By Christine Rehm-Zola
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.
The working definition we've used for integrative leadership states that this kind of leadership "fosters collective action across boundaries to advance the common good." The type of action, the nature of the boundaries, and how you define the common good can vary greatly depending on the context of the given situation. Yet, at the core, all the cases we studied exemplified integrative leadership in practice, in the real world outside of our academic halls.
In particular, our case dealing with political business cycles and the 2002 Brazilian presidential election was very interesting because it demonstrated the way that leaders must communicate differently with different parties. Multiple channels of communication bridging sectors or cross-sections of society, sending targeted messages to different parties, but keeping communication open at all times.
In the article "Leadership Skills for a Changing World", Mumford points out the need for leaders to have social perceptiveness. In order to be effective, they must be able have "insight into the needs, goals, demands, and problems of different organizational constituencies." It sounds pretty simple, in theory. Yet, in practice, to be aware of others' circumstances and motivations (in real time, not hindsight), and have the flexibility to adjust your problem solving approach can be incredibly challenging.
It was also evident that sometimes being flexible and willing to follow can result in partnerships and initiatives that were not intended. While examples of intentionality in integrative leadership tend to be more common, there are times when unintended integrative leadership happens organically, serendipitously revealing common causes and aligning interests.
With the vast amount of issues we face in our modern society and their increasing complexity, no one sector (government, business, or nonprofit) can hope to fully address these problems effectively. And so we prepare to leave the university, armed with the knowledge that there are many fellow practitioners of integrative leadership in all sectors, people with whom we have much in common. We must press forward with patience and humility, ever perceptive to problems on macro and micro scales, and seek to understand the nuances of all stakeholders, even those without a seat at the table.