What Makes an Integrative Thinker a Successful Leader?

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The main focus of this article is to deconstruct and describe a capability that comes naturally to successful leaders.  Roger Martin discovers that most leaders share an unusual trait. “They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their heads two opposing ideas at once. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they’re able to creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but is superior to both.” This is the process of consideration and synthesis, integrative thinking, that we talked about in class.  Great integrative thinkers tend to be rare because people don’t really exercise this capability.  Martin then explains that this type of work makes most people anxious. Most people tend to avoid complex and ambiguous problems. Most people seek out the comfort of simple and clear issues. People’s first impulse is to determine which of the two models is right and wrong, and sides may even be taken to justify their decision. People must resist their natural leaning toward simplicity and certainty to take advantage of the opposable mind. Martin says that it more of discipline rather than strategy.  He then states “not every good leader exhibits this capability, nor is it the sole source of success for those who do.” But he does believe  that integrative thinking greatly improves people’s odds of becoming a great leader. Martin finally discusses how an integrative thinker’s approach differs from a conventional thinker’s approach in the four stages of decision-making salience, causality, sequencing, and resolution. The conventional thinker would rather accept the world just as it is while the Integrative thinker welcomes the challenge of shaping the world for the better.


Can you become an integrative thinker?

Is this skill being taught in any of your classes?

Have you been exposed to this skill outside of your classes?

One Response to What Makes an Integrative Thinker a Successful Leader?

  • I found the article really interesting and your question about being taught any of this in class really got me thinking. This approach to problem solving isn’t something I have run into in any of my classes. I have had assignments to read about it or write about it but never really been encouraged to really take the approach towards a problem. Of course how one approaches a problem is inherent to the person. Still though I would have liked if this was something that was encouraged in more classrooms.

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