Origins of the Leadership Development Framework

Courtesy of Harthill Consulting

Researchers from Piaget onwards have identified that children pass through distinct stages of development on their journey to adulthood. As part of this evolving process they develop abilities that fundamentally expand their understanding of, and relationship to, the world.

The Leadership Development Framework applies this principle of development to adults. That is, continuing throughout adult life many individuals also experience a series of overlapping yet distinctly identifiable stages of development. These stages, as in childhood, significantly affect the abilities of people to problem solve, interpret and interact with their environment.

Stages of adult development are relatively independent of personality traits as they specifically address the processes of meaning making which inform and lead individuals to action. We describe these stages as "Action Logics". Some observers describe Action Logics as a master trait when accounting for individual differences.

A profound belief in human potential for continued growth and learning is the motivating force behind the Leadership Development Framework. It offers the opportunity for personal growth to all - no one is fixed at their current Action Logic. If motivated and supported to do so, everyone is able to develop new ways of looking at and engaging with life.

Nine Action Logics

This Leadership Development Framework describes nine sequential changes in how a person interprets events, or makes meaning. Full descriptions of each Action Logic are found in the following pages. Research and our extensive experience confirms that most people develop the Action Logics in the order presented.

Once an Action Logic has been assimilated it remains a part of the person"s meaning making capability, even as later and more integrated logics are adopted (just as when a child learns to run it doesn"t cease to be able to walk).

The Leadership Development Framework provides a way of understanding how a leader or manager is likely to interpret situations and thus how they may act. Although people draw their understanding from multiple Action Logics, we can usually describe one, and sometimes two which are dominant. People may be in transition from one Action Logic to another or rooted firmly in one central logic. In stressful times adults often revert to behavior associated with earlier Action Logics because of unconscious patterns. People may choose to act from earlier Action Logics if the situation demands it (in a robbery Diplomat behavior is a life saver). In contrast, behaviors associated with Action Logics later than a person"s current logic cannot be consistently summoned forth.

The Leadership Development Framework offers a chance to reach deep personal understanding and the option to identify unique developmental challenges.

The Leadership Development Framework does not provide a once and for all label which describes a person fully. It does not predict how people will behave in particular situations. It does not predict whether or when a person will transform to another Action Logic in the future.

It is important to understand that this framework is not a guide to increased happiness (or even wealth). Each Action Logic has its own merits and difficulties, beauties and shadows. There is no evidence that later stages bring more joy or greater satisfaction from life, only that the nature of what delights and what causes suffering changes.

However the framework does give some very reliable pointers as to the qualities and types of leadership capability an individual may have.

A Brief History of the Development of this Model

The concept of Action Logic has its roots in ancient Greek, Hebrew, Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Early in the 20th century human development aroused interest as people sought to understand the consequences for humans of Darwin"s work. Freud, Adler, Jung and others have all contributed enormously to our understanding of the development of the "ego" in mature humans. Drawing on these sources and on original research in the 1960s and 1970s, Jane Loevinger created a developmental framework which gave rise to the "Washington University Sentence Completion Test." This instrument is one of the most widely used and best validated in the field of human development, with thousands of research projects worldwide.

Torbert and Cook-Greuter adapted the instrument for professionals and explored it in managerial populations in the 1980s and 1990s. Harthill has continued with improvements and created the Leadership Development Profile so that it now provides a unique and highly validated tool for understanding personal and organizational development, and is being used with leading organizations across the world.

The bibliography at the back of this profile provides sources of further information.

How your profile has been created
- the analysis of the sentence completions

Harthill has profiled over 2,500 managers and consultants since 1993, adding to an existing database of over 4,500 sentence completion profiles. All profiling is carried out in Harthill by trained, qualified and experienced raters who maintain high levels of inter-rater reliability.

Each of the 36 sentences is separately analyzed for the meaning making held within the sentence -- leading to an Action Logic being ascribed to each individual sentence. The structure of the response is considered important alongside the content. Thus, "My father is tired and old" would be rated the same as "My father is young and active". Both of these are direct and simple observations of the age and energy of the father. In contrast, "My father, old now, wanted to give me the very best and he thinks he"s failed" is a more reflective and complex response and would be rated at a later Action Logic.

When all of the 36 sentences have been rated, the number of sentences falling within each Action Logic is totaled. Using a distribution curve, a single, overall Action Logic is ascribed. The rater then re-reads all of the sentence completions, allocates an overall Action Logic to the whole profile and creates a personalized commentary.

Overview of the key Action Logics of the Leadership Development Framework
Action Logic Key Characteristics Leadership style associated with each Action Logic
Opportunist Wins any way possible. Self- oriented; manipulative; "might makes right". Short term horizon; focus on concrete things; deceptive; rejects feedback; externalizes blame; distrustful; fragile self-control; possibly hostile humor or "happy-go-lucky"; views luck as central; views rules as loss of freedom; punishes according to "eye for eye" ethic; treats what they can get away with as legitimate. Seeks personal advantage: takes an opportunity when it arises.
Diplomat Avoids overt conflict. Wants to belong; obeys group norm; rarely rocks the boat. Observes protocol; avoids inner and outer conflict; works to group standard; speaks in cliches and platitudes; conforms; feels shame if they violate norm; avoids hurting others; seeks membership and status; face-saving essential; loyalty is to immediate group, not distant organization or principles. Attends to social affairs of group and individuals. Provides supportive social glue.
Expert Rules by logic and expertise. Searches for improvement and rational efficiency. Is immersed in the self referential logic of their own belief system, regarding it as the only valid way of thinking. Interested in problem solving; critical of self and others based on their belief system; chooses efficiency over effectiveness; perfectionist; accepts feedback only from "objective" experts in their own field; dogmatic; values decisions based on the incontrovertible facts; wants to stand out and be unique as an expert; sense of obligation to wider, internally consistent moral order. Consistent in pursuit of improvement. Strong individual contributor.
Achiever Meets strategic goals. Delivery of results by most effective means. Success focused. