Developing a leadership mindset for the voluntary sector

Jacqueline Davis, Fellow and Chartered Director with the the Institute of Directors, Leadership and psychological coach and NLP master practitioner, trainer and consultant

As the world we live and work in grows in complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity voluntary sector leaders need to develop a  mindset that supports them to plan and decision make in this fast and ever changing environment whilst maintaining their own health and well-being.

Developing a Leadership Mindset

Theories of adult development have identified stages of mindsets or action logics.  An action logic is the way in which we make meaning of the world. The development of these stages or action logics might be better understood using the metaphor of a nest of Russian dolls.  As we develop and expand into fuller more complex action logics the earlier stages remain nested within the later stages.

As each stage of reasoning unfolds we develop new ways of perceiving and understanding but we can always step back into an earlier less developed action logic.

The seven Action Logics.  

PWC used the Action Logic leadership framework to define transformational leadership in their 2015 publication “Ten ways to identify and retain transformational leaders”.  

  •  Alchemist – only 1% of leaders are known to have achieved this and they are known to be leading society wide transformation 
  • Strategist – 8% of leaders are functioning as a transformational leader.  These are leaders who think globally and work co-creationally.
  • Individualist – 33% of leaders functioning from here and most are found to working within consultancy or coaching roles
  • Achiever – this is the predominant action logic that most leaders in our society are functioning from. 52% of leaders goal and action orientated and focussed on achievement  
  • Expert – 7% usually promoted to their first leadership position because of their expertise and then need to develop leadership capabilities
  • Diplomat – 1% avoids change, overt conflict and obeys group norms
  • Opportunist – thinks small, what’s in it for me and works in own self interest 

So what defines a later stage thinker?

Transformational leadership coaching for the voluntary sector

At the higher end of the action logic spectrum we find the transformational leaders. Those that can hold many perspectives in their decision making and feel comfortable holding uncertainty, complexity and paradox. 

At this later stage Beck and Cowan in ‘Spiral Dynamics’ identified a dropping away of fear and people became more intuitive. They identified a worldview emerging in which the planet is perceived as a single eco-system in which all species belong.

A leader operating from the later stages also known as transformational mindsets can hold multiple perspectives simultaneously and accept that there are many ways of seeing and what is true for them might not be true for someone else today and may not be true for themselves tomorrow.  

The first of the later stages is the Individualist stage where a leader will begin to view the world as relational and systemic rather than linear with cause and effect.  As they unfold into the Strategist stage they become more drawn to co-create and work in collaboration as they value the different perspectives that others bring.

According to David Rooke from Harthill Consultancy few leaders, try to understand their own action logic, and fewer still have explored the possibility of changing it. In our experience a leader first comes to coaching 

How can you develop transformational leadership

A transcension to a later stage can be a forced and painful experience brought about by a life changing event or promotion at work.  This is most common when an employee is promoted because of their expertise and then must learn new ways of thinking and being to achieve a new level of success.

A leader in the Achiever stage might feel dissatisfied with their attainment of goals and begin to consider existential questions about meaning and purpose in their life. Often accompanied with a desire to leave their job to start their own business, go back into education or go travelling.

The process can be supported through leadership coaching.  The coaching relationship provides a space to explore and expand meaning making.  To look at issues through different lenses and perspectives and to take a more systemic view of what might be happening.

My clients place a high value on the space that coaching creates

‘Often in coaching sessions, you can feel like the coach has an agenda for you to follow. Instead, Jackie came to our sessions with a uniquely open-mind – allowing space for the innovative thinking I needed to view my profession in an entirely different light. The head-space and creative revelations generated during our sessions eventually led to those ideas being published and a chain-reaction of career-changing events that sparked from there. I can’t thank Jackie enough for her ability to carefully listen and help co-create ideas and patterns of working that I use each and every day’ Dave MacFarlane, Social Worker

Igniting Minds delivers transformational coaching. Email me on for a free, no-obligation to buy exploration of your coaching needs.  Igniting Minds is a Certificated User of the Harthill Leadership Development Framework and can provide an assessment of your current action logic and better support you in your development as a transformational leader.

Transformational Leadership for the Voluntary Sector

The voluntary sector leads transformational change and leaders often feel isolated in the pioneering work that they are driving.  Coaching provides personal space and quality thinking time to think things through to create new innovative solutions. Coaching will help you identify outdated patterns of thinking and behaving and identify and implement more empowering transformational ways of being.  

The voluntary sector is driving the change that the world needs.  Now more than ever it needs you to step up to becoming an even greater transformational leader.

An assessment and debrief through the Harthill Leadership Development Framework is offered as part of our leadership coaching programmes.

Chihuly glass sculptor
Psychometric profiling – Jacqueline is an authorised user of the Harthill Leadership Development Framework.

Further reading

Beck, D. and Cowan, C. (1996). ‘Spiral Dynamics’.   Oxford UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Cook-Greuter S. R. (1985/2005). ‘Ego Development: Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace’.

Laloux, F. (2014). ‘Reinventing Organisations’. Brussel, Belgium: Nelson Park

Torbert in Fisher, D., Rooke, D. & Torbert, W. (2002). ‘Personal and Organizational Transformations: Through Action Inquiry’. Edge\Work Press

Torbert, B. (2004) ‘Action Inquiry; The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership’California: Berrett-Koehler Publishers