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University of Minnesota Extension

Leadership model

A model of four critical leadership attributes, competencies, and place within four environments. Described more on this page.

Leaders do things

One commonality between all leaders is that they take action. Leaders do things. The Integral Leadership Model recognizes this key fact. As a result, University of Minnesota Extension’s leadership development programs build the competencies that leaders need to be effective doers in their communities.

A competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for achieving results. The one core assumption of the model is that leadership is about something beyond the leader themselves. Leadership creates public value and common good. The model comprises four critical leadership competency areas.

Cultural and racial literacy

Each area contains competencies relating to cultural and racial literacy. University of Minnesota Extension is committed to developing leaders who embrace the challenges and opportunities emerging from demographic changes. A leader with these competencies fosters cultural and racial diversity in the participation, involvement, and leadership structures of communities. These competencies are denoted in each area with an italicized title.

Personal attributes

Personal attributes are internally-focused competencies that help drive and sustain leaders to create common good. By bringing their best selves, leaders can offer their best to their work.


  • Acting courageously – This competency helps leaders embrace situations, people, and places that may be culturally and racially different from their own. It recognizes the experience of discomfort as a positive process in the task of becoming culturally and racially self-aware about other people’s cultural and racial experiences as well as one’s own.
  • Acting ethically – This competency improves leaders’ ability to live and act in ways that are consistent with standards of right and wrong. It also helps them navigate situations where two or more sides are on “right” standards.
  • Creating a personal vision – This competency helps leaders focus on the long-term or big picture view and inspires commitment to how they want to live and lead with intention. Personal visioning also helps an individual answer the question “What must I do in order to be effective working with others in creating change?”
  • Cultivating vitality – This competency is based in positive psychology and encourages leaders to integrate actions that allow them to thrive. It develops intentional positive practices to foster balance, energy and fulfillment.
  • Exploring difference – This competency is about encouraging leaders to experience difference as an opportunity to engage and learn. It also builds internal reflection to better understand the influences that ground their approach when encountering difference.
  • Exhibiting self-awareness – This competency reflects a leaders need to know themselves as an essential part of determining how their leadership takes shape and how to develop it further.

Relational attributes

Relational attributes recognize that making change takes a village. In response, leaders can develop abilities to harness the wisdom and power of groups and communities.


  • Leading with empathy – This competency is about leaders displaying emotional intelligence to manage complicated situations about culture and race with a humane, person-centered approach. It recognizes the importance of representing multiple points of view in contributing to cultural and racial literacy and educating others regarding the value of cultural and racial diversity.
  • Communicating effectively – This competency improves leaders’ ability to clearly relate and receive ideas to and from a variety of audiences. It includes listening, conveying information verbally and non-verbally, and adapting messages for different settings and goals.
  • Following and leading – This competency builds leaders that better support followers. It also helps leaders to become more effective followers in supporting leaders and contributing to efforts.
  • Managing group dynamics – This competency helps leaders recognize the interactions within groups that determine the nature, development, and success of that group. It is about proactively taking steps to create productive group interactions, manage conflict, and address interests.
  • Motivating others – This competency is about leaders using positive tactics to motivate, develop, and help grow others. It identifies individual strengths and involving others in meaningful ways.
  • Acting with Emotional Intelligence – This competency underlines the ways that emotional intelligence, the ability to capably read and interact with others, impacts leaders’ ability to be effective. It acknowledges each person’s ability to develop their emotional intelligence through focus and practice.

Strategic attributes

Strategic attributes respond to the situation that leaders live within. The better leaders are able to comprehend factors influencing their context, the better their ability to respond effectively and thoughtfully.


  • Measuring progress – This competency focuses on leaders continuously evaluating how cultural and racial diversity influences their work through metrics and measurable outcomes. It also helps leaders draw upon quantitative and qualitative data to name the economic, social, and cultural contributions diverse groups make to communities.
  • Defining direction – This competency builds leaders’ ability to guide a group toward accomplishment of a task. It also helps leaders paint a picture of the situation for others to make informed decisions.
  • Mapping the environment – This competency helps leaders increase understanding of key factors that impact their situation, including people, policy, process, and principles.
  • Using effective processes – This competency is about leaders recognizing, selecting, and implementing appropriate processes to accomplish their tasks with others.
  • Cultivating innovation – This competency moves leaders beyond the trappings of their situation to create or introduce something new. It builds capacity for strategic risk taking.
  • Addressing issues – This competency is about leaders recognizing, formulating, developing, and implementing successful and fair-minded responses to questions and challenges.

Analytical attributes

Analytical attributes are the mental competencies leaders use to do leadership work well. Leadership researcher Roger Schwarz notes, “How you think is how you lead,” and these practices provide leaders a number of actions to broaden and deepen their thinking.


  • Recognizing statuses and power – This competency is about leaders understanding the interconnected nature of identities (class, gender, sexual orientation, political status, ability, etc.), termed intersectionality, to increase nuanced thinking regarding identity and power and to strengthen connections.
  • Thinking critically – This competency improves leaders’ capacity to systematically analyze their own thinking to reduce bias, distortion, and prejudice in their thought process.
  • Framing – This competency helps leaders define and redefine issues or situations in different ways to connect broadly with others. It focuses conversations and determines the lens used to view issues.
  • Questioning – This competency enables leaders to employ purposeful, thought-provoking questions in meaningful and timely ways to accomplish their goals.
  • Reflecting – This competency is about leaders critically appraising their involvement, actions, and thinking to become better at the work of community leadership.
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