Azra Thakur, a CIL research assistant and member of the Student Leadership Team, recently sat down with Chip Laingen to talk about his thoughts on integrative leadership, ethics, and the value of interdisciplinary work. Here's what Chip had to say:
At the end of the day it’s all pretty fundamental—people are people. They still want to be led, they want to be influenced. They want to be told that they’re valued. They want to be told that their opinion matters…How do you find that basic common ground approach to the way people are?
Chip Laingen is the Communications and Research and Development Director for Minnesota Wire and Executive Director of the Defense Alliance of Minnesota. With parents in the Foreign Service, Chip was born in Pakistan and spent nearly half his life living in various places around the world. As a boy, he found the Navy attachés that accompanied Foreign Service officers to be “the coolest guys ever—they had the coolest stories.” Chip is a 21-year veteran of the United States Navy and has degrees in international relations and public affairs from the University of Minnesota. He also completed Ph.D. coursework in national security at Tufts University.
To me, my understanding of what is integrative in the military began with the diversity I saw when I first joined. It was amazing to me how hyper-diverse the military was and still is. It’s very representative of the United States. And I found that very interesting.
As an Executive Leadership Fellow at the Center, Chip hopes to explore how integrative leadership strategies and practices from the military might be applied in corporate, nonprofit, or global contexts.
Chip also looks forward to working with students. As a speech writer for the Secretary of the Navy, he convened focus groups with diverse stakeholders—including university students—for different topic areas: “Those were some of the best ideas, from the students—it was just their approach to things. They were much more open because they weren’t exposed to the corporate world for twenty years…they were asking pointed questions that never would have occurred to us.”
When Chip speaks of leaders whom he admires, he notes their ability to truly listen to other viewpoints and integrate them into an encompassing thought. In referencing a musician and former small town mayor that he recently met with, Chip commented:
I’m really into metaphors. I was thinking about the face of an owl. If you ever look at an owl their entire face is a receiver for sound. It’s basically a concave dish, so when they turn their head they are receiving all of the sound that’s getting funneled into their hearing. It’s just fascinating. So he’s one of those guys—I’m not calling him an owl—but he’s just always listening for what is out there. And I’ll tell you what, in terms of leadership, that is huge. And trust is number one, but the ability to listen to people, it’s almost a lost art.
For Chip, integrative leadership requires the belief in a human element that resides within everyone—“people are people.” Developing an ability to understand the individuals we meet and interact with everyday is fundamental, in his view, for leaders to be effective in bringing about change.
The Center for Integrative Leadership is grateful for the time and expertise the Executive Leadership Fellows bring to the University. You can visit the Center’s blog, “A Time to Lead,” to learn more about Azra’s conversation with the Fellows.