leaders. I also really like Antioch’s history and mission in that it wants to make a social contribution to the world. The Antioch Leadership and Change program reflects this purpose in practice.
AU: If I was to interview you in June 2018 after your year with us, what would you hope you’d be able to have contributed? And, what would you have liked to learn?
RC: I hope that I have helped students produce really interesting, personally fulfilling scholarly works that we all are proud of. I hope I am able to provide guidance, support and help and lots of cheering when I see great work and give direct honest feedback to help them find a way to do it better. In terms of what I’d like to learn, as I look at the background of the Antioch faculty, I see that they have experience and expertise in areas I have not ventured into. I would like to understand the intersection of cultural diversity, community engagement and change areas much better. I would really like to come back with a new way of looking at leadership, best practice in leadership development in the US and how can I reinvent what my company is doing in leadership development and what we are teaching in universities.
AU: You have been an active scholar, professor of leadership, consultant for both business and nonprofit, and an author and speaker for decades. How has your own intellectual trajectory and interests changed over time? And, what are the areas you find most compelling these days?
RC: My initial interest in leadership came about mostly on the sporting field. I was a quarterback in high school, president of my class, the point guard on a state championship basketball team and the leading hitter on a baseball team that went to the college world series so I was leading people but didn’t have a clue of what leadership was.
When I went to work as an engineer in the private sector, I saw a huge difference in the leaders I worked for. One was brilliant but all the other managers I worked for were awful – good engineers but bad leaders. I did an MBA in the US and learned you could do things better, especially in the way you treated and motivated people.
After working for a few years in Australia, I started doing a PhD and, at the same time, was undergoing a huge change in my personal life. I started meditating, became aware of mindfulness practices, doing yoga and began a course in Eastern philosophy that changed my perspective on reality, myself and the nature of work. My PhD involved bringing these Eastern perspectives into Western theories and approaches to good leadership and management. At that time, I ran across the work of Ken Wilber who was developing his ‘Integral Theory’ and I used it as a basis for my PhD and my research. Integral theory seeks to integrate all fields of knowledge, East and West, and research into a comprehensive framework, a meta-theory, that helps guide human development and the evolution of societies.
I hitchhiked across the US to spend a week with Ken to discuss with him his ideas and to see if he genuinely walked the talk. Since then I have focused on any leadership theory or idea that can add practical value to the way leaders can help people in organizations work together to ‘do well by doing good’ and use Integral theory as a lens to see things.
I am currently very interested in ‘conscious business’ that shows that business is about more than just making a profit. I am also working on leadership, mindfulness and flow, and I believe it’s the role of leadership to find and bring individuals and teams into that fulfilling flow space where ‘creative emergence’ happens. I’m calling this area MindFlow or “Mindfulness 3.0.” I am also interested in discovering how a leader and the organization can bring about real cultural change. And finally, I would like to study, define and write about Integral Teamwork and Integral Leadership. In short, I’m interested in anything that a leader can use to make the world a better place!
AU: I know you are on a bit of an adventure next year, moving back to the United States after much time abroad. Would you share a bit with us about this move back and any changes in your own personal or professional life that are converging for you?
RC: This move back is truly an adventure for me and my partner, Karen, who is an Australian who grew up in Africa. We are looking forward to it. Returning to the United States where I was born after being away 40 years is both awesome and scary. Australia, like every country has its challenges, but my life is really good. I could have chosen to coast for the next few years in Australia but going back to the US and stepping into the Antioch program will put me in an environment where I will learn a lot of new things.
At a professional level, I have just stepped permanently out of the Managing Director role of my leadership development company so I am passing over control of a company I took 20 years to build. It is also a step forward for me since I was an academic for over 25 years and a professor of Leadership at the University of Western Australia but resigned nine years ago to lead the company full time. Everyone that knows me sees that I am an academic at heart, and I love bringing great ideas and theories of leadership into practice. Working in the Antioch program is fulfilling my bucket list – being a university professor again working with motivated students on innovative ways for leaders to change the world for the better is what I love doing and is in my DNA.
AU: What else would you like the Antioch community to know about you that they might not know from your CV?
RC: I’ve written a book about Haiku and Leadership and I will be playing in the ‘seniors’ Baseball World Series in Phoenix, Arizona in October this year.