Notes From the Field: Integrative Leadership Conference, University of Minnesota

Notes from the Field / October 2008

Yung-Pin LuThe Integrative Leadership Conference was held at the Center for Integrative Leadership, University of Minnesota, on October 5th to 7th 2008. This conference focused on leadership by leading across boundaries for the common good. The Center of Integrative Leadership seeks to examine and advance a new vision for a cross-sector leadership, integrative leadership. The vision of integrative leadership is to influence, leverage, and resource collective actions toward people’s common concerns to create the interconnection and interrelationship with the processes of change. From this perspective, integrative leadership seems to draw on leadership theories from multiple disciplines to create one leadership theory.

The conference started with an opening discussion with Dr. Mansour Javidan, Dean of Research and the Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. He spoke about experiences with leadership across cultures and the Global Mindset. During the discussion, Dr. Javidan articulated the cultural differences that come from the apparently fundamental similarities of every culture. People might try to talk about the same simple concept and use it to communicate with each other. They might develop abilities to work with people from different culture backgrounds. However, how is information or simple concepts decoded during the communicational processes? Dr. Javidan indicated that it is dangerous, sometimes, because the more I know you, the more I decide for you. This is a critical question and there is no easy answer. From the viewpoint of integration, global leadership is not about adjusting, yet it is about understanding. The most difficult understanding is to try a different perspective or angle to see the same thing.

In order to challenge the complexity of changes in the global environment, global leaders have to understand this difficulty to continue the flattening of organizations and crossing of boundaries to collaborate with people who come from all around the world. Everyone has a different and individual profile of the understanding in the global situation. Therefore, global leaders have to consider and understand this situation as well as to develop their Global Mindset. From the research, people who have higher individual Global Mindsets have a higher frequency in parts of the brain than people who have scored lower on the Global Mindset. Dr. Javidan believes the way that the brain functions affects and influences the way they perceive culture. Even though Dr. Javidan introduces the assessment of the Global Mindset to help leaders understand and be able to develop their abilities, the Global Mindset does not explain how Global Mindset does matter from the followership perspective. From the research Dr. Javidan expressed that social capital is much more difficult to develop compared with intellectual or psychological capital. How does a leader’s Global Mindset develop? How does human capital and adult learning affect or influence this Global Mindset? What is the dynamic situation happening during the developmental process? How does a facilitator understand this dynamic situation? These are some questions that still need to be answered by future researchers.

Mark Gerzon, Founder and Executive Director of the Mediators Foundation, continued the conversation about Global Mindset by presenting the idea of global intelligence to explain leading in the face of conflict. He believes leaders are the mediator in many fields to connect all participants in the situation around them. He suggested integrative tools for leaders to use: integral vision, systems thinking, presence, inquiry, conscious conversation, dialogue, bridging and innovation. Presence applies to all human mental, emotional and spiritual resources to develop the ability to interpret a conflict situation for leading through conflict. Inquiry refers to the power of questions. Conscious conversation focuses on how people choose their talk and listen to themselves in developing their self-awareness. Building a bridge and creating a partnership across boundaries can foster a good environment for leading through conflict. Mark Gerzon highlighted trust as the key of all the tools. However, he did not help people to understand how this changing dynamic works and what the change in dynamics looks like. Going back to the idea of global intelligence, Mark Gerzon’s suggestions merely focused on the tools and abilities and he did not offer a lot of connections about learning them. How do these tools facilitate leaders’ cognitive development? How do these tools change followers’ cognitions and an entire organizational culture?

In following sections of the presentations, several presenters emphasized that the dynamic process and the ability of relationship handling are two important keys to leadership from the perspective of strategic planning. Another presenter argued that there is a circle process of strategic planning, learning, and acting. Several researchers switched the term of managerial leadership from Gary Yukl to integrative leadership directly without improving clarity about the relationship and connection between the two. Two speakers studied integrative leadership theory and tested the theory from the behavioral perspective, yet only from an emergency management viewpoint. According to the words of Thomas Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost at the University of Minnesota, “There is no single model” of integrative leadership, it might be a big misunderstanding to view leadership from the strategic planning viewpoint, especially from an integrative point of view. The inter-relationship between leadership, management, managerial leadership, and strategic planning should not be confused as there may be serious consequences. People have to view leadership much more carefully when they use this term to explain an idea or conception. It might become a big mistake to change the term without a clear explanation or experimentation.

The later presentations and discussions point out that integrative leaders have to find common purpose and common good through collaboration. Some people argued that integration of leadership and developing integrative capacity involves developing individual leaders and institutional leaders. Another presenter suggested another three skills in integrative leadership: negotiation, facilitation, and collaborative problem solving. These suggestions and arguments may look new to connect with integrative leadership, but they all sound familiar in organizational learning theory and adult development of sense-making.

Following the idea of problem solving, Dr. Mary Uhl-Bien, the Howard Hawks Chair in Business Ethics and Leadership and the Interim Director of the Leadership Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented on the complexity of integrative leadership, which focuses on the complex dynamics of interaction and how dynamics are generative of emergent adaptability and creativity from the behavioral point of view. The dynamics involve self-organizing, self-interest, nonlinear, interdependent of common need, heterogeneity of ideological conflict, adaptive tension of stresses, and the history of organizational system and structure. The model includes three functions of leadership: adaptive leadership, enabling leadership, and administrative leadership. Adaptive leadership is an “informal leadership process that occurs in intentional interactions of interdependent human agents as they work to generate and advance novel solutions in the face of adaptive needs of the organization” (Dr. Uhl-Bien).

Adaptive leadership produces new ideas, innovation, new changes, and adaptabilities. Administrative leadership is the managerial form of leadership which controls the fundamental bureaucracy of the organization where it is difficult to adapt the dynamic change. Enabling leadership covers the connection between administrative and adaptive leadership. The concept of complexity leadership theory tries to explain the complex dynamics of working situations and relationships between adaptive, administrative and enabling leadership. The result of this study suggests that people balancing the complexity of leadership dynamics can be the key to explaining the processes of integrative leadership from the behavioral perspective.

Even though complexity theory of integrative leadership can clarify part of the leadership processes in organizations by measuring people’s behavior, this theory does not discuss some issues such as culture and environmental change. How do people articulate cultural issues and environmental change when thinking about the complexity theory of an integrative leadership model? What will this model change? What will the new model look like? How do scholars combine all of the issues into one theory to fit the entire conception of an integrative leadership? Can scholars assess the complexity theory from the psychological, social culture, or global leadership perspectives? What will these perspectives look like if compared with the behavioral assessment? There are a lot of questions waiting for researchers to find out the answers.

Integrative leadership is a new concept which tries to create a big umbrella to attempt including all leadership theories. It seems like a wonderful idea, yet it is a huge challenge. How do we develop integrative leaders or followers? How do we measure the changing, learning, and adapting? How do we evaluate the integrative leaders? What kinds of mythology can evaluate and measure? From the idea of integration, do we need to evaluate and measure behaviors only, or include cognition and spirituality? This may be a very risky way to create a new leadership theory to cover all kinds of patterns, elements and contexts at the same time, as it may have a huge limitation and boundaries that are waiting for future researchers to challenge. The first step of this challenge might be to understand the differences between the terms of integrative, integration, and Integral Leadership in the literature and open the source of the foundation of the integrative leadership research to all kinds of fields, yet focus on business, management and strategic planning.

The conference was successful in bringing people together and provided an opportunity for dialogue. Future research is waiting for brave people to take a challenge. Again, it is hard to try a totally different perspective or angle to see the same things. The most difficult thing is to try the multiple different perspectives and angles at the same time to figure out one thing.

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Yung-Pin (Malcolm) Lu is currently a doctoral student in leadership studies at Marian University and plans to finish his degree in 2009. He also has a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Dubuque in Iowa, and a bachelor’s degree in Commercial Design from the Ming Chuan University in Taiwan. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between leadership theory and organizational learning theory from a behavior perspective. His research interests include leadership theory, organizational learning, organizational development, leadership development, cultural leadership, and global leadership. He is an intern for 2008-2009 with the Integral Leadership Review.

As an educator, Yung-Pin Lu is currently teaching in the values-based leadership program at Marian University and has assisted with several leadership classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels. He has presented on cultural and international issues of leadership at several conferences and has been actively involved in a number of student leadership roles in higher education at institutions in Taiwan and the United States.

He consults and assists with organizations and businesses in Asia and the United States. He has worked on problems related to focusing on strategic planning, organizational structure, organizational development, human resources, and special project management. He advises executives on solving organizational problems and helps create leadership development projects.

From his multi-cultural experiences, Yung-Pin Lu has a passion to share and communicate with people about cultural issues. He has been a private tutor, Chinese language teaching assistant and cultural speaker for over 5 years.

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