Leadership: Time for a Return to Integrative Fundamentals?
- Written by Tobie de Coning
If there was ever a concept that runs the risk of needing to be put to rest in the cemetery of discarded flavors of the month, it is the constant rise of new leadership fads. No, not really fads, but rather perfectly sound notions and dimensions of leadership that are relegated to fads — because we are constantly on the lookout for the holy grail, the silver bullet that will provide an instantaneous cure to all our leadership woes.
Since the middle of the previous century, we have been bombarded by new additions and different angles to leadership. We have suffered through various versions of ethical, situational, transformational, and servant leadership. And, adding another layer of complexity, we've been introduced to related concepts such as memes, integral theory, and, lest we forget, the notion of leaders as mentors and coaches.
It's no wonder that leaders from many walks of life have been left with a sense of bewilderment and now question their ability to cope with leadership requirements in this rapidly changing world.
Our saving grace might be looking beyond what the latest best-seller propagates about leadership. This will likely lead us to conclude that all the leadership versions that we are so constantly bombarded with are contextual, elemental, and important manifestations of one: integrative leadership.
Yes, integrative leadership is ethical. Yes, it is manifest situational. Yes, it is in the service of others. Yes, it is developmental. Yes, it is transformational. Yes, it is dialectic. Yes, it is systemic by nature. And yes, it also requires all leaders to fulfill mentoring as well as coaching roles.
To put it bluntly, contemporary leadership is and should be all of the above. To reduce it to one single leadership form is inappropriate and simplistic, especially given the ever-increasingly complex and volatile context within which all organizations must function.
To do the math, in modeling integrative leadership, it is perhaps appropriate to do so via log-linear models. Without getting into the complexities, in this type of model, all the leadership manifestations as alluded to here have to be present as singular, as well as higher-order effects, where the higher-order effects are indicative of the dynamic and multidirectional interplay between all of the singular leadership elements.
Contemporary leadership is brought together under the label of integrative (alternatively, systemic) leadership that should facilitate an organization's continued and seamless movement between efficacy, effectiveness, and disruptive paradigm-shifting levels of functionality. If this sounds complex, it is because it is. The main thing to remember is that integrative leadership is dialectic by nature.
This emphasizes the need for a dynamic and dialectic integrative leadership approach. It is an extremely tall order for leaders, but it is unavoidable because without it the successful longevity of organizations is very tentative.
As a leading business school, it is imperative that ISM should support leaders at all levels and in all types of organizations to embrace integrative leadership with its myriad manifestations and cascade appropriate leadership behavior to the different organizational levels.
The time is now — this is the age of integrative leadership. Nothing less will suffice.