Yes, our leaders are falling short. An 'integrated leadership' model can help

Integrated leadership is about more than gender parity — it's about understanding and implementing what makes a great leader, regardless of their gender.

Integrated leadership is about more than gender parity — it's about understanding and implementing what makes a great leader, regardless of their gender. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Andre Hoffmann
Chairman, Massellaz
Eva McLellan
Co-Founder, Unlocking Eve
Kaye Vitug
Co-Founder, Unlocking Eve
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • In the face of a global polycrisis, old leadership models are failing people, business and the planet.
  • A new model of inclusive, balanced, and integrated leadership has been proven through research to deliver more positive impacts — and save lives.
  • The latest research indicates that integrated leadership models are more effective in addressing challenges and delivering on the bottom line.

The world is facing a perfect storm of complex, interconnected challenges: environmental, health, financial, humanitarian and refugee crises, to name a few. At times like these, effective leadership is needed more than ever. But it seems our leaders have been falling short. Indeed, the scale and intensity of these challenges have only served to expose the failings of traditional models of leadership.

The traits and behaviours of leaders have a profound influence on whether organizations and societies sink or swim during challenging times.

But just think of a cause you care about, such as poverty or climate change: Are leaders effectively tackling the complexity and multiple crises we face? Could we be failing our leaders by coaching them for the wrong ideal of leadership?

Have you read?

Understanding integrated leadership

Multifaceted challenges require a multifaceted leadership model that goes beyond the traditional qualities usually associated with leaders. A growing body of evidence suggests that an integrated leadership model — the idea that integration of masculine and feminine leadership characteristics are intimately and positively correlated with business outcomes — could help us tackle some of these challenges.

The media frequently highlights women leading countries and companies during crises, especially in healthcare. However, few explore the consciously applied approaches and characteristics that create this “feminine advantage.”

Take, for example, the healthcare field. The Unlocking Eve Foundation, with the support of Intent and inspired by data around how female leaders navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, has explored why countries with women at the helm saved more lives than those led by men. This research explored whether these differences could be codified and integrated into a more holistic leadership paradigm accessible to all.

“From the climate to global health, today’s crises are being exacerbated by a broken model of leadership. We must act now and show our leaders the way to more balanced, integrated leadership. This is not a choice, it is an imperative - the health and prosperity of our world depends on it.”

André Hoffmann, Vice-Chairman, Roche

Unlocking the potential of integrated leadership

Through interviews with more than 200 leaders and pilot programmes across eight countries, this research revealed an overlooked but profound insight: the most effective leaders balance and integrate Unlocking Eve coined as traditionally masculine “individualistic” traits with so-called feminine “relational” traits.

Data from the Leadership Circle, Unlocking Eve’s research partner, confirmed the findings. An analysis of leadership profiles from more than 130,000 leaders across 196 countries in the database showed that the top-performing leaders were those who combined task-focused skills with relational, people-oriented abilities.

The good news is that all leaders can adopt a more balanced leadership style. By moving to an approach that fosters collaboration and empathy, rather than one that focuses on control, it is possible to pursue a more inclusive form of leadership. This change in tack is opening up the highest echelons of leadership to those who have in the past shunned aggressive leadership tactics.

Putting theory into practice

The maxim “never let a good crisis go to waste” is our invitation to reinvent. Today, there's an imperative for healthcare institutions, companies and governments to rethink their leadership practices and how they cultivate the integrated leaders the world needs now.

Based on its research, Unlocking Eve is now developing a leadership practice model that uses the integrated leadership framework to improve the results achieved as well as the return on investment for all stakeholders.

The framework revolves around a leader's skill to harmonize and intertwine their individual and relational strengths. Enabling leaders to perceive themselves both "as one" and "as among" — not above, but as an integral part of the whole. This shift in perspective has the power to ignite a distinctive change in their behaviour, and the outcomes they can achieve.

As well as educating leaders on how to include a different set of skills in their leadership repertoire, Unlocking Eve is also aiming to change the way in which leadership skills are valued and rewarded to ensure the qualities that are driving improved outcomes are recognized and adequately measured.

“When leaders bring this approach to how they lead, we see significant improvement in the health and well-being of their constituents. When individual and collective impact are unlocked, the world is healthier, communities are healthier, and people are healthier."

Eva McLellan, Co-Founder, Unlocking Eve; Kaye Vitug, Co-Founder, Unlocking Eve

Recognizing that making systemic changes that will ultimately result in better outcomes across a range of metrics will require bold actions from those already in power. Current executives must actively identify, select, reward and appoint as leaders those who embody, espouse and practice the values of integrated leadership.

Unlocking Eve’s audacious goal is to unlock 100 million integrated leaders by 2030. Hitting this goal would help us address an urgent global need. Integration is just not a nice-to-have — it is intrinsically linked to the bottom line. It can be the decisive factor in saving lives, mitigating economic damage during a crisis and creating better outcomes for people everywhere.

This commitment demands daily engagement. We need everyone on board for this transformation. Our global health and prosperity depend on it.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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