Sunday, August 22, 2010

Metta McGarvey - Mindful Leadership Study & Integral Implications

Metta McGarvey earned her PhD (2009) at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, Human Development & Psychology - her dissertation is the Mindful Leadership Study, a look at how mindfulness practice influences leadership skills. Among her advisors was adult development pioneer Robert Kegan.

Her study has generated some serious excitement in the integral community due to one of its outcomes, which suggests an integral meditative practice is more powerful than a traditional mindfulness practice. An article on those results is forthcoming at Integral Life.

I emailed Metta about the study and I hope to do a brief interview with her in the near future. So please stay tuned.

Here is the pre-study outline - be sure to read the PDF excerpts in the results section:

Study Overview

The purpose of the study is to understand how mindfulness - whether naturally occurring or deliberately cultivated - may help leaders be more effective in developing the social and emotional skills critical to effective leadership. The main outcome is to articulate the educational implications for leadership development training that incorporates mindfulness.

This study has two primary research goals. First, to describe potential associations between degree of mindfulness (in leaders with and without a regular mindfulness practice) and characteristics of normal personality and social/emotional traits and skills. Second, to describe how leaders self-assess and work with their inner and outer stresses, and their relationship-building strategies in light of that self-knowledge.

The study also includes some technical research goals related to designing future cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of mindfulness and leadership. If you are interested in these kinds of details, please contact me.

This study has four steps estimated to take 2 hours total to complete. For more detailed information than is presented below, please see the Participation Information page.

Step 1: Participation Questionnaire - 10 minutes

Step 2: Agreement to Participate, Confidentiality, and Withdrawal from the Study - 10 minutes

Step 3: Completion of 3 Assessment Instruments - 35 minutes, 15 minutes, and 10 minutes respectively

Step 4: Informational Questionnaire - 40 minutes

Optional Follow-up Interviews

Up to 12 study participants who express interest in further participation will have the option of participating in a follow-up interview of 1-1.5 hours in March or April 2008.


1. Study Participants will have a unique learning opportunity to gain self-knowledge about their personality and social/emotional traits and skills, their current degree of mindfulness, and the potential effects of mindfulness for enhancing specific emotion-related leadership abilities. Enrolled participants will receive information about a variety of reports of their individual results that will be available to them. General information about these reports is included on the Frequently Asked Questions page. Detailed information about these reports will be available when participants complete the three assessments described on the Participation Information page.

2. Leadership Research: This study will be the first to describe the potential effects of mindfulness on the development of social and emotional skills in the context of adult development theory. It will also provide variability data for designing future studies of mindfulness, leadership, and social/emotional development in adult life.

3. Educational Implications: Documenting how leaders understand and cope with the stresses of leading and how they build effective relationships will be important for designing leadership development training programs focused on social and emotional skills, and for leadership coaches seeking effective self-management techniques and relationship building strategies to offer to their clients.
Here are the bullet-point results - more detailed results will be forthcoming in publications. I've highlighted the results that pertain to integral meditative practice below.

Study Results

Posted below are a few headlines of main results from the Mindful Leadership Study. Further summaries of findings will be written and posted here in July and August 2010.

Please click the links at the bottom for excerpts from the dissertation.

The complete dissertation will not be available through ProQuest/UMI Dissertation Publishing until 2012 so that chapters from the dissertation can be edited and submitted for publication. The empirical findings will be prepared for submission as journal articles. Any articles accepted for publication will be posted here as PDFs as they are available, and as individual journal copyright agreements permit. The theory chapters may be submitted for publication as a small book, and if accepted that information will also be posted here.

Main Results

Here are headlines of some summary findings from the Mindful Leadership Study. All results reported below are based on statistical analyses of self-report assessments completed by study participants.

If you are a researcher and have questions or would like to refer to these results prior to publications from the study being made available, please contact Metta McGarvey.

1. Mindfulness was strongly negatively correlated with Neuroticism as assessed by the Five Factor Model of personality.

2. Mindfulness was moderately positively correlated with emotional intelligence as assessed by the Emotional Quotient Inventory model of emotional intelligence.

3. Mindfulness was modestly positively correlated with Openness to New Experience as assessed by the Five Factor Model of personality.

4. Emotional intelligence was fairly strongly negatively correlated with Neuroticism.

5. Higher scores on Mindfulness were significantly associated with an Integral meditation practice in comparison with Buddhist meditation practices, other meditation practices, and no meditation practice.



Conclusion Section I


About Metta McGarvey:

About the Researcher

The Mindful Leadership Study is the doctoral dissertation research project of Metta McGarvey, an advanced doctoral candidate working in adult development in the Human Development and Psychology Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her thesis research focuses on the development of emotion-related skills and capacities in the context of leadership development training programs, and in particular, mindfulness as a potential catalyst for adult emotional development.

