Leadership is Development

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Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky & John Bowlby – do those names take you back to Psych 101? These psychologists were trailblazers in identifying the developmental path of people. People change through time – the infant, the adolescent and the adult are all developmental phases.

Leadership development includes a developmental path as well. In fact, leading Leadership Development theorist Bill Torbert outlined a path entitled the 7 Transformations of Leadership. Essentially, Torbert shares that leaders utilize an Action Logic to make decisions about our environment. Action Logic is the way a leader interprets their surroundings and makes decisions.

The 7 Action Logics include the following:

Opportunist: The opportunist seeks to win whenever possible.

Diplomat: The diplomat takes the neutral party approach within teams.

Expert: The expert seeks to gain more knowledge to take over his domain and excel.

Achiever: The achiever seeks to take the knowledge gained at the expert stage and create business results.

Individualist: Consider this Action Logic like that of a consultant. This takes on the traits of the objective third party in providing perspective.

Strategist: The strategist is able to build alliances and partnerships inside the organization to reach business objectives.

Alchemist: The alchemist takes all of the above and reaches societal change.

Clearly, it is important to identify the action logic you most frequently use and it is also important to determine if that action logic is creating the outcome you desire.

In Torbert’s book “Action Inquiry” he outlines a process, which matches the name of the book title that helps you determine the effectiveness of your chosen Action Logic.

The process includes:

Single Loop Feedback: Here individuals look at the outside world and draw conclusions. For example: You simply observe the meeting you find yourself sitting through and draw conclusions.

Double Loop Feedback: You take action on the observations you make and draw conclusions on the efficacy of that action.

Triple Loop Feedback: This is the most challenging form of feedback for me personally. You become aware of what is occurring inside you at the time of the feedback. This type of awareness allows you to gain perspective on needed changes to your “Action Logic.”

Imagine for a moment that you have decided to fix your toilet. It keeps running in the middle of the night. The flap inside the tank does not seal correctly. You decide to take a plunger to attack the problem. You show up with the plunger and your roommate or spouse looks at you and says “Why are you using the plunger to fix the flap?” – great question. The same is true with action logic, why would you take the approach of an expert to a meeting or an event that requires Strategist action logic?

The reason we stay in one Action Logic over another is two-fold:

1.) Comfort: When you begin to master a domain, it becomes easy and results become predictable. Just like when you began riding your bike. It all started with training wheels or mom/dad holding the seat behind you as you pedaled. Once the wheels come off the results become less predictable.

2.) Uncertainty: Uncertainty creates anxiety. Why would you practice using an awkward approach, when all you have ever known is Opportunist Action Logic? You have become the master at deal making, yet now it is time to lead your team and you continue to ask them to win at all costs, when the situation requires Strategist Action logic.

Which Action Logic do you navigate toward? What does your business demand?

Remember, you are developing each day as psychologist discovered. The same is true as a leader. You are developing each day. If you resist, you may continue to be frustrated with the results.