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Meet David Gruder of Integrity Culture Systems™ + the CIHS Center for Integral Leadership

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Gruder.

David, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
When I was in my early 20s, my father told me why he should have known by the time I was 3 years old that I was going to become a psychologist. He was right, even though my first love while growing up was music & acting. I so excelled in music that my teachers and fellow students expected me to make performing, directing and conducting my career. However, I knew by the time I was 16 that psychology was my calling despite how deeply embedded music is in my soul. Even so, the first of the 11 awards I’ve received over the course of my life was in outstanding musicianship at the ripe old age of 17.

Beyond the many important impacts my family had on my life, three things shaped my worldview as a teenager: Woodstock, travel, and a classical liberal arts education. First, my parents naively sent me to Woodstock when I was 15. That opened my eyes to how much potential we collectively have to positively impact society. Second, when I was 16, my parents sent me on a 6-week youth group cross-country bus tour. That opened my eyes to how diverse a country we are and awakened in me a thirst to travel that subsequently turned me into a world traveler.

Third, the deep education in classical liberal arts education that I received in high school and college in an unusually diverse array of topics equipped me with a remarkably diverse range of perspectives on life that continue to serve me to this day (I’m currently 64 years old). These three ingredients combined to make it possible for me to comfortably traverse a wide range of fields, people and cultures throughout my life.

By the time I was 18 I had started holding leadership, administrative, and training positions beyond my years. Back then, as odd as this seems to me in retrospect, I was appointed the training director for a crisis intervention hotline and drop-in center at the university at which I did my undergraduate work. A year later I became its director. I was concurrently on the university’s master planning team and the Executive Editor (chief of content/articles) for my college newspaper. When I stepped down from that position I was appointed the newspaper’s Student Advisor.

Before I turned 21 I was hired as the administrative assistant to the president of the university. By 1976, at the ripe old age of 22, I had gone on to become an administrator for the very first integrative health & medicine professional organization that had come into existence at a time when that the holistic health movement was first emerging. All of this was merely the beginning of the wide range of leadership roles I’ve held since then.

I completed my Ph.D. in clinical and organizational development psychology here in San Diego in 1982. Clinical psychology is about our self-development. Organizational development is about how we collaborate with each other on behalf of a purpose.

Combined with my having held leadership, administrative, and training roles across the human potential field since then, it was only natural that I ended up as a specialist in leader self-development and culture creation. Over the decades, the range of expertise I’ve developed has included master planning, psychological business strategy, organizational development, for-profit & nonprofit leadership, academic administration, culture architecture, facilitating collaboration & decision-making, clinical psychology, integrative health, curriculum & certification program development, event production, and being a professional author.

In 2008 I was named America’s Integrity Expert by Radio & TV Interview Reports, and have received personal and book awards in the unusually diverse categories of politics & society, social change, leadership, culture creation, business, health & wellness, psychology, mental health, self-help and musicianship. I’ve sat on the Board of Directors of for-profits and nonprofits, was the founding president of an international nonprofit that is now in its 20th year of flourishing, and have trained and mentored hundreds of leaders and entrepreneurs across many fields.

I’ve provided keynotes, training programs and consulting in 8 countries on 3 continents, have given multiple hundreds of media interviews (including having been featured in Forbes 18 times), and am a bestselling writer who has authored or been featured in 23 nonfiction books.

My most recent appointment is to the post of Executive Director of the Center for Integral Leadership at the California Institute for Human Science, in Encinitas, California. This is in addition to being the President of Integrity Culture Systems™ and a faculty member and Special Counsel to the Chairman of the Board of CEO Space International.

Has it been a smooth road?
My road over the decades has been smooth for stretches, bumpy for stretches, and roadless for stretches.

Over the course of my adult life, I’ve been incredibly blessed many times by being in the right place at the right time, being offered opportunities long before I believed I was ready for them, receiving awards and other recognition for my work in ways that have moved me deeply, and most of all being surrounded by love.

I’ve also been incredibly enriched by my numerous bumpy stretches, like facilitating the dying process of both my parents, a particularly painful experience as part of completing my doctoral dissertation. I’ve been even more deeply enriched by my roadless stretches, like the being utterly devastated by the demise of my first marriage and the subsequent sudden disappearance of the financial independence I had attained. As profoundly painful and disorienting as these experiences were, they’ve also been stunningly priceless, because of how blessed I am in being able to harvest profound gifts from undesired and even unacceptable life experiences.

I define success precisely as I do in my forthcoming online course, “The Integrity Guide to Having It All: Putting Your Genius Where Your Dreams Are:” being fully who we truly are (authentic), enjoying nourishing bonds with others (connection), and having a positive influence in our chosen spheres of influence (impact). These are the markers I look for because authenticity is self-integrity, the connection is relationship integrity, the impact is collective integrity, and only the combination of all three of these ingredients is capable of making us whole, complete, and successful.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Today I am the President of Integrity Culture Systems™, the Executive Director the CIHS Center for Integral Leadership, a senior mentor with CEO Space International, a senior certification trainer with the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology, and a certified Ritual Elder with the ManKind Project.

The impact mission of Integrity Culture Systems™ is “making integrity profitable, leaders effective, collaboration productive, happiness sustainable, and cultures healthy.” Integrity Culture Systems™ began in 1988 as Willingness Works®.

The Center for Integral Leadership (CIL) is the California Institute for Human Science’s first non-degree training and certification program. It is for psychospiritually oriented leaders, executives, administrators, and entrepreneurs dedicated to elevating their influence without sacrificing their ethics, wellbeing or loved ones, and who seek rigorous innovative training for the future without having to pursue a graduate degree. It is for organizations that place a premium on elevated leadership but aren’t yet large enough to have their own in-house leader development program. It serves thought leaders in emerging businesses, integrative health care, the human potential movement, academia, current & transitioning military, nonprofits, and governance.

CEO Space International has, for the past number of years, been the top-rated business development conference in Forbes and Inc.

The Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology is an international nonprofit of innovators, researchers, and practitioners in a family of integrative methods for helping people get free of baggage they carry and step into peak performance. It celebrated its 20th anniversary earlier this year.

The ManKind Project is an international nonprofit that for the past 30+ years has been devoted to men mentoring men into mature manhood by helping each other identify our own unique life mission and removing the baggage and other blocks that stand between us and living in integrity with it.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Having moved to San Diego from New York in 1975 and lived here ever since I can certainly say that San Diego has been a wonderful place to work and live. If someone was just starting out, I’d only recommend starting here if they can make enough money to manage the cost of living here or if they are good with living on a shoestring budget in order to live here until they’re able to flourish more financially.

What our city can do to improve is to significantly update its infrastructure, and decrease its bureaucratic complexities and incompetence.


  • Online Courses: Range from $47 to $1997.
  • 5-Day Leader Development Intensive in December through the CIHS Institute for Human Science: $2500 for first company leader/executive, $1000 for each additional one from that company.

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