Faculty Committee
Metta's research is being conducted under the supervision of three Harvard faculty members who serve on her dissertation committee:

Robert Kegan, William and Miriam Meehan Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development, is Metta's advisor and the dissertation committee chairperson. Professor Kegan's research addresses the potential for ongoing psychological transformation in the adult years, in particular the "fit" between a person's current capacities and the demands placed upon him or her, and the implications for designing training/educational programs with optimal supports and challenges to catalyze further development. He is the author of In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (1994, Harvard University Press), and with Lisa Laskow Lahey of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (2000, Harvard University Press). Metta is currently the head Teaching Fellow for Professor Kegan's course "Adult Development" at Harvard. For more information about Dr. Kegan, please see: Kegan Faculty Profile.

Jerome Murphy, Harold Howe II Professor of Education, and Dean Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the second dissertation committee member. Professor Murphy's current research focuses on the "unheroic" aspects of leadership - the inner and outer tools and strategies by which leaders work with the confusion, pain, and difficulties of leadership to enhance their effectiveness. His prior research focused on administrative practice, organizational leadership and management, program implementation and evaluation, and qualitative research methods. Professor Murphy served as Associate Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1982 until 1991, then as Dean from 1992-2001. Metta is currently the Teaching Fellow for Professor Murphy's course "Leading and Managing Organizations." For more information about Dr. Murphy, please see: Murphy Faculty Profile.

Michael Nakkula, Research Associate, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the third dissertation committee member. Currently a full-time researcher, Dr. Nakkula has conducted several longitudinal studies primarily promoting development for at-risk youth in urban settings. He is the Co-founder and Director of Project IF: Inventing the Future (1993-present), a youth development and prevention collaborative project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Boston Public Schools, and Boston-Area subsidized housing. He is the author (with Sharon Ravitch) of Matters of Interpretation: Reciprocal Transformation in Therapeutic and Developmental Relationships with Youth (1994, Jossey Bass), and with Eric Toshalis of Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators (2006, Harvard Education Press). Metta was previously a Teaching Fellow for Professor Nakkula's course "Adolescent Development" prior to his full-time research appointment. Dr. Nakkula has recently accepted a faculty position with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and will resume teaching there in January 2008. Please click: Nakkula Project If for an article about Dr. Nakkula's work.

Education & Research Experience


Harvard University Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education, Human Development & Psychology. Degree expected June 2009.

Harvard University Master of Theological Studies. Divinity School, 1999. Tibetan Buddhism & language.

University of Chicago Bachelor of Arts. Tutorial Studies, 1981 with honors. Psychology & Religions.

Oxford University Senior year semester abroad, 1980. Theravada Buddhism and Sanskrit.


Massachusetts General Hospital, 2004-2005. Research Assistant, Dept. of Psychiatric Neuroimaging. fMRI study of experienced meditators.

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2001-2002. Research Assistant, Change Leadership Group. Subject-Object Interview data collection.

The Evaluation Center, 1999-2000. Research Assistant, Western Michigan University. Evaluation of charter schools in the state of Connecticut.


Peer Reviewed:
Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J.R., Greve, D.N., Treadway, M.T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B.T., Dusek, J.A., Benson, H., Rauch, S.L., Moore, C.I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), pp. 1893-1897.

McGarvey, M.K. (2006). Mindfulness and emotional development in adult life: A theoretical framework for future research. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Qualifying Paper.

Brown, S., & McGarvey, M. (2005). Magnificent Migrants: Shorebirds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Wildlife Refuge Magazine.

Professional Experience


Prior to returning to graduate school, Metta worked primarily in the non-profit sector as a consultant, a board member, and in staff positions with organizations including: Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, The Mind & Life Institute, International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, Cornell University Public Service Center, Nicaraguan Work Project, the Quest for Peace Campaign, and the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, MI. She also ran a campaign for U.S. Congress in Michigan's 11th Congressional District.


Metta has practiced mindfulness for 27 years, primarily through a vipassana meditation practice (for more information about vipassana meditation and the retreat centers where Metta practices, please see: Insight Meditation Society). She also holds undergraduate and masters degrees in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist Studies respectively. She completed the practicum in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester in 2004, and has been teaching mindfulness and stress reduction since 2005.

Personal Interests
Outside of academic life Metta prioritizes family and outdoor activities. She has been married for 17 years, with two stepchildren (ages 23 & 20). She has assisted her biologist husband with his research in the Alaskan arctic wilderness during several summer field seasons. Back home in New England she enjoys biking, hiking, running, canoeing, and nordic skiing, and lives on Boston's South Shore where she enjoys swimming and sea kayaking on Cape Cod Bay.

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