Leadership Development:
Growing Into Maturity

Leadership-DevelopmentFor most of my adult life I’ve been on a quest to help people grow. If you’re leading a business, you know that personal development goes hand in hand with leadership development. Anyone in business today can sense that the demands of our rapidly changing global economy are stretching our abilities. New personal capacities as well as new leadership competencies are needed.

That’s why I read so many books on leadership; I’m trying to understand what’s needed to help leaders grow. I admit that sometimes there are so many theories and catchy phrases it gets confusing. Most recently I wrote about the developmental stages leaders go through as they mature. The ideas of Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams in Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results outline five levels of leadership.

You can read my posts about this here. I wanted to know if these five levels (Egocentric, Reactive, Creative, Integral, and Unitive) were universally accepted as a true model for leadership stages, or if they were unique to The Leadership Circle, a constancy firm with their own assessments and programs. It turns out these categories were created by the authors, but based on 30 years of research by developmental psychologists.

Different researchers and consultants have different names for the developmental stages. Understanding the progressive stages of a leader’s maturity  is key to understanding leadership development and growth. But it’s made more complicated by the fact that each theorist has their own terminology for the stages. Every book I read has different names for the stages and they don’t always delineate at similar growth points.

If you really want to understand adult developmental stages and leadership growth, there are several books and authors:

I wish that the names for the stages weren’t so different or weren’t misleading. They are confusing because we attach meaning to the words that describe each growth stage. Kegan talks about the Self-Sovereign stage, the Socialized Self, the Self Authoring stage, and the Transforming Self. Others (Joiner and Josephs in Leadership Agility) see the stages as the Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, Co-creator, Synergist and Alchemist.

I think what’s key to understanding all this are the internal shifts in meaning- making, not the names of the stages. As you develop, your ability to deal effectively with change and complexity increases. It’s not about attaining perfection or knowledge or skills. It’s about shifting perspectives and gaining abilities to hold multiple perspectives. Its about how you make sense of the world. With maturity, you change the way you make meaning and find fulfillment and relate to others.

Developing in this way doesn’t make you better than others, but it can make you more effective both as a leader and as a person. Growth and development as an adult means you become less egotistical, less judgmental and hierarchical in your attitudes toward yourself and others.

You’ve probably noticed your own personal growth over the years. The problem is here, though: Most leadership development initiatives involve external competencies and training to meet challenges more effectively. That’s what’s meant when we coach the outer game. In my opinion, not many coaches are focusing on the inner game: helping leaders grow the mental and emotional capacities that are needed for effective leadership.

As a result, very few leaders are prepared for future challenges. That makes for a big gap in leadership development programs and coaching efforts.

I’m curious, what are you doing to improve your inner game? If you’re working with a coach, how much time to you spend discussing and growing mental and emotional capacities?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call. Or, you can reach me here and on LinkedIn.

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