Redefining Leadership

Conversations With and for Leaders to
Connect, Innovate & Inspire


To explore the many facets of effective leadership, Integrated Work launched KOAN Conversations, a community and content series for leaders to connect, innovate, and inspire. The live conversations, hosted by Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Lyn Simpson, feature guests who are redefining leadership. 

The conversations also explore concepts in Jen’s book, the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World, developed as an outgrowth of more than 30 years of working in and with organizations across the private, public, corporate, and not-for-profit sectors to create more meaningful and effective ways of living and working together across differences. The book explores how the principles of the KOAN method can help leaders build Kind, Open, Adaptive Networks of people working together to reach shared goals.

By bringing a fresh dose of kindness and empathy to challenging questions, KOAN conversations encourage participants to approach problems with curiosity and compassion. Opening up the discussion by shining a light on unspoken concerns or bringing greater transparency to an issue helps us see things from a new angle.

In a KOAN conversation, we look for the adaptive answers that reconcile tensions and can help us unstick issues that might feel hopelessly tangled. By examining the networks of relationships surrounding an issue, leaders can identify key stakeholders and potential sources of support for change initiatives.

By embracing the principles of KOAN conversations, leaders can break through obstacles, find clarity, and inspire action in times of uncertainty.

Experts Explore What It Means to Be a Leader

Below, meet innovators from the KOAN Conversations series who are redefining leadership. Learn more about their unique work, explore their takes on what it means to be an effective leader, and watch their insightful conversations with Jen!

Why Women’s Leadership Is for Everyone

“Leadership is all about relationship. It’s about how you inspire people. Leadership is not tactical. It’s more emotional, it’s more inspirational, it’s how you bring people together, how you help to value the people that you work with, and how you help them shine their own lives.” — Denise Harrington

In a riveting conversation that challenges the status quo of what it means to be a leader today, Jen and Denise explore the idea that the traditionally feminine qualities of empathy, collaboration, and relationship-building aren’t just “women’s leadership.” Rather, they’re human-centric approaches that can help organizations and society thrive. By embracing and valuing diverse perspectives, we can create more balanced, adaptive, and innovative leadership for all.

They argue that “women’s leadership” is for everyone. Integrating traits like empathy, collaboration, and relationship-building with more traditionally masculine leadership styles creates more balanced, innovative leadership. Denise emphasizes openness and adaptability — two core KOAN concepts that are critical for “women’s leadership” to be more widely accepted. Despite research proving the benefits of diverse, empathetic leadership, it’s still uncommon in the workplace. In order for a true transformation of leadership style, Denise encourages women to acknowledge their worth, step into their power, and persist.

Watch Denise’s KOAN Conversation

Meet Denise Harington

Thirty years ago, Denise Harrington stepped out onto the stage of a major business club to give a speech on the “Art of Speaking With Impact™.” That day, DMH Consulting Group and a legacy began. 

Denise, as a communication expert and trusted advisor to C-suite executives, marketing professionals, and sales teams, directs them to be more persuasive in how they connect with their clients, customers, direct reports, and stakeholders. She promotes speaking confidently on some of the most visible global topics such as sustainability, diversity and inclusion, disruptive innovation, customer-focused initiatives, emerging markets, and managing media crises. She also inspires women to take on a cutting-edge leadership style by standing up and using their voices.

How to Lead When Everything Is Broken

“When we’re dealing with incredibly different and often challenging and unpredictable circumstances…human connection and understanding becomes that much more important.”Sophie Wade

In the midst of rapid technological advancements and societal shifts, leaders are grappling with the challenge of fostering meaningful connections and resilience within their teams. Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Lyn Simpson and workplace innovator Sophie Wade recently delved into this issue during a KOAN Conversation on Leadership in Disruptive Times. Emphasizing the importance of empathy in navigating uncertain terrain, they underscored how understanding and valuing individual experiences can transform workplaces into trust-based environments where innovation thrives.

As workplaces evolve, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for empathetic leadership has become more pronounced. Sophie Wade highlighted the significance of acknowledging the ongoing flux and ensuring that organizational cultures prioritize inclusivity and understanding. By incorporating diverse perspectives and embracing the unique contributions of team members, leaders can cultivate environments where everyone feels heard and valued, ultimately driving collective success amidst continual change.

Watch Sophie’s KOAN Conversation

Meet Sophie Wade

Sophie Wade is a work futurist, international keynote speaker, founder and Workforce Innovation Specialist at Flexcel Network who is an authority on Future-of-Work issues. Her book, Empathy Works: The Key to Competitive Advantage in the New Era of Work is an invaluable resource for both established and rising executives and managers. Empathy Works provides essential insights and knowledge to adapt, thrive, and grow―no matter what the future holds.

The Importance of Meaningful Work and the Role of Peer Support in Blazing New Trails

“Systems change isn’t simply you deciding to compost. What really matters is that you’re organizing composting for your village. … If we really care about where things are going, we have to change the system.” — Seth Godin

In a landscape marked by systemic breakdowns and cultural rifts, leaders are embracing innovative approaches to foster open dialogue and drive collective solutions. Integrated Work CEO Jennifer Lyn Simpson’s latest book, the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World, introduces a novel framework for guiding organizations towards transformative strategies amidst global challenges. In a recent KOAN Conversation with best-selling author Seth Godin, they explored the power of collaborative projects like The Carbon Almanac, showcasing how networks can reimagine systems and inspire individuals to contribute to meaningful change. Seth emphasized the importance of embracing diversity and advocating for systemic shifts, highlighting the need for collective action in addressing pressing social and environmental issues.

As society grapples with unprecedented challenges, Jennifer and Seth underscored the role of courageous action and intentional storytelling in shaping a regenerative future. By fostering networks of like-minded individuals committed to challenging the status quo, they aim to empower others to step into bravery and craft narratives that envision a more equitable and sustainable world. Grounded in the principle of embracing uncertainty, the KOAN method offers a path towards embracing discomfort as a catalyst for breakthroughs, ultimately driving towards a future defined by collaboration, empathy, and collective innovation.

Watch Seth’s KOAN Conversation

Meet Seth Godin

Seth Godin is the author of 30 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He writes about the post-industrial revolution, the way ideas spread, marketing, quitting, leadership, and, most of all, changing everything. You might be familiar with his books Linchpin, Tribes, Purple Cow, and The Carbon Almanac. His book, This Is Marketing, was an instant bestseller worldwide. His latest release, The Song of Significance, is a soulful re-envisioning of what work and leadership could be.

The Power of Connection and Community as We Build New Models of Leading and Organizing

“It’s only really in community where we get to understand ourselves.” — Vicki Saunders

Breakthrough leaders Jennifer Simpson and Vicki Saunders advocate for a departure from outdated leadership models, emphasizing the power of collaborative networks to drive systemic change. In their KOAN Conversation, they underscored the need for leaders to embrace uncertainty and creativity in navigating today’s ever-shifting reality. Simpson’s book, “The KOAN Method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World,” advocates for leaders to tap into creativity, connection, and community to reimagine systems in an era ripe for change.

Saunders, known for her work with Coralus (formerly SheEO), champions the transformative potential of supportive networks, particularly exemplified in Coralus’s global community of women investors. Emphasizing the importance of generosity and collaboration, she highlights the collective impact achievable when individuals contribute their unique gifts to a shared vision. Both Simpson and Saunders stress the role of networks in fostering courage and empowering leaders to embrace uncertainty, paving the way for innovative solutions and inclusive decision-making processes.

Watch Vicki’s KOAN Conversation

Meet Vicki Saunders

Vicki Saunders is an entrepreneur, award-winning mentor, advisor to the next generation of changemakers, and a leading advocate for entrepreneurship as a way of creating positive transformation in the world. As the founder of #RadicalGenerosity and Coralus, Vicki has convened a global community of radically generous women supporting women-led ventures working on the world’s to-do list.

(Re)Discovering Ourselves on the Land and the Power of Place

“We have to have the foundation upon which we rest, but we have to have the curiosity and the humility to be inquisitive.” — Beverly Winterscheid

Jennifer Simpson and Beverly Winterscheid, in a recent KOAN Conversation, explored the transformative potential of connecting with both natural and human networks. Beverly, founder of the Center for Nature and Leadership, merged her business expertise with her love for nature, guiding women leaders through a journey of self-discovery and innovation. Jennifer, author of “the KOAN method,” emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and uncertainty to foster breakthroughs and creativity, highlighting the interconnectedness inherent in systemic change.

Their discussion underscores the value of shifting from individual growth to a collaborative approach rooted in ancient wisdom and modern research. By immersing themselves in nature, both Beverly and Jennifer found inspiration and humility, paving the way for openness to creativity and new discoveries. The KOAN method encourages embracing the unknown and recognizing our shared humanity, offering new pathways for personal and professional development through community and connection.

Watch Beverly’s KOAN Conversation

Meet Beverly Winterscheid

Beverly Winterscheid, Ph.D. is a mentor and motivator for women who want to change the world through passionate commitment to their ideas, families, organizations, and communities. After investing two decades in change management with a large systems focus, Beverly came to the conclusion that change happens one person at a time. Cultivating fearless leaders, those who stand firmly on authenticity and truth, who strive to bring new visions into reality in concert with others, is her passion and expertise. In 2008, she founded the Center for Nature and Leadership to blend traditional leadership development with scientific findings on the beneficial effects of nature on humans.