There are many reasons to foster an Integrated Leadership culture--one that values, leverages, and blends the strengths of both women and men--in your organization. Gender-balanced leadership perspectives can lead to a wide range of benefits at the organizational, team, and individual levels.
The latest research published at the end of 2015 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tells us that men and women are not always different when it comes to thinking, communications, and problem-solving. However, studies have found that the diversity of strategies and approaches often seen between men and women go beyond gender and genetics.
Such distinctions may instead be based on different socialization patterns, cultural work orientation, and other factors experienced uniquely by each gender. What's important to note is that these unique distinctions between men and women can become the secret sauce for managers if properly understood, integrated, and leveraged in day-to-day business.
Here are just a few examples of how this approach can benefit organizations and teams:
- Organizational change efforts. While change in organizations is constant, many leaders continue to struggle when attempting to guide their teams through complex change. In times of organizational overhaul, managers can use Integrated Leadership to communicate with a style that balances factual realities with empathy, thereby addressing employees' potential sense of fear, loss, and frustration. This approach can help people ultimately accept or support the change, and do what is necessary for successful implementation.
- Negotiation is a key skill for teams. Leaders should be aware of the unique thinking style of each negotiator on their team, and call on a balanced leadership approach in both the planning and execution of the negotiation experience. In this way, Integrated Leadership can result in fact-based research fueled by relational energy, emotional interpretation, and active listening--all of which are all critical for producing win-win agreements.
- Team effectiveness. A team can't achieve its full potential and become high-performing if its leaders fail to understand the thinking-style preferences of each member of the team. Using an Integrated Leadership model, managers can help leverage the strength of individuals in the group to more effectively work together and complement one another. Such an approach will also highlight what skill sets and attributes might be "missing" from a given group so that additional resources can be sought outside the team.
Embracing an integrated approach to leadership also holds great value for individuals, including these potential benefits:
- Career development. Each individual has unique strengths that result in being better at some things than others, more motivated to get involved in certain types of tasks, and more often recognized for specific kinds of contributions. Leaders who take the time to understand these individual nuances may find that this information helps them guide people of both genders more effectively, whether by mapping career goals or choosing development activities that synergistically align with their strongest skills and interests.
- Influence, persuasion, and communication. Having a better understanding of the diversity of thinking styles on their team can help leaders become more effective in their communications that influence and persuade others. For example, while one person on a team may prefer seeing reams of data before being willing to buy into an idea, another person may want an overall briefing on the big picture with fewer facts during the presentation. Learning how to recognize the inclinations and preferences of individuals--whether male or female--enables leaders to tailor their influence approach accordingly.
- Work-life balance. When people are in jobs to which they are well-suited and enjoy, they can be more effective and successful. An Integrated Leadership approach enables managers to help both women and men move beyond making career decisions based solely on external factors such as pay, perks, or location and instead consider each employee's own internal motivations. In this way, leaders can help everyone on their team be better able to match their career choices to their personal strengths and preferences, thereby reducing stress and improving performance.
In short, better-balanced leadership leads to better business results at every level, from individuals and teams to the wider organization. There is simply no better way to maximize everyone's full potential than to adopt an Integrated Leadership model.