5 Levels of Leadership:
Leaders Are Driven by 3 Needs

5-Levels-of-LeadershipI’ve been exploring developmental stages that people go through as they mature, and in particular, the five levels of leadership. In The Leadership Circle book called Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results by authors Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, these five progressive stages are:

  1. Egocentric
  2. Reactive
  3. Creative
  4. Integrative
  5. Unitive

The Reactive mindset is characterized by a socialized self (Kegan, 1989), that is, at this developmental stage we try to fit in and live up to the expectations of our families, careers, and society. The sense of self is based on other people, roles, and rules. We decide how we are going to establish self-worth and security.

3 Ways Leaders Try to Get Their Needs Met

As we mature and as leaders progress through the five levels of leadership they are predominantly driven to meet their needs through three strengths or motivations:

  • Relationships
  • Intellectual capabilities
  • Achieving results

These three types of motivations were originally proposed by the psychologist David McClelland in the 60s who observed leadership behaviors as being driven by needs for Affiliation, Power, and Achievement. They can also be seen when people prefer to use either their heart, head, or will to influence others.

Briefly, we decide early on how we will define our adult identity. How will I get my self-worth and esteem? What strengths do I have that I can use to feel safe? There are three primary tendencies at the Reactive Mindset: Complying, Protecting and Controlling:

  1. Complying Types: When we form an identity around our relationship capability, we are leveraging our social selves. We are strong other-centered, empathetic, curious, and most likely gregarious. We see ourselves as good, worthwhile, kind, caring and supportive. So much so that we know we are safe and worthy as long as we are liked, accepted or admired by others. Herein lies our Achilles’ Heel: we tend to give up too much power in exchange for being accepted. Many of us have experienced working for a manager who was a complying type. While such qualities are sometimes appreciated, they are also limiting. For example in an effort to please everyone, decisions may come slowly or not at all. The drive for safety and appreciation inherent in people who are Complying can interfere with the strong leadership necessary in complex environments.
  1. Controlling Types: Not exactly the opposite of a Complying type leader, a controlling leader identifies with the results he creates. She is driven by the need to achieve. Controlling types use power to create what they want at the expense of people and relationships. Of course, this undermines collective effectiveness and social/emotional intelligence. While shareholders love a CEO who exceeds growth expectations, controlling types have difficulty sustaining success, inspiring engagement, and surmounting the demands of global networks.
  1. Protecting Types: Other leaders identify with their brilliance and exceptional IQ. They tend to position themselves as intellectually superior while maintaining emotional distance. They need to be seen as the smartest person in the room but often invoke resentment which hampers their ability to influence followers.

I’ll bet you identify with one or maybe two of these drives. And I’ll also bet you can see these behaviors in the people you work for and with. Most of us gravitate toward a preference for  relationships, intellect, or our drive for results. What’s it like where you work? I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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