The Power of Integrated Leadership

Contributor: Sean Harvey, MSOD, MSEd
To learn more about Sean, click here.


Integrated_Leadership_Article_-_July_2020.jpegImagine, if you will, a world in which each of us comes into our full integrated selves, where we see each other in our full humanity, and we each possess deeper levels of compassion for ourselves and everyone around us.  Consider what this would do to our relationships, workplaces, governments, and society when we begin to reimagine the systems and structures that have been built upon only half the equation based exclusively on a masculine model.  

Before we can transform our world, we need to understand this vision will require each of us to walk an integrated journey into our wholeness and deeper humanity.  This can be a frightening endeavor, as it asks us to be courageous, to look at the shadow side of our being, and to embrace with a deep sense of self-compassion our wholeness.  

This is the foundational premise of Integrated Leadership, where we courageously examine and embrace the parts of ourselves that have been suppressed based on messages received from our upbringing, social conditioning, and societal pressures. This is the work where we begin to heal past wounds, understand and embrace the sides of ourselves that we’ve denied or suppressed, and come into a healthier balance and integration.  

What’s most needed for us to come into balance is greater compassion, not just dictating behavior change.  The key to compassion is each of us doing our own inner healing work before we are able to deepen our level of understanding, kindness, and care for others.  Once we walk the path to become more integrated in all dimensions of ourselves, we will begin to walk the path towards a deeper sense of compassion for others.  

This deepened sense of compassion opens the door to bridge building conversations where we can overcome difference and elevate voices that have been traditionally voiceless. We can then begin to innovate differently by bringing new and diverse voices into the conversation, which becomes the platform for transforming systems, structures, and cultures in ways that are more conscious, compassionate, and connected. Ultimately, helping teams and organizations perform more seamlessly, innovate more expansively to solve problems differently, and create more meaningful impact.

One dimension of this integration that I observed and experienced in my transition from Wall Street to EILEEN FISHER was the balance of the healthy masculine and feminine at work.  EILEEN FISHER is a women’s fashion company that fully and unapologetically subscribed to feminine leadership. At the time of my hire, it was achieving double digit growth year after year with gross revenue of nearly ½ billion annually, 4% turnover, and it was honored as a Great Place to Work for 10 years in a row.  It was a company that asked you to bring your whole self to work, and the culture allowed for true authenticity in the workplace in practice, not theory.  As a company built upon feminine leadership, it wasn’t just about having women in senior leadership, it was about changing the business model, the leadership practices, and reimagining the systems and structures through a more balanced lens.    

Balancing the masculine and feminine in the workplace was a common conversation in the leadership meetings and across the company.  It often revolved around some variation of the following three questions:  

  • What are the masculine and feminine expressions in the company?
  • How do we balance the masculine and feminine for optimal performance?
  • How do we ensure that one energy does not dominate or suppress the other?   

The expression of the healthy masculine and feminine energies in the company, looked something like this:


As you’ll notice by these qualities and characteristics, this is not about gender, but rather the healthy expressions of each energy.  Yet for so many of us, we have been conditioned to equate the masculine energy with men and the feminine energy with women, and we lose sight of the fact these energies are within each of us.  This way of thinking also excludes those who identify outside of the gender binary.  As the gender rules and roles continue to shift and evolve, the gender distinctions are becoming less pronounced as we begin to see each other as human, beyond gender.

We live in a fractured, out of balance world right now, where most of our institutions and systems have been built around traditional masculine models.  It’s not that the masculine models are bad or wrong, but they are incomplete. When you consider that women make up 58% of the workforce and only 38% of management positions and, worse yet, 18% of senior leadership positions, we are out of balance.  And when you consider that companies with more women in senior leadership outperform those that don’t by anywhere from 15 – 35%, we have an opportunity.  

It’s time we all explore our expectations and assumptions of each other influenced by centuries old conditioning that have kept us boxed in and closed off from our full humanity and each other. In order to begin to create this balance, each of us needs to embrace the idea that we have both energies within us, learn to relax our egos enough to accept a different paradigm, and access the parts of ourselves that we’ve denied or suppressed.  It is this balance of our healthy masculine and feminine that will allow us to begin to create real change in the world by each of us healing from the inside out.  

I invite you to take the first step to balance the healthy masculine and feminine, by taking a risk, to uncover, explore, and tap into your own integrated strength.  As more of us take this step, we can begin to reimagine a more integrated and balanced world.    

Contact Sean at: [email protected]