Roger Martin. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2007.
University of Toronto Dean of the Rotman School of Management Martin has provided us with an overview of the model and development approaches for working with MBA students in teaching them integrative thinking. In doing so, he draws on an extensive collection of interviews that he has conducted with leaders in business and other fields to provide stories of their use of integrative thinking and its role in their successes.
If you are looking for a quick way to develop such thinking, this is not the place to go. However, the author does provide the model and some techniques used in training students.
Integrative thinking is “the ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expensive of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.” It involves a four-step process with feedback loops among them:
- Salience: What features do I see as important?
- Causality: How do I make sense of what I see?
- Architecture: What tasks will I do in what order?
- Resolution: How will I know when I am done?
Each integrative thinker uses a knowledge system involving stance, tools and experience which are interdependent. Stance includes these beliefs and practices:
- Existing models do not equal reality,
- Leverage opposing models,
- Better Models exist,
- I can find a better model,
- I wade into complexity, and
- I give myself time to create.
Tools involve generative reasoning, causal modeling and assertive inquiry. Experiences support deepening mastery and nurturing originality.
Generative reasoning involves exploring what might be, rather than should be and moves past deductive and inductive logic with the goal of generative a creative resolution. This is modal reasoning that includes both inductive and deductive logics and includes abductive logic. The latter promotes the inventive construction of theories and models. Causal modeling involves nonlinear and multidirectional causal links among variables. It draws on Jay Forrestor’s system dynamics. Students are taught to reverse engineer their models in order to discover how they are already using causal modeling in their thinking. Assertive inquiry, discovering what underlies others’ points of view, is offered as an alternative to advocacy.
While this book will not develop your integrative thinking overnight, it will provide you with methods and models that can help. But the lesson that Martin underscores is that for most of us it will take an ability to generate and draw on a wealth of experience and exercise the tools he offers to build real competence in integrative thinking.
Richard J. Hatala and Lillas M. Hatala. Integrative Leadership. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Integrative Leadership Institute, 2005.
Moving westward. We come to the Hatalas’ idea of integrative leadership, which draws, in part, on the work of Ken Wilber and integral theory. In fact, it draws on many different elements of human development, leadership theory and spirituality to build a strong case for their frameworks and methodologies. I kept looking for things not to like about this book and, aside from my skeptic orientation toward the “Godly” spirituality that they profess and advocate, I found it difficult to object. And even their spiritual orientation is grounded in their model, that is, in terms of levels of development.
The book is somewhat formulaic in that it offers lists of a number of variables like eight universal laws, twelve principles for strengthening relationships, eleven (and they are open to a twelfth) integrative, transformative and transcendent practices to seven elements of integration to three paradigms (mechanistic, organic and wholistic) to four domains of intelligence and three levels of awareness and more. Integrative practices range from formulating clarity about one’s ideal self, vision and intent to self-awareness in all domains to leading a reflective life, integration and application. They are, in effect, offering an integral (or integrative) life practice.
As is the case with many writers on leadership, these authors, too, on occasion frame their discussion of leadership from a romanticized heroic model, however, their treatment of development of organizations makes it clear that they see leaders emerging from throughout the organization. And, although it is only one chapter in a lengthy book, they do demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between leaders, culture and systems. This is not as well developed as it might be.
Throughout the book the focus is on the development of two executives in companies. These are not actual case studies, but composites of several of their clients. Nevertheless, the authors relate these stories clearly, but go a bit too far with a report on a three-year follow up on each of the two executives. They also relate conversations between the authors about the use of their models with clients.
Their references to Wilber and other integral theorists are few and far between. In fact, as far as I can tell, they draw very little on Wilber’s integral mapping, preferring to use frameworks that they have devised. Nevertheless, we find echoes such as “Every body of knowledge contain a portion of the truth, but no one body at this time contains it all.” Nice, how they have depersonalized this! And they recognize the importance of dealing with shadow. This is a rich set of materials and models. Anyone interested in an integral approach to developing themselves and developing leaders should find much useful material here.
Chutisa Bowman and Steven Bowman with Gary Douglas. Conscious Leadership: The Key to Unlocking Success, an Audio Book read by Paul Leonard, 3 CDs. Victoria, Australia: LifeMastery (Aust) Pty Ltd., nd.
I found it very difficult to listen to these CDs after the first one. There is so much repetitious material. The messages are, over and over again, anyone can choose to be conscious. Being conscious involves perceiving, knowing, being and receiving. Leaders must stay with the questions. All things good flow from conscious leaders; all thing bad flow from those who are not conscious or who work against consciousness intentionally.
Being a conscious leader involves allowing your leadership to come forth by choosing sincerity, willingness and—again—choosing consciousness. What you think is what you create, they say, thus we can see this material as being in the same genre as The Secret and other motivational presentations. Yet, I find little in this to inspire.
Aside from the assertion, including the “blank slate” notion of development, there is little here to enlighten—unless, of course, my own level of development is making it difficult for me to understand the value added of the repetitious assertions around being here now and choosing consciousness. Their approach is called LifeMastery and they claim to have worked with presidents, CEOs and others to produce wonderful results of teamwork and organizational effectiveness. If you are interested in this type of material, then go for it. Maybe if I had been reading the book, rather than listening to CDs I would have found more of value. I do think it is important that more and more we are able to find examples of people exploring ways to present integral ideas in relation to leadership. We can learn from each other in this process.
Michael Carroll. The Mindful Leader: Ten Principles for Bringing Out the Best in Ourselves and Others. Boston: Trumpeter Books, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 2007.
Carroll suggests that it is important to lead from the “inside out”. He advocates the use of meditation (sitting on the cushion) and overcoming self-deception, that is, learning to see things more clearly as they are. He offers ten talents of a mindful leader:
- Simplicity: “When we exhibit the simplicity of the mindful leader, we create what is traditionally called shamatha environment—a peacefulness that inspires others to appreciate and learn from whatever occurs.”
- Poise: enduring self-respect. “By gathering our mind in the art of sitting still, we begin to understand that we are not trapped in any…mindsets.”
- Respect: Mutual respect among colleagues is “the single most important ingredient for building and sustaining healthy organizations.” And, “For mindful leaders, touching our unfolding hearts on the cushion is central because it teaches us to respect who we are and make friends with ourselves.”
- Courage “As mindful leaders, then, rather than holding in, we learn to open out; rather than holding on, we learn to let go.”
- Confidence: trusting ourselves completely so that we can bring “confidence to the workplace [that] can inspire a sense of ease and reassurance for both ourselves and our colleagues.”
- Enthusiasm: In the face of constant change around us, “We discover that by enthusiastically leaping into the present moment, we possess natural instincts that make us not only alert to whatever happens but also high creative, able to artfully accommodate, challenge and encourage.”
- Patience: By “abiding in the present moment” we manage our and others’ expectations.
- Awareness: “…non-dual awareness wisdom is the natural outcome of discovering through mindfulness that there is no inherent distinction between our mind, our body, and the phenomenal world.”
- Skillfulness: “…our natural ability to appreciate what each situation needs, adapt our perspective in order to bring about the best results, and then act according.
- Humility: “…the absence of arrogance, which means that we engage our work authentically and communicate with others without self-serving agendas.”
In addition, there are nine basic competencies of organizational conduct:
- Eliminate toxicity
- Appreciate health
- Build trust
- Send clear messages
- Embrace resistance
- Understand blindness
- Accept invitations
- Heal wounds, and
- Be realistic.
The book closes with exercise for cultivating these. Authentic leadership emerges from these skills and competencies. One concern that I have about many books on leadership, and this one is no different in that regard, is that they tend to be prescriptive. I hope that increasingly we can focus on the relationships between individual and context in such a way as to offer perspectives and tools for generating meaning and discovering the requirements for leadership in ever shifting contexts.
Stephen Denning. The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, 2007.
This is a very well grounded “how to” book. That is, it lays out clearly the elements of effective communications in inspiring others to align their energies for change. Denning’s own experience at the World Bank and in his subsequent work on the role of story telling in communication infuses this book with considerable guidance and examples. It is about how transformative leaders can be effective.
Compelling presentations have three components:
- Getting the attention of the audience with negative stories,
- Getting action through the use of positive stories, and
- Using neutral stories to explain the reasons.
And there is more. For example, you are likely to generate sustained enthusiasm for the change if your presentation has these four characteristics:
- A goal that is good for its own sake,
- Contributes to individuals own personal growth and development,
- Enhances the efforts of others, and
- Minimizes negative effects.
The most effective persuasive communications are based on three principles:
- Experiential methods,
- Use of narratives, and
- Use of indirect methods
A key idea here is that one does not persuade by reasons, but by creating a story that has a place for the listener to create his own meaning, that is, it encourages the listener to generate their own story.
Denning describes narrative intelligence,
“It’s about understanding the world in narrative terms and grasping the pervasive role of narratives in all aspects of human existence. It concerns knowing the different components and dimensions of narratives. It’s being familiar with the different patterns of stories that exist and knowing which narrative patterns are likely to have what effects in which situations. It’s knowing how to overcome the fundamental attribution error and understand the audience’s story. It’s having the capacity to anticipate the dynamic factors that will determine how the audience will react to a new story. It’s being able to judge whether a new story is likely to be generated in the mind of any particular audience by any particular communication tool.”
This book provides a very thorough basis for building narrative intelligence. Wouldn’t it be exciting for someone like Denning with his experience and talent to explore the integral aspects of what he is encouraging? There is an essential element of integral in that the approaches he describes are about relationships between individuals and others, even collective others. However, there is simply no notion of development here. That needs to be encouraged. Denning’s next book, perhaps?