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By Laura Bloomberg, Executive Director, Center for Integrative Leadership


Welcome to Time to Lead, a conversation hosted by the University of Minnesota's Center for Integrative Leadership. Here we'll collectively grapple with the concept and practice of integrative leadership--What is it? Where is it happening? Where should it be happening? How do we know integrative leadership when we see it? Why does it matter anyway???

In brief, we define integrative leadership as leading across sectoral, cultural, and national boundaries to advance the common good.

Accordingly, the mission of the Center for Integrative Leadership (CIL) is to discover and disseminate transformative knowledge about the nature and practice of leadership across business, government, and civil society sectors to advance the common good locally, nationally, and globally.

Although strong arguments have long been made for the value of collaboration among, for example, nonprofits, government agencies, or high tech initiatives, much less attention has been paid to understanding (and promoting) the conditions under which leadership for cross sector work establishes a foothold and thrives.

A quick look at the polarization among this country's current political leadership suggests the idea of integrative leadership has not been fully embraced in the public arena in a way that allows our government leaders--collectively--to advance the common good. Similar examples tell us the same is true in many parts of our private and nonprofit sectors.

And yet we see inspiring examples of integrative leadership for the common good springing up in surprising places that convince us a new way of doing business is both possible and desirable.....

How is it that a Blue-Green Alliance is thriving and experiencing new success in bringing together labor unions and environmentalists to create jobs in an emerging green economy? Environmentalists and labor unions have a long history of divisiveness.

What conditions were put in place to enable Rotary Club International to effectively share leadership with local officials in the developing world to continue the fight to eradicate polio?

Why does a savvy business leader like Marilyn Carlson Nelson risk the reputation of a corporate powerhouse like Carlson to address the horrific worldwide problem of sexual exploitation of children in the tourism industry by linking the problem to the economic and social development of every community on every continent in the world?

What motivated elected tribal leaders from all eleven tribes in Minnesota to set aside their long held differences to rally around the idea that they must collectively "prepare Indigenous youth for a lifetime of choices, not circumstances"?

These creative efforts are spurred by integrative thinkers and leaders--not one charismatic person at the top, but an array of leaders who see a different way of moving toward a better future for all of us.

Last week Samuel Palmisano, Chairman and CEO of IBM, shared his thoughts in Newseek about change agents in the 21st century. More specifically, he commented on what he believes we must do to ensure a sustainable future for the 70% of our planet's population that will be living in cities (Palmisano reminds us that we are adding the equivalent of seven New Yorks to the planet every year). He writes:

"Cities of the future will have to be far more collaborative. I'm not talking just about public-sector/private sector cooperation. None of [our infrastructure] systems are controlled by any one agency, sector, or industry. Therefore, we will need ongoing, structured collaboration among city agencies; across business, the nongovernmental sector, academia, and communities; and among cities and regional authorities. That's going to require that we develop new skills for both managing people and leading organizations."

What we need is integrative leadership.



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