By Mitzi A. Baker
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.
How does integrative leadership fit in to the field of leadership studies? Does it fill a gap? Does it describe something new?
What is Integrative Leadership? The Syllabus for PA 5105/Mgmt 6402 Spring 2010 describes these two words as meaning "multi-sector partnerships to address strategic challenges for mutual benefit". Why doesn't this description include a goal of advancing common good outcomes or communal good?
Another description of Integrative Leadership is "fostering collective action across boundaries to advance the common good" (Crosby, Kiedrowski, 2007, abstract). Personally, I like this better, as it incorporates a value "to advance the common good". Crosby and Kiedrowski claim that Integrative Leadership spans four levels: the individual, the group, the organization and the society.
At the core, is the individual - after all, each of the other levels is comprised of multiple individuals, in groups, organizations and in society. As individuals, we have strengths, talents, values, core beliefs and interests. It is unlikely, however, that any one of us will ever possess all the traits, talents and resources to tackle serious problems independently - particularly large scale communal, societal or global problems. So, we work through networks to cooperate with others who do possess that which we don't, to balance out the talents, traits and resources needed to tackle problems where there are shared goals with and a probability for mutual gain. That's essentially what Integrative Leadership is about. Whether it's recognized with this title, with another descriptive term, or no term at all is of least importance. What is significant is that we, as responsible citizens, or representatives of any sector of business or government, acknowledge and tap into the potential of working across boundaries; that we stretch ourselves and those around us to be innovative, to lead and be lead, to address complex problems together. In particular, we should exercise Integrative Leadership to advance the common good.
A 2006 article by Bryson, Crosby and Stone focused on Cross-Sector Collaboration and describes this as "partnerships involving government, business, nonprofits and philanthropies, communities, and/or the public as a whole" (p44). They define cross sector collaboration as "the linking or sharing of information, resources, activities, and capabilities by organizations in two or more sectors to achieve jointly an outcome that could not be achieved by organizations in one sector separately" (p44). Doesn't this describe Integrative Leadership?
Crosby and Kiedrowski recognize Integrative Leadership as "an emerging yet under-developed area in the field of leadership"[studies] (p.5). While Integrative Leadership may fill a gap in leadership studies, this type of leadership is not new. This type of leadership has existed for as long as there have been people and problems or challenges that have required cooperation or collaboration to solve... or to try to solve. When First Nations tribes of the Americas began to lose territory to European settlers, and violence over territory flared, did the tribal leaders not reach to other tribal leaders to unite in defending land and a way of life? Tribes needed to form alliances to work toward common interests. The challenges were too large to take on alone. Only recently, I learned that some tribes befriended and collaborated with European settlers, and together eliminated threats from competing tribes through violent action. What about Cleopatra? When she reached out to Julius Cesar to join allegiances to defend her beloved Egypt, was she working across sectors for mutual gain?
In more recent times, we've seen examples of "integrative leadership" at work in responding to natural and human induced disaster, and in eradicating disease. While much of the academic literature seems to focus on global issues and high ranking or high profile individuals or cases, integrative leadership and leadership in general, is practiced at all levels of "rank" within organizations and society. It is not reserved for the elite. So, if the shoe fit's, wear it.