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Changing the Way We Think
"Books on leadership abound. There are lists, case studies and models — all telling us about exemplary leaders and their secrets of success," says Principal Karen Jurjevich. "To the aspiring leader looking for the answers, it is an understatement to say that it can be confusing."

Enter Roger Martin, former Dean of the Rotman School of Management, who decided to approach the question of exemplary leadership from a different perspective. "Instead of studying what leaders 'do,' he embarked on an effort to find out what leaders 'think,'" explains Ms Jurjevich.

Roger Martin set out to interview top business leaders in North America to determine if there was a way of thinking that leaders employed, regardless of their context. He wanted to know, "Was there a common ground?" His research led to the subsequent study of "integrative thinking" by a new generation of Rotman students and, more recently, students and faculty of Branksome Hall.

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In 2009, a pilot project, led by Rotman graduate Ellie Avishai and fellow instructor Robin Sacks, was launched at Branksome Hall. In their new "I-Think" program, the pair introduced a group of Grade 9 and 10 Branksome students to the concept of integrative thinking. Participants looked at situations in new ways and examined possibilities they'd never considered in the past.

"This thinking has stretched my brain in ways it never had stretched before, and now that this stretch has been made, I will never be the same again," said former I-Think student Lucy GALL'11.

Related programs have since been developed for younger students and for Branksome Hall faculty. Integrative thinking has been woven into the school's curriculum in many different ways, and at different levels. Based on the sucees at Branksome Hal, the I-Think program for students has been since been embraced by some other schools.

"It takes courage, confidence and passion to be an integrative thinker and leader," says Principal Jurjevich. "With integrative thinking, exemplary leaders move beyond existing models of problem solving. Opposing models exist and they are there to be leveraged — one can take pieces of each opposing view and combine them. The integrative thinker believes that better models do exist; they eagerly wade into the complexity."

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