The “Strategist” Leader – Transforming Business and the Future of our World.

There is no doubt that the world we live in is one of complex, ever-changing uncertainty. Nothing new about that – it’s the nature of the universe! Yet we are told that disruptive change in business, the pace of technological development and the change in our global ecosystem is accelerating like never before.

Our world desperately needs leaders who can navigate this and consciously lead the transformation of business that is critical for human and planetary survival. So who are the leaders capable of this?

Research into vertical stages of leadership development (Cook-Greuter, Rooke & Torbert, O’Fallon) suggest that only leaders who have reached post-conventional, “Teal” (Laloux) levels of conscious development have the capacity to lead sustainable transformation. These are “Strategist” leaders and they number only 8% of the current executive population. (Harthill Consulting / PWC, 2015)

What Sort of Leader are you?

The Specialist

Devoted to their work and the development of exceptional skills, these are the masters of their craft. They shine as experts in their fields and are all about excellence. They can be highly critical and often quite single minded about the best way to approach a project. Perfectionist rather than pragmatist, they manage by passing on their knowledge, getting into the detail and training others to do things their way. Their identity is bound up in their work so they can be very reactive to feedback and have a strong ‘not good enough’ drive. Highly reliable at doing an excellent technical job, when promoted to leadership positions they may find ‘letting go’ and getting the most out of a team highly challenging. 

The Achiever

The Achiever begins to focus more on the impact of their work and on performance return. They start to consider how their work meets the needs of the various stakeholders and therefore their focus is more pragmatic than perfectionist. In order to do this the Achiever needs to shift from the very individualistic view of the Specialist to skillfully working with others for the best outcome. Strong team players, they enjoy being in the driving seat and have a highly competitive drive – they’ll do what it takes to win! Targets, KPI’s, accountability are key concepts in the Achiever world as are increasing profits and a ‘more’ mindset. One could argue, the embodiment of the virtues of Capitalism. The drawback, of course, is that the treadmill of striving for more is a vicious cycle of ‘never enough’ and executives at this stage often suffer from extreme stress.

Conventional vs Post-Conventional

Specialist and Achiever are both conventional world mindsets. Achievers have reached the upper echelons of performance and excel at working IN the world. However, only at higher, post-conventional stages of conscious awareness are we able to work ON the world and lead truly transformational and sustainable change.

The Catalyst

The first post-conventional stage of leadership development is the Catalyst. There is a shift of perspective that takes place in the transition to Catalyst focused on internal inquiry – understanding ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, emotions, drivers, values. Existential questions of purpose and meaning now come into focus. Catalyst leaders are highly attuned to others and attend to engagement, connection and collaboration. Their focus shifts towards personal growth (of themselves and others) and the best possible collective outcomes for a wider stakeholder group. This, however, can also be their downfall, when ambiguity, relativism and conflict makes consensus impossible. Much of current leadership development activity is focused on nurturing authentic, intuitive, emotionally intelligent Catalyst leaders with a willingness to be vulnerable, think differently and try out ideas. This is where the capacity to truly innovate begins.

The Strategist

Whereas the Catalyst strives to keep everyone happy and to do good, the Strategist develops a more discerning awareness of self, other and the universe. They use their personal integrity, strength and courage to serve a wider community and the greater good.  They are comfortable with systemic chaos, complexity and conflict and are able to adopt a longer term, universal perspective. They lead from the ‘inside-out’; successfully bringing about transformational change through vision, purpose and living their principles. Whereas Catalysts trip up when met by conflicting opinions, Strategists are self-validating and no longer seek approval or permission; they are guided by their own convictions. Passionate in their advocacy for a better world and skilled at liberating untapped potential, Strategists are mindful, wise and compassionate leaders who bring a holistic perspective integrating heart, soul and spirit into their work.  

Of course, a holarchy of stages of development doesn’t stop there; the next stage, Alchemist, is characterised by transpersonal awareness and leading spiritual and social transformation. It is estimated that less than 1% of executives are at this stage (Harthill Consulting / PWC, 2015), so for now my interest is in coaching leaders to make the transition to Catalyst and Strategist; transcending conventional operating norms, transforming the way we do business and saving our planet at the same time!

If you’re interested in finding out more about how coaching can help you to make this transition, I’d love to hear from you.

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