Life long learning and continuous development have become the norm for anyone in a leadership position. It’s now recognised that adult development transcends through a series of stages of consciousness. A transcension might be a forced and painful experience. Especially when one is comfortable in an area of expertise and then promoted to a position in which new ways of thinking and being must be learned to achieve a new level of success.
Similarly a high achiever might find themselves feeling dissatisfied with their attainment of goals and notice themselves considering 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.
William Torbert defined these stages as seven action logics namely opportunist, diplomat, expert, achiever, individualist, strategist or alchemist. As we develop and expand into fuller more complex action logics the earlier stages remain nested within the later stages like Russian dolls. 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. In later stages we can hold multiple perspectives simultaneously and feel comfortable with knowing that there are many ways of seeing and what is true for them might not be true for someone else or be true for themselves tomorrow.
The predominant action logic in todays business world is the achiever. A leader functioning from this action logic is successful at planning, meeting deadlines and achieving goals. They are highly motivated and valued. Some leaders might stay at this action logic and others find themselves questioning and feeling less certain and decisive as they transcend into the individualist.
At the higher end of the action logic spectrum we find the transformational leaders. Those that can hold many perspectives in their decision making, feel comfortable with the uncertain and the unknown. Take great leaps of faith. At this later stage Beck and Cowan in ‘Spiral Dynamics’ identified a dropping away of fear and Graves noted that people became more intuitive. Beck and Cowan noted a worldview emerging in which the planet is perceived as a single eco-system in which all species belong.
Personally, I draw hope in that the fast changing world in which we live is balanced by an expanding consciousness that enables us to thrive in this Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world. Transformational leaders are emerging. They hold a global perspective and lead for the benefit of all.
If you are interested in identifying which action logic you are are currently functioning from I am offering one free assessment and debrief through the Harthill Leadership Development Framework. Email a short description of your job role and how an assessment might help you in your leadership development.
I also offer leadership coaching to help individuals and companies transcend into the later stages of development. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacqueline Davis is a leadership coach and managing director of Igniting Minds. A chartered director and fellow of the Institute of Directors. She has post-graduate qualifications in company direction, executive coaching and psychological coaching. Her masters dissertation was an inquiry into expanded stages of consciousness.
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