This book is written in my name and it is the product of seven years of reading and writing and many more of practice; but it is also the product of seven years of conversations that I have had with Ken Ideus, whom I feel privileged to call one of my greatest mentors.
Ken received his Doctorate in Education, specialising in management and corporate education, from Boston University. Grounded in the theory of human development, he is forged, too, by four decades of experience of helping people in organisations transform the way they exercise their leadership. I first met Ken in 2001 when I held the position of Organisation Development Manager in Royal Dutch Shell’s UK Exploration and Production business. Ken was invited into Shell to introduce his pioneering thinking in the practice of executive coaching. Even then this was a populous field but Ken distinguished himself, as he continues to do now, with an extraordinary ability to help organisational leaders reframe their business challenges into opportunities for personal growth, opportunities to help others grow, and opportunities for the enterprise they lead to play a more meaningful role in our new, globalised world.
From very early in our acquaintance, Ken guided me in my research and thinking. As he and I talked, I heard again names I was familiar with from my own postgraduate studies of a quarter of a century ago – Carl Jung, Jean Piaget, Abraham Maslow and Lawrence Kohlberg, names which will be familiar to many whatever their discipline or area of expertise. But I learned new names, too: names of other seminal researchers such as Jane Loevinger, Robert Kegan and the name, too, of Ken Wilbur, one of the most important integral thinkers of our time. Ken Ideus is also an integral thinker. He weaves his knowledge of the different strands of developmental psychology into a philosophy of humanity – of who we are and who we could be - and from this position of possibility walks alongside those whom he coaches, guiding them forward, learning with them along the way.
Ken and I also spoke of how difficult it is for those with whom we work – leaders in organisations who are, typically, busy beyond stretch, stewarding their enterprise into the future – to have this same precious chance: to dedicate time to learn about the business of being human, making sense of human experiences. And so the idea emerged to map the human development journey for them, to make accessible the discoveries of the modern theorists, enabling them, thereby, to identify opportunities for growth for themselves, for those whom they lead and also for their organisation. Ken had long been intrigued with the literary figure of the magician, Merlin - Counsellor to all the Dark Age Kings and Guide to those who seek the Grail - as a symbol of the qualities of a masterful coach. I, meanwhile, as a former student of English language and literature at the University of Bristol, was equally fascinated with the knight errant quest as a medieval narrative device for depicting the human adventure. Soon we realised that we could use the story of the search for the Grail to organise all our thinking - our subject has, after all, been the study of all peoples since earliest times and, from those times, the motif of a long meandering pathway has been regularly and variously employed to represent it.
Ken Ideus is, therefore, very much a part of this book. His thinking has shaped it. Even the title, Finding Merlin, is his. For this reason, it is dedicated to him. It serves as a vessel for a measure of his wisdom from which anyone who reads it can draw.