- They examine problems as a whole, with careful consideration of how different parts of a situation fit together, rather than analyzing different elements in isolation.
- They consider multiple avenues of causation for a problem, as well as possible nonlinear relationships between cause and effect, rather than thinking of terms of simple linear relationships between a single cause and effect.
- They embrace the tension between opposing ideas, and they use that conflict to generate creative new alternatives, rather than making simple either-or decisions.
In short, Martin argues that successful leaders think holistically and embrace the power of conflict. In my work, I have argued that constructive conflict within a management team leads to better decisions. Martin stresses that successful leaders also have to embrace conflict within their own mind. They must "hold two conflict ideas in constructive, amost dialectic tension." Martin points out that many people find this internal tension uncomfortable, and thus they shy away from it.
While I would agree with Martin in general, I am reminded of the challenges associated with this type of integrative thinking, as described by Karl Weick in a famous 1984 article entitled "Small Wins." Weick argued that large, complex problems can sometimes be cognitively overwhelming. Thus, he argued that decision-makers should break complex problems into parts, and seek a series of "small wins" as a means of generating solutions to complicated issues. Martin explicitly argues against breaking problems into pieces. He says that holistic thinkers view problems as a whole. Here, I disagree slightly with Martin. I think one can approach a problem holistically, yet still follow Weick's advice to seek small wins while working through the organizational decision-making process required to solve the problem. Trying to achieve small wins in attacking a problem does not mean that a leader fails to think about how various elements of a problem fit together.