By Victoria Bomben
Students from the Spring 2010 "Integrative Leadership: From Theory to
Practice" course, taught by Professors Jay Kiedrowski and Paul Vaaler, will
post their reflections on integrative leadership throughout the course of
the semester on the Time to Lead blog.
In class last night Professor Kiedrowski emphasized the stakes involved in integrative leadership, essentially saying, "What are the other options?" Integrative leadership is fascinating for its complexities, but perhaps even more so for its necessity. Solving the problems that exist outside of any one sector's scope requires something more of everyone involved.
The necessity of integrative leadership, while interesting, is only the beginning of the story. The challenge is in the execution. How integrative leadership happens and how it can be encouraged remains the key question. How do the right people spot the right opportunities and have the right incentives at the right time? How do we make that happen more frequently? And when all those circumstances occur, what are the key elements of success?
Different elements that comprise Integrative Leadership have formed the touching stone of the course: communication, public policy analysis, partnerships, innovation, and systems thinking to name a few. Determining how to encourage integrative leadership is more than an academic exercise. The theme that I have seen throughout the readings and case studies revolves around a broader awareness and perspective. Integrative leadership requires a willingness to learn from and listen to new perspectives. It requires a respect for partnership and the partners involved. It requires deliberate and purposeful action combined with knowledge and perhaps even a bit of luck.
Kiedrowski and Crosby describe how Project for Pride in Living representatives think of the "local community as a system .... [to help us] realize that investment in inter-organizational collaboration [is] needed and worthwhile." What I have realized throughout the course is that while the stakes are high and the difficulty level is onerous, the opportunities are numerous and exciting. The cases studied in class have revealed that surprising combinations of actors and solutions can work. However, what is absolutely essential is a willingness to step up to the plate, a sense of responsibility to the greater good.
As Paul Mooty relayed from Rotary International's decision to eradicate polio, "If it can be done, it must be done." Integrative leadership may not always work when attempted, but it is attempted because the possibility of success overcomes the certainty of failure. Encouraging a broader perspective within each individual sector may be one step toward fostering collective action across them all.