Why the Leadership Journey Matters

From employee onboarding to fully fledged leaders Through the centuries, psychological researchers have described development from infancy to adulthood as a series of stages. As […]

From employee onboarding to fully fledged leaders

Through the centuries, psychological researchers have described development from infancy to adulthood as a series of stages. As we move through these stages, we gain greater consciousness of ourselves, others, and the world around us. These stages are in parallel with the leadership journey.

Why does the leadership journey matter?

Research shows that the stages of life exist in the same sequence in all cultures. By understanding where you are on this journey, you can make better progress on it.

With regards to your leadership journey, development moves from one stage to another. It takes practice and commitment. Without these traits you will not shift to the next level, and nor will your capability as a leader grow.

With regards to an organisation, for it to grow it is necessary for its people to grow. Without personal development, organisational growth will be inhibited.

What are the stages of the leadership journey?

Robert Kegan, professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, is at the forefront of stage development research and theory. He describes these in his Theory of the Evolution of Consciousness.

The first two of these stages describe the evolution from infant to child, in what is termed the ‘Egocentric Self’:

  • If infants cannot see or experience something, it does not exist. By around 18 months old, they begin to recognise that objects exist outside of themselves.
  • By around two years old, children begin to realise that they have control of their own reactions, and they become attached to whatever or whoever is present in the moment.

This development may be compared to the new hire starting, first being onboarded and completely focused on their own job and then, as they become more proficient, developing greater understanding of the organisation and their role within it.

During this stage, just like infants need to be supported by their parents as they develop, employees should be challenged to take responsibility, and to differentiate themselves while integrating into the organisational culture.

Stage 3: The socialised (reactive) self

Having been given a foundation by parents, a child starts to develop an instrumental mind. They become well-functioning young adults and think more logically. They relate to others as unique people. Societal rules give them structure and they develop a sense of who they want to be.

At this stage of leadership development, a person should be supported to develop their sense of competition and compromise, with managers confirming progress and encouraging the young leader to consider the expectations, desires, needs, and capabilities of others.

Stage 4: The independent (creative) self

By this stage of development, people have developed the ability to think more abstractly. They link their feeling to internalised processes. How they are perceived by others becomes important, and acceptance is critical. They find support in mutually rewarding relationships and shared experiences.

On the leadership journey, this is where mentorship comes into its own. A mentor programme will help the mentee by the experience of the mentor, while the mentor should also encourage the mentee to develop independent (and thoughtful) decision-making.

This transition can be difficult. It is necessary to let go of how you define yourself, and your actions become an authentic expression of your purpose. It is at this stage that you will start to understand your own power and encourage creativity and freedom in others. Only around a quarter of adults complete this transition.

Stage 5: The integral self

At this stage, people become curious. They have their own values and beliefs and take responsibility for their own actions. Instead of being a reason for their existence, relationships become a part of the world in which they exist.

This is the stage at which senior leaders should acknowledge the less senior leader’s independence and ability to self-regulate, and encourage further self-development as they head toward the echelons of leadership.

At this stage, leaders become community-oriented, vision becomes global, and sustainability becomes a long-term, common goal. This is often defined as servant leadership.

Stage 6: The sacred self

This stage is not often reached, and never before the age of forty. Now, leaders see beyond themselves, others, and connectivity systems. They recognise their interdependencies with others, and research suggests that spiritual practices such as meditation accelerate the leadership journey.

The true essence of the spirit of leadership is embodied in this stage. The self realises that “I am not the body, nor the mind.” It is here that you experience the world as one, with the leader demonstrating universal compassion.

It is extremely rare for leaders to transition this stage. When they do, their function becomes as global visionaries, ensuring that they act for the universal good.

To develop as a leader, shift your consciousness

As you develop through the stages of leadership, you will notice that you become increasingly self-aware. You’ll also find that your view of the world evolves. The gradual transformation develops your identity, your values and beliefs, and your relationships.

At its most potent, leadership is not about compelling others to fall into line with how we think. It is about enabling dialogue, remaining open to new ideas, finding understanding, accommodating differences, and exploring possibilities. Where conflict exists, it is used as a springboard for transformation.

Where are your leaders on the path of their leadership journey? Our Scaling Talent Portfolio is designed to develop skills and talent across your organisation.

Primeast’s approach to developing customised leadership programmes is based on the principles of adult development theory with the learning experience designed to develop not just the skills needed but the mindset needed, encouraging a shift in adult development stages.

To find out more about how we can help you unlock the talent and potential within your organisation and accelerate your organisational transformation, get in touch.

Email the team direct at [email protected].

More Insights