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  • Writer's pictureSandy Burgham

Integral Leadership & journal prompts for this particular moment in history

We hope you and your families are holding up well as we enter week three of Lockdown. As a nation, we seem to be doing pretty well and can be grateful for being in the fortunate position of being – all going well – close to a turning point in the stats where new cases begin to diminish and recoveries begin to increase.

Our last newsletter focused on creative or self-authored leadership which seemed to resonate with a number of you. Thanks for the feedback. We love to hear from you!

This week the focus is on the evolvement to the next level of leadership, one that remains relatively rare globally – only 5% of all leaders are considered to be functioning at the level of the Integral Mind. The brutal irony of this in a world that is facing its greatest crisis since World War Two is that this is the level that is built for complexity and designed for leading change within complex systems amid volatile, ambiguous and rapidly changing environments.

A study conducted by The Leadership Circle with the University of Notre Dame showed that while Creative Mind leadership proved to be twice as effective as Reactive Mind leadership across a number of business metrics, Integral Mind leaders were more than FOUR times as effective as those functioning from a Creative Mind. How is it possible that these leaders can out-perform their peers with such extraordinarily effective and masterful leadership?

If we review the core function of Reactive Mind leaders we understand that it is to achieve competence in their chosen profession and to execute results and succeed within their organisations. As leaders transition to the Creative Mind they take all of that with them but they are now leading with vision and have left behind fear-based and fear-driven behaviour in favour of purpose-driven and longer-term solutions. However, we know that there is still a lot of “me” at that level of development… my vision, my purpose, my results. Our old friend ego comes marching right along with us. 

But the transition to Integral Mind is where this begins to shift and a warning is relevant here – if the journey from Reactive Mind to Creative had its rough patches then please note this transition is not for the faint-hearted.

Here are seven characteristics that define the Integral leader and some reflections to consider:

  1. Robert Kegan describes this stage as Self-transforming. On the 360 profiles you will recognise this in the creative competency of Personal Learner. Although generally, this is about a hunger and curiosity for on-going learning, ultimately this is about a determination and commitment to know and manage ourselves and our dysfunctional egos. It is a humbling and on-going process that has us seeking and allowing feedback that helps us make sense of our life and our life experiences.

  2. We know we are practising Servant Leadership when our personal ambition and need for credit/acknowledgement becomes far less important to us than creating results via collaborative relationships which serve a common good. In short, we take a lot of pleasure out of the very act of serving our organisations to the best of our ability. In the 360 profile this is the Selfless Leader and due to high levels of self-awareness and interpersonal skills is closely connected to the competency of Interpersonal Intelligence.

  3. The System Architect no longer plays inside their silo or thinks in “parts”. A whole system perspective has evolved and all decisions that are made now naturally consider the health, well-being and success of the entire organisation. In the creative competencies, this is the Systems Thinker – able to hold the big picture, see the integration between all parts and actively involved in redesigning, strategising and evolving systems for win-win solutions.

  4. Although the rational mind is often confounded when confronted with complexity the Integral leader thrives because of their willingness to trust their Intuition. They have developed an easy and comfortable integrative relationship between intellectual capabilities and their more subtle intuitive knowing. They think AND they feel. They are as comfortable with knowing as with not-knowing. They have learned to trust the “sensed” and “felt” aspects of their being. Sometimes these leaders are described as being able to see around corners!

  5. The Mentoring and Developing of others is a skill that the Integral leader is naturally drawn to. They have a keen interest in supporting the personal and professional growth, maturity and development of people who work for or with them. In effect, this is about mature interpersonal communication skills and an empowering style of leadership. Thus Integral leaders trust people to perform and are able to delegate appropriately. They are able to accept people as they are, know what others are capable of achieving and hold them accountable for high performance. They are the sort of leaders people love working for.

  6. The integral mind is able to Hold the “messy” stuff within organisations: the conflict, the tension, the fear, the emotional games and dramas, the ambiguity as well as unresolved and complex issues. “Holding” means being fully present to all that is playing itself out while remaining calm, grounded and centred. The integral mind is masterful at seeing the play of opposing tensions over a sustained period of time without needing to rush to close things down or bring them to a premature end. Rather, they leverage the situation to bring about open and mature dialogue between key stakeholders for systemic resolution.

  7. And what really is the secret of being able to hold such volatility and opposing polarities? It will come as no surprise to many of you to hear that the fundamental piece of work required to take us to this level of leadership is found in the Shadow of the ego – the beliefs and qualities about ourselves we hide, deny, repress and are ashamed of; ironically the aspects of ourselves we find so distasteful in others. At Play Co-Lab we have found time and time again that it is shadow work that our leaders find has the greatest impact on their own development. So why don’t we all leap in – boots and all – to ongoing shadow work? As the co-founder of The Leadership Circle Bob Anderson comments in Mastering Leadership “The descent into the shadow is fierce work.” Indeed it is. Carl Jung believed that most of what is in shadow is solid gold. 

Some reflection questions in your journal for this particular moment in history:

  • Daily – what am I noticing in the people around me?

  • Daily – what am I noticing in my leadership?

  • What is tripping me up?

  • What does my organisation most need of me?

  • How if anything might I be blocking progress?

  • To what degree am I flexing my leadership style? (consider the Goleman six styles model) Where do I need to flex now?

Now more than any time in living history is it time to press pause and reflect. 

We are already hearing conversations about life in a Post-Covid world and what might become the new normal and suggest that if you are “strategising to gain” in this environment, you are already out of sync with what might eventuate because you will be using an order of mind developed in an old world. 

This is the time to be comfortable not knowing. We are all in it together.

Here for you, if you want to contact us.

Best Sandy, Jenny and all at Play CoLab PS If you are looking for a book to support you in maturing your leadership we highly recommend Mastering Leadership by Bill Adams and Bob Anderson. Connect with us on the Play CoLab Facebook page here.

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