Women as Integrative Leaders

Evolution has been defined as: “the process by which an organism becomes more sophisticated over time and in response to its environment”. As I consider the future CEO I wonder about that definition. Leadership has evolved as global challenges grow more complex and critical than ever before. More significant than what a leader does or why she does it is the “who” behind the leader moniker.

What does it take for a leader to evolve the capacity to respond to an ever-changing environment? What traits or skills might be found in a next generation leader? First we have to consider what the emerging future may look like. Without clairvoyance the imagination may be the best vehicle for considering what the future holds. We can imagine a world that needs high-integrity leaders that build bridges between cultures, between technologies and between industries. This approach to leadership is deeply rooted in a transformational worldview that is transcends self-interest for the collective good of the organization, its stakeholders and the larger community.

What are the skills and attitudes required to meet our emerging future? We need leaders who balance the feminine and masculine aspects of ourselves as humans with an integrated awakened leadership.

What is needed is a recalibration that values feminine leadership styles that incorporate:

      Shared leadership


      Focus on relationships

      Intuition and data

      Community builders



      Power with vs. Power Over

Women are now poised to bring traits and ways of leading into the future that can impact global solutions, merging doing business and doing good in the world. Both are required now. 

In his book Awakened Leadership: Beyond Self Mastery, author Alan Shelton writes,

The corporate landscape is teeming with the demand for offerings in personal development and consciously responsible leadership. Where these are made available, you will find today’s best executives. These men and women have developed a keen ear for identifying opportunities to expand through their own personal journey and at the same time developing traits that will facilitate successful outcomes in business. Much like I do, they live and relish every corporate moment. They do not want the lifeblood of their passion marginalized or diluted as though it were of a lesser value.”

Alan has discovered the shift in what many of us in the leadership development field might refer to as Evolutionary Leadership or Awakened Leadership or Integrative Leadership. The core of this shift is the emphasis on the development of the individual leader expanding her level of self-awareness and her ability to challenge herself to evolve in ways that include a unitive perspective.

I believe that women as the next evolutionary leaders bring to their leadership the feminine archetypal qualities that are required to meet the future. Yet I also believe that most women are unaware of how to best leverage this leadership style.

A Builder. She must imagine beyond what is visible to her now and she must hold that vision lightly in order to maintain an agility and nimbleness to respond in the moment. She must be able to create from nothing without a reliance on past models of success.

A Conversationalist. She must be adept at convening bold conversations, conversations that matter and illuminate essential principles which drive her business. She must listen deeply to what matters to others and engage people in conversations that generate mutual prosperity.

An Ethicist. The world is looking for leaders with impeccable integrity and transparency. We need leaders who ask difficult questions and can engage controversial discourse from an ethical perspective without becoming moralistic.

A Meaning-Maker. Evolutionary leaders support followers in their search for increased meaning in their lives whether it is through a business or a cause. Our fragmented lives can lead to a deep disconnect which in business translates to stress, dysfunction and apathy. Nothing can be created from that.

A Steward. The green movement has brought attention to the damage in over-consumption of resources and the need to find alternatives to past practices. The evolutionary leader is a steward of the environment and of her global community.

A Collaborator. She must create systems that support collaboration across cultures, within teams and with strategic alliances. These collaborations are based on mutual respect, honesty, humility and an attitude of abundance.

A Strategist. Without strategic acumen the vision of the evolutionary leader may remain a wish or dream. The evolutionary leader builds her own strategic skills and cultivates those skills in others.

A Mentor. A mentor requires a relationship with the future. The purposeful mentoring of a next generation of leaders focuses on what may be required to meet that future. If ideas are the currency of the future, she must provide forums for learning and mentoring opportunities that generate innovation and intrinsic motivation.

An Alchemist. The future is full of paradox. The ability to see beyond polarities and be able to understand the creative value of paradox is essential to the Integrative Leader. She is only one person and can only see as far as her personal horizon. By embracing multiple perspectives in her vision and strategy she taps the collective wisdom, expertise and brilliance of many to accomplish much. This is a leader that gives voice to those who may not be in power but can contribute to creating the future. She can discern the inter-relationship and patterns of what may be disparate elements and she can bring them together without diminishing any of them.

More than any of these, the Integrative Leader must be authentic, awake, aware and alive, participating in the creation of the emergent future from a place of integrity, energy, principle and presence. The ability to reflect on her thinking and to maintain self-awareness allows her to challenge her own assumptions so she can continue to evolve herself and those around her. A desire to be masterful in reaching her potential translates into a focus on developing mastery in others.

The greatest surprise will be that many who hold the seeds of the Integrative Leader will not be found in the MBA programs or traditional systems. They will be the rogue thinkers, the artists, the people who put their creativity, their heart and their mind to work to make a real difference. Those are the people I will be looking for to lead in the next evolution of leadership.

© 2015. Alicia M. Rodriguez, Sophia Associates, Inc. www.sophia-associates.com

View our two minute video on Awakening Leadership Within to learn more about Leadership Development for the 21st Century.