Building a Business Case for Integrated Leadership

In my last post, "Why We Need Integrated Leadership", I discussed several reasons why companies need to begin moving toward a more balanced, integrated approach to leadership. I explained how in our ever more complex and connected world, organizations no longer have the luxury of failing to tap into the full capacity of their leadership team. We need all voices on deck to create a unified and integrated group of leaders who can leverage each other's unique strengths, while integrating both the practical and creative insights of different perspectives.

But how can companies turn this vision into reality? A great start is to begin to build a business case for Integrated Leadership. Learning to communicate solid business-related rationale for creating a more diverse and balanced leadership culture can help move companies beyond the "stuck stage" when filling senior leadership positions.

There's no need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to building a business case for Integrated Leadership. I recommend that companies get the ball rolling by focusing their talking points around the following four messages:

Women have become an important powerhouse in the business world.
I shared a number of statistics in my recent book
about the extent to which women and women-owned firms help to power the economy. For example:
  • Women represent 80 percent on consumer decisions
  • Women comprise over half of the U.S. workforce
  • Women own more than half of the privately held companies in the U.S.
  • Women possess important leadership styles and perceptives that are known to enhance organization's bottom line performance
Companies with gender-diverse management teams have been proven to consistently perform better and be more profitable than those without them.
There is overwhelming evidence to support the value of having more women in senior leadership positions. A growing body of research--including studies by McKinsey & Company--has proven that companies with more women in senior executive and board roles have advantages over those that don't. These advantages include:
  • More profitability
  • Better ability to attract and retain top talent
  • Better ability to grow and maintain their competitive advantage
Research shows that women leaders are just as capable as male leaders.
Make Room For Her,
I also shared some research from Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, authors of
The Inspiring Leader: Unlocking the Secrets of How Extraordinary Leaders Motivate
, which found that:
  • Women are rated higher than men in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership
  • At every level of leadership, peers, bosses, direct reports, and other associates rated more women than men as "better overall leaders"
  • The higher the level of leadership, the wider this gender gap grows
Women's natural leadership tendencies are critical in today's business environment.
Research has shown that the "collective intelligence" of an entire group rises if there are more women in its ranks. An article in
explains that this is partly accounted by the fact that women generally exhibit greater capacity for "social sensitivity" than men, since women tend to possess natural skills for:
  • Listening to others
  • Sharing constructive criticism
  • Keeping an open mind
  • Avoiding an autocratic leadership style

Now is the time to foster a culture of Integrated Leadership--one that values, leverages, and blends the differences and attributes of both genders. Building a solid business case to support this initiative can help move organizations away from trying simply to achieve diversity quotas, or "fix" women through leadership development programs. You need not feel limited by the ideas above when you build your case--for example, you might add the point that diversity of thought and perspective is needed in every industry, and gender-balanced teams have been linked with driving greater innovation. The point is that leveraging a strong business case can help break through the status-quo approach to hiring and retention strategies, and can lead companies to a better way of doing business.