Leader Development

vddiagramWhy is it “Leader” Development?

Bonn (2001) found that a majority of senior executives in 35 of the 100 largest manufacturers in Australia identified a “lack of strategic thinking” as the main problem in their organisation, and that with a clear and communicated strategic vision, the organisation prospers. Ingrid Bonn goes on to suggest that the challenge for senior managers is to design and establish a working environment where everyone is encouraged to explore new ideas, to come up with incremental improvements and implement innovations. This seems fairly obvious to us today, so the question changes to one of process: How?

Vertical Developmental is about Mental Growth measured before and after the growth program. Executives and High Level Managers need to be able to think at a higher level in order to affect the organisational direction. Vertical Development can help you do this.

A recent IBM Institute for Business Value (2010) global study of over 1,500 chief executive officers and public sector leaders from 60 countries identified complexity as the primary challenge, and the ability to cope with change as the most pressing concern. The study also revealed the leaders‘ skepticism over their own ability to manage complexity while identifying creativity as the most important leadership quality for the future.

Development in its deepest meaning refers to a transformation of consciousness. As your level of consciousness rises, it corresponds with deeper awareness, the ability to notice more, to look from different perspectives, having more diverse ways of connecting the dots, and thinking through the complexities you experience. – Jan De Visch

Today, we need leaders who are more aware, and who understand themselves and their world at a qualitatively higher level of mental complexity. The kind of leader I can help encourage is a person who is making meaning at a higher level with a self-aware mind. When you are aware of self, you are aware of your interactions, relationships and others. What we expect is that most leaders are more complex than their team, their employees and their organisation, but in practise, they are not. We expect leaders to be fluent in their own thinking, and with guided conversations, they can be.

Horizontal or Vertical?

Horizontal development is the modification of one’s behaviour as a result of experience. Vertical development is about increased awareness as well as the integration of cognitive, emotional and behavioural wisdom, with an element of self-reflection.

As a consequence of the above, Gables Consultancy does not offer “competency models” which offer horizontal development. Instead, we offer vertical development as it is not what leaders do, or how they do it that matters: it is how they turn up that makes the difference.

In my experience, generic leaders often ask the question “what can be done?” which proffers beliefs about the possible solutions. A better way of answering the question isn’t with a belief at all, but instead is to go for the higher level of consciousness response, such as: how are we thinking about how we’re thinking about the problem? We must now examine our language and our world view so we can develop higher order solutions to our problems. This cannot be done alone and must be guided.

It’s called Leader Development because according to Kuhnert & Lewis (1987), “unless leaders have progressed to Stage 4 personality structures, they will be unable to transcend the personal needs and commitments of others and they will be unable to pursue their own end values.” Transformational Leadership begins at this level!

Values and Beliefs

The decisions of Leaders are potentially  influenced by their own attitudes, beliefs and values. Schwartz (1992) defined values as: “desirable states, objects, goals or behaviours transcending specific situations and applied as normative standards to judge and to choose among alternative modes of behaviour”.
This highlights two important functions of values: firstly, they are enduring, and transcend situations; values can provide a sense of purpose to an individual’s behaviour. Secondly, because they are normative standards, values can form the basis for generating behaviours that conform to the needs of organisations, (Lord and Brown 2001) which represents the culture of those organisations.

Personal values and value systems result in characteristics or attitudes that in turn affect behaviour. For example, England and Lee (1974) identified seven ways in which values affect leaders. These included:

  • the perceptions leaders had of situations
  • the solutions they generate regarding problems
  • interpersonal relationships
  • perceptions of individual and organisational success
  • the ability to differentiate between ethical and unethical behaviour
  • whether they accept or reject organisational pressures and goals
  • whether they can affect managerial performance.

We explore values and beliefs as part of our construction of self. It is an interesting and worthwhile endeavour in Leadership development.

Organisational Values

How do we create or encourage a commitment to the strategic direction of the organisation?

Levels of Complexity

Using the guided conversations mentioned above, a person should become more aware of their own state as their mind becomes more awake and more able to reject old habits and thought processes that normally limit their mind to what is familiar and simplistic. It is important to go through our beliefs of what is truth, including the understanding that all knowledge is uncertain and constructed.

You can start examining your own complexity right now by diving beneath the surface of your thinking. We think in these following four thought-forms and by probing into their specific importance, we can explore how we make sense of our reality in a different way:

Context: What is the bigger picture in which this perspective is embedded or what is the bigger picture it fails to see?
Process: What are the emerging changes that this perspective takes into account or that it ignores?
Relationship: What is the environment in which the perspective is unfolding and how does it affect the perspective? Is there a disconnect not being considered?
Transformation: What use does this perspective make of the potential of all systems, or what emerging potential has been over-looked?

Developing Complexity is a Process Over Time

Here is an example of the differences between different levels of thinking at the lower end of the spectrum:
An engineer is given a truck with a broken gearbox.

At level one, the engineer sees that a straightforward repair would fix the “problem” right away.
At level two, the engineer suspects that the gearbox was broken as a result of the way the driver operated it, and considers how future drivers could be instructed to use the gearbox in a more gentle way.
At level three, the engineer considers the problem lies in the design and manufacturing process of the gearbox.
At level four, the engineer might see the problem as the use of trucks for freight transit in general and question whether the work that the truck performs could be done in an entirely different way.
Each engineer is convinced that his way of viewing the problem is the most appropriate.

The answers these questions will raise will not always be clear, hence why one needs a guided conversation. In order to shift our meaning-making and sense-making processes, give us a call today.