Regardless of the culture they belong to, leaders develop through a series of sequential stages. According to The Leadership Circle Profile –a reference methodological framework for leadership development- at each progressive developmental stage, the way we manage the self-world relationship changes, shifting the self towards a more complex and superior Inner Operating System (IOS). With this “new operating system”, the leader is able to handle more complexity with greater ease and efficiency. The person experiences a leap forward in creativity, effectiveness, freedom, power, and joy, becoming capable of greater contribution.
The culture change process takes place first in the consciousness of every person. Then, every individual influences the system to change it, and the new system encourages more people to experience their personal leap forward. As soon as a critical mass has developed, the new stage is achieved and consolidated, reducing significantly the chances of leaping back to the previous stage, and setting the stage for a leap forward towards higher-order leadership level. Therefore, the organization performs in accordance with the level of consciousness of its individuals. Actually, resistance to change is mostly derived from the difficulties that individuals have in making this leap forward in consciousness. This needs coaching and support. The four leadership stages are: egocentric, reactive, creative, and integral.
Egocentric leadership. This stage starts at the age of 8 and usually finishes at the end of the adolescence or early adulthood. This is characterized by relating the identity with the ability to meet ones needs, and so the social relationships are built in view of satisfying the personal needs only. Unavoidably, the strength of egocentricity is the capacity to get the personal needs satisfied and gain independence. So long as the egocentric are not aware about the others’ needs, they do not take these needs into account when making decisions. There is a total absence of shared reality in this personal stage, and so the growth path consists of taking others’ concerns into account and defining the identity co-relationally in a way that loyalty shifts from self-loyalty to the social loyalty. Around 5% of leaders operate in this stage.
Unfortunately, some people do not fully make the leap forward to the next stage and remain egocentric in their adulthood. The Egocentric mind is normal in adolescence, but pathology in adulthood. Leaders with egocentric mindsets tend to be autocratic and controlling, pretending that employees exist to serve them. This turns into an oppressive and destructive leadership.
Reactive leadership. The challenge of the Reactive Mind is to develop the ability to cooperate with others and within organizations. Leaders at this stage build their identities from the outside in: their self-worth is determined by their ability to meet the expectations of their social environment. To feel successful and worthwhile they need the approval of the others, which is based upon a set of standard cultural values.
These leaders are defined according to their capabilities, in three categories:
- They define their identity around the relationship skills, developed by leveraging their big-hearted nature, and tend to give up too much power to be accepted.
- Controlling. This type of leader tends to use power to achieve what they want, using people for their own profit. These leaders define themselves through their achievements.
- Protecting. These leaders build their identity upon their intellectual superiority. They are distant in relation to others, thus limiting their capacity to influence.
By focusing on their capabilities they eventually over-use these strengths, and this excessive use becomes a weakness and their main limitation, so long as they restrict the range of options when dealing with any challenge. This obviously limits their leadership effectiveness. This mindset is programmed to perpetuate the status quo, and so whenever there is a challenge, the leader will focus on fixing the problems in a way that everything gets back to the previous state, without making any leap forward on the model to address the root of the problem. Further, the lack of vision makes it barely impossible to anticipate challenges and take action accordingly, and so he or she is only moved by the reaction to the problems when they arise, and this reaction is driven according to the standard procedures of the cultural environment to meet the expected results of this environment.
With regards to the Egocentric style, Reactive style replaces the loyalty to the self with the institutional loyalty. This is characterized by relationships based on loyalty and obedience, and bureaucratic oriented hierarchies. Nowadays, however, most change efforts intend to create leaner, flatter and engaged cultures, which require more ownership and creative accountability at the lower levels of hierarchy. The Reactive leadership is not ready for such kind of culture transformation, and so a higher-order mindset is needed. There comes the Creative mind. It is estimated that about the 70% of leaders operate in the Reactive level or in transition towards the Creative stage, so this is the kind of leader we are more likely to deal with.
The explanation of the Leadership Circle Profile’s 4 levels of leadership is to be completed with another upcoming blog post.
This blog post is from the Whitepaper “Building a culture of collaboration and innovation”, freely downloadable in this weblog. You may check the Whitepaper’s references to know the sources used for its elaboration.