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Posted on February 10, 2020
Updated on October 9, 2020

Integrative Leadership

Leadership roles require a range of skills, expertise and a “leadership attitude”, that is positive, principled, professional and decisive. The ability to integrate the needs of the organization and, at the same time, take account of the workforce and make effective decisions, is highly prized and much sought after. Our term “Integrative Leadership” reflects the need to integrate organizational goals with the people skills and underpinning this with a strong value base. (Mountain & Davidson, 2011)

Three types of leader:

  1. Responsible – where the buck stops.
  2. Effective – the one who is listened to and respected and trusted to make decisions, guide etc.
  3. Psychological – the person who can benefit or harm the team at the psychological level. The person influences others, although they are part of the private structure of the team.

These three types can all be within the same person or can be held by different people. The Psychological leader is often within and influential on the workforce. (See Working Together for further explanation).

One of the main issues for leaders is to develop and maintain trust. Whole books have been written on trust (see Gibb, 1978). What is trust in the workplace? How do we know when there is trust? Do I need to trust myself before I trust others?

Instead of developing and creating when we are fearful we direct our energies into protecting ourselves from expected or fantasised dangers, which then affects productivity. Gibb states:

“To trust with fullness means that I discover and create my own life. The trusting life is an inter-flowing and interweaving of the processes of discovery and creation. These processes have four primary and highly-interrelated elements:

    • Discovering and creating who I am, tuning into my own uniqueness, being aware of my own essence, trusting me – being who I am
    • Discovering and creating ways of opening and revealing myself to myself and to others, disclosing my essence, discovering yours, community with you – showing me
    • Discovering and creating my own paths, flows and rhythms, creating my emerging and organic nature, and becoming actualizing, or realizing this nature – doing what I want.
    • Discovering and creating with you our interbeing, the ways we can live together in the interdepending community, in freedom and intimacy – being with you”.

These four processes have the acronym TORI: Trusting-Being (T); Opening-Showing (O); Realizing-Actualizing (R); Interdepending-Interbeing (I)

Erikson talked about Trust versus Mistrust. This attitude was one of many that Erikson (1950) believed were formed at different stages of development. Erikson states that if a child is adequately stroked and cared for they are likely to develop an underlying tendency to trust. Mary Ainsworth (Ainsworth, et al, 1978) would consider this in terms of the development of different attachment patterns.

In TA terms we think about this in terms of the development of script, the messages a child would receive or the decisions they would make. For example, a child may experience a situation with someone and decide that they will never trust a man/woman again, or someone in authority etc. When situations occur that fit our frame of reference we can then say “There I knew this would happen. I should never have trusted X with that information” thus reinforcing our beliefs and thus our script.

Underneath the Don’t Trust decision, or introjected belief about trust, there is often a Don’t Be, existential position.

Blakeney discusses trust in relation to communication and his views are synonymous with safety within the model Concepts for Thriving (Mountain, 2004, 2011). Managers spend 50- 80% of their time at work communicating with others, though an increasing percentage of this time may be via emails rather than face to face. When we receive information, we interpret, filter, evaluate, and condense it. This is particularly so in organisations when the flow of information is upward and those in senior positions do not want to be overloaded with information. The way in which we interpret, evaluate, filter and condense information on an individual basis is usually outside of our awareness. At an organisational level, however, deciding what information we pass on to others occurs at the awareness level. The difficulty comes when our own propensity to filter etc. has already taken place and we then need to pass something on – we may have overlooked something another person needs to know. When this sifting occurs and enables the organisation, and individuals, to be more effective then it is likely that the person passing on information develops a higher degree of trust.

Effective contracting develops trust. Contracts enable all parties to deal with expectations, ensure that there are no assumptions and clarify aims and outcomes. The psychological contract also needs to be taken into account when considering trust. What is the culture of the organisation, is it a trusting one or one of suspicion and mistrust? Do people feel exploited or appreciated?

Building trust in organisations involves:

  • Employee participation
  • A level of autonomy for employees and leaders 
  • Effective feedback 
  • Supportive supervision
  • Open communication

There needs to be a commitment by everyone in the organisation to achieve quality through continuous improvement. In addition, there needs to be respect for each other and the desire to meet customer needs. In such cultures, the frame of reference for leadership is likely to be that co-creative thinking leads to more creative outcomes, and that leaders serve the organisation through serving the employees. This implies coming from an OK/OK position.

Kohlrieser et al, talk about secure-base leadership and for me, the descriptors and elements of this develop trust. This in turn develops a culture where the workforce can thrive.

The secure base leader provides safety, protection and comfort. This is then inspiration for risk-taking, challenge and exploration, leading to high performance. They also form bonds, embrace loss and focus on the positive, learning from mistakes. They influence others to focus direction on the positive and on the benefits.

Kohlrieser et al, outline the 9 qualities of such a leader, namely:

  1. Stays calm
  2. Accepts the individual
  3. Sees the potential
  4. Listens and enquires
  5. Delivers a powerful message
  6. Focuses on the positive
  7. Encourages risk-taking
  8. Inspires through intrinsic motivation*
  9. Signals accessibility

*Intrinsic motivation is about making the world a better place, the task is done for the challenge itself and because something is inherently interesting or enjoyable rather than for the money. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is where the person does something because it leads to an outcome that is separable from the pure task i.e. for a reward.

When the leader is a secure base it is the perception of others that they are available and they have a psychological presence even if they are not physically there.

When these elements are present there is a balance between caring and daring, safety and risk.

Integrative leaders are aware of the power that comes from their position and are also in touch with their personal power. This ensures that they are able to be effective and more likely to manifest Crossman’s three P’s: permission, protection, and potency (1966, 1977).

  1. Permission – permission is offered through trusting others and encouraging autonomous thinking, delegating, accepting challenges and asking for ideas.   
  2. Protection – the leader defends their team when with others whilst at the same time they are willing to listen for the grain of truth in what may be said. They will also facilitate others to fully consider issues and actions and so prevent future difficulties.
  3. Potency – A potent leader will be able to maintain boundaries; be prepared to change – based on sound rationale; be open about their thinking and in their communication, and remain OK with self and others.

N.B. – other aspects of Integrative Leadership can be found in the book Working Together (Mountain & Davidson)


Ainsworth, M.D.S., Blehar, M.C., Waters, C. and Wall, S.

(1978) Patterns of Attachment New Jersey, Erlbaum Blakeney R. (1986), A Transactional View of the Role of Trust in Organizational Communication, TAJ 16:2

Crossman P (1966), Permission and Protection, Transactional Analysis Journal, 66:19, San Francisco

Crossman P (1977), Acceptance Speech, Eric Berne Memorial award, TAJ 7:1, pp104-106, San Francisco

Erikson E. (1950), Childhood and Society
English F. (1976), Shame and Social Control, TAJ 5:1

Gibb JR (1978), Trust; A New View of Personal and Organizational Development, The Guild of Tutors Press

Kohlrieser G, Goldsworth G, Coombe D (2012), Care to dare: Unleashing Potential Through Secure Base leadership, J-B Warren Bennis Series

Mountain A. (2004), The Space Between, bridging the gap between workers and young people, Russell House Publishing

Mountain A & Davidson C (2011), Working Together; Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance, Gower

Symor N.K. (1977), The Dependency Cycle: Implications for Theory, Therapy, and Social Action,