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At the conclusion of a recent presentation on leadership in organizations someone asked, “How would you define emotional integration in an organization?”
While I did not use that phrase in my presentation, it was a good question.
The term integration refers to a unification toward a whole.
The term “emotional” was in reference to Bowen theory.
In that context “emotional system” refers not primarily to feelings, rather it describes the evolutionary automatic instincts and dynamics that govern biological life, including how they influence the way people function in relationships.
For humans, these evolutionary biological instincts and dynamics are mediated by the unique capacities of the human species, including cognition, self-determination, agency, values and belief systems.
So how might one answer the question about emotional integration in an organization—-a business, a congregation, a ministry non-profit, an educational organization?
For starters, one will need to extrapolate the concepts of the theory whose origin is in biological family systems. That should not be difficult given Bowen’s assertion that “The patterns of all emotional systems are the same whether they be family systems, work systems, or social systems, the only difference being one of intensity” (Bowen 1978, p. 485).
Emotional Integration in Organizations
We can posit that emotional integration in organizations involves at least three things:
1. To the extent, persons and functions in the organization are focused on, and pulling together to realize the organization’s mission
2. To the extent that the persons in the organization consistently function out of shared corporate values and the governing principles and ethos of its field
3. To this extent, there is a healthy balance between the pulls toward togetherness and individuality. Both are needed in an organization. There is a need to be a team, to feel part of the group, to share in the culture that is the glue that makes things work. At the same time every organization needs to allow people freedom to practice agency, to express individuality, to dissent, to pursue personal goals within the organization, to practice innovation in the face of the pernicious attitude, “We’ve never done it that way.”
What would you add to the list of what constitutes “emotional integration” in an organization?
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).