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The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership

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The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership by Jim Fisher. University of Toronto Press, 2016, 326 pp. 

As a leadership theorist, the quality of leadership conjures up the perception of innovation, an obligation to serve, and the willingness and ability to follow as well as lead “hierarchically above and below, [to be] individualistic and team player, and above all, . . .a perpetual learner” (p. 69). The book by Jim Fisher, A Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership, “develops and explains a model that integrates the various elements making up the works of leadership. The model contains the specific things a thoughtful leader can do to bring together the group and increase the probability that the task will be accomplished. It is hard work, but is not impossible, for anyone with the will and the courage to try.” (p. 125). But more importantly, it allows an individual to look at their reflection and discover the type of leaders they desire to become.

Throughout the book, Fisher advocates the theme of becoming “a better leader.” He ignites the torch through the integrative model. In its simplicity, the integrative model encompasses the various elements “a leader must incorporate to induce and maintain voluntary followership and can be read in any direction” (p. 38). Under Management: 1) there has to be a Plan; 2) people need to be organized; and 3) there has to be a way to control. Under Directing: 1) all plans are designed to achieve an end—the vision or purpose; 2) all tasks and assignments, processes; and 3) procedures to get people to align and focus on a specific. Also, all control systems are designed to keep score in a way that is usually rewarding and therefore designed to motivate. In retrospect, Plan–Organize–Control will be more effective if this model exists within an organization that feels the power of Vision–Alignment–Motivation. Under Engaging: 1) all visions and statements of purposes have within them an assumed set of values that the activities promote and respect; 2) obtaining alignment will clarify direction, goals, and targets; and 3) also, Involvement—allowing each individual to make a significant contribution to the achievement.” (p.38). Fisher clearly conveys the concerns and innovative thought required to advance the comprehension and appreciation of “becoming a better leader” among the populace and the armed forces, as well as the leadership and business community. The book makes excellent use of realistic, applicable examples deprived from his research and recognizes the contributions of previous research on leadership theory and organizational practices. Fisher clearly communicates and conveys the paramount concerns of becoming a better leader of an already existing leader along with the influence of the global community.

The new integrative model per se is not a new model. The classical “command and control” leaders of the first half of the twentieth century were masters of managing added elements. John Kotter labeled them as leading, along with the need to be a visionary, a salesperson for the vision, and to focus on motivation, not compliance. Michael Useem is also recognized as an essential accompaniment to effective managing. Moreover, the inspirational leader of the new millennium obtains a dispersed and diverse workforce with elements in the Engaging column. In retrospect, the three different models match three eras of thinking in leadership. Nevertheless, the three models combined offer a unique force more powerful and universal than any standing alone. Thus, the effective leader employs all nine [factors] of the grid as well as [employs] them consistently and supportively. Therefore, leadership novices must fully embrace the idea that to lead is to bring out the best in people” (p.153).

The new genre is Engagement, and Corporate America has embraced it as a tour de force other than creating the ever popular “Happy Culture” which cannot be established without the element of engagement. In his advocacy, Fisher boldly proclaims, “Engagement gets at the thousands and thousands of decisions made and actions taken every day in every workplace out from under the watchful eyes of those who are supposed to be in charge. . . for engagement to happen, it has to be encouraged with known, although often unwritten, rules of behavior and clarity about goals and priorities. All three elements [must] work together” (p. 100). Furthermore, the (linkage) is in the Engaging mode. Thus, each element is independent in contributing to (creating/building) an energized workplace. Attesting, Clarity is both a motivational tool—following the Latham and Locke theory of the power of clear, through goals to focus and energized work—and the element that provides people an opportunity to be involved. They have to be told what to do” (p. 102). An integrative model includes every dimension—vertically horizontally, and diagonally. Fisher enhances the model by combining the dynamics of leadership; all types of leaders provide direction. Fisher reminds the leadership community, “one way of thinking about leadership is an exercise in inducing energized, focused involvement from anyone and everyone who can play a part in making some desired action happen” (p. 112). Nevertheless, engagement is much more than involvement; involvement does not just occur upon making a wish. “Involvement in its most basic definition and convenience, is energized by the vision and values. It is focused by the clarity about where involvement is needed and appropriate. [It is driven by members of the organization who are aligned and motivated as well as needs to be facilitated and organized within its membership” (p. 112).

The is a pragmatic leader—one who focuses on the best ones to lead the team and assiduous in ensuring they are always respected, observed, and celebrated—and a pragmatic team leader—appointed team leaders that clarify what the project will and will not cover. Together they seek to achieve results by creating a team practicing engagement, knowing where the team is going, and clarifying what does or does not work; that is, they engage, direct, and manage.

The application of leadership can be extremely challenging for those who choose to embrace and do it well. Fisher “pulls together the various elements that have to be considered and acted on in consistent and coordinated ways to increase the chances [that] the desired outcome will be positively” achieved. Fisher supports his contention in affirming that leadership “is not easy but not impossible. It does require deep, hard thought” (p. 120). Leadership is much more than selecting the type of method to adopt and apply. In retrospect, Fisher conveys the notion that it is the consumer who “needs to know what that expectation is, in the same way that the team needs to be clear what it is expected to deliver. It is also unusual to think about leadership in the context of the supplier relationships. . . if the enterprise is going to have a productive relationship with suppliers, they too need to know how the enterprise expects to be served and what values are expressed in the relationship” (p. 128–29).

The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership is engaging, enriching, and informative. It is highly recommended to individuals working in the discipline of leadership, specifically those seeking to become a better leader. Advocates of leadership theory, policy, and compliance—along with lecturers on leadership and academic as well as organizational researchers—are likely to benefit from Fisher’s exemplary contributions, as are those who embrace the opportunity to enhance the dynamics and applications of domestic and global leadership behavior.

Albert Chavez

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."