The Integrated Model of Leadership©

One of the primary responsibilities of leadership is the capacity to manage change in challenging times of complexity.

Integrated Model of Leadership | Ki ThoughtBridgeThe issues organizations face are frequently recurring or unclear.  Quick fixes just won’t work! They are cosmetic cover-ups, waste resources in the long term, and squander the trust needed to sustain motivation and create change.

In our experience with organizations, executives, program staff, and governance leaders over several decades we saw the need for a more comprehensive integration of theory and practice that results in leadership that is authentic, evokes effective problemsolving, strengthens culture, and fosters transformation. The Integrated Model of Leadership© is the result. It reflects the energy of ki and the groundedness of connecting thoughts and actions.

Effective leaders bring technical and adaptive skills; and engage in inner and outer work.

Ron Heifetz, leadership development expert and Harvard professor defines technical skills as those in which the problem is clear and there is a clear solution; adaptive skills are those in which the problem is unclear and there is no clear solution. Psychologist, Jeffery Conklin frames these as “wicked problems,” so called because they are recurring, complex, and unclear;  and those faced with them must be engaged in order to arrive at a sufficient solution. 

Technical skills derive from formal education and training. A computer technician knows how to program a computer; a nurse know how to draw blood; a doctor knows how to assess your heart rate; an accountant knows how to file a tax return.

Adaptive skills are a bit more complicated; a computer technician must help the user learn how to use the equipment and programs. Problems arise that are unpredictable and for which there are not readily available solutions. What is required  is a different way of communicating with the user; and adapting the language in ways that enable the user to learn. The relationship between the technician and user  shifts as the technician shifts from being the expert to being the educator. The relationship between them changes so that the user will be able to operate more independently. The technician’s focus must move from machine to the person and in so doing variables such as the experience of the user, their role in the organization; knowledge will need to be considered.

Another example is the nurse who is skilled in drawing blood but encounters a patient whose veins are hard to find and panics at the thought of a needle. Just telling the patient what the process entails is insufficient; the nurse needs the patient’s involvement and cooperation in order to be successful.  The immediate need is to lower the user’s anxiety and fear not ro recite facts.

Intertwined with Technical and Adaptive Leadership skills are Inner and Outer Work. 

Inner Work is the development of self-awareness. We know from Emotional Intelligence research that this is the characteristic that is the greatest predictor of leadership effectiveness. We also know that leaders with high emotional intelligence rank high on productivity and profitability. Yet the cultivation of it is often ignored or perceived as faddish in leadership education practice. 

Inner Work enables the leader to read their external environment with greater accuracy. Self-awareness precedes and encourages well-differentiated leaders with clear boundaries and mastery over their emotional states. It allows them to deal with the emotionality of others in a system without losing who they are or taking on a problem that doesn’t belong to them. Inner work is critical and foundational to the acuity in which the leader applies their technical and adaptive skills in the service of accomplishing outer work.

Outer Work is the manifestation of an organization’s vision, mission, values and purpose; of how it plans and implements and the degree to which it is successful. Performance, accountability, measurability and visibility are prominent. Outer work reflects internal capacity in an external context.

The Integrated Model of Leadership© is an experience in which leaders learn the importance of combining a range of skills with a capacity to see themselves and others, and read a larger reality truthfully as they work with indviduals, organizational and community systems.

Complex systems, challenging problems and the rapid pace of change need a multi-modal, interdisciplinary methodology - an integrated approach to leadership.