A couple of years ago Russ Volckmann, a leadership colleague who runs the Integral Leadership Review website–www.integralleadershipreview.com, asked me if I would be interested in producing an article on simulations for the review. I did and I found it to be a very rewarding project. During our discussions Russ introduced me to the integral leadership perspective.
I must admit I was a bit hesitant to accept the premise of the concept at first but after researching it more thoroughly, I found that it provided a fair way to dissect the various interpretations, ideas, models and perspectives of what many times appears to be the amorphous mass of leadership. With over 300 different definitions of leadership and a seemingly deeply rooted desire to ennoble everything that has anything to do with human endeavor as leadership, the term itself has become misused and confusing. Even when logic dictates that not everything can be or is leadership, the use of the term in the “sound bite” world in which we live appears to have accelerated free from any form of restraint.
I am convinced that the Integral Leadership Perspective provides a sense of clarity to the leadership conversation because it uses three lenses to peer onto the leadership landscape. The three lenses include: the leader—an embodied individual who performs a role in a system, leading—the activities that leaders use in their role, and leadership–the actual practice of those activities within a specific real context that includes culture, systems, processes and technologies with a stated goal of bringing about significant or transforming change.
To many this might not seem important, but I assure you it is. Consider that more than 90% of the current in vogue leadership development programs fall under the headings of leader and leading with very little attention paid to the practice of leadership in real world contexts. Today, we remained transfixed with the traits and behaviors of individuals as individuals disconnected from the complex challenges faced in all walks of organizational life.
The notion is that if we make better leaders and teach them what other leaders seem to be doing—we will get better leadership. This is tantamount to teaching a medical student about medicine and surgery without ever letting them operate on a patient in a real operating room. How many people would want that experience? Think about it!
That’s my perspective, what’s yours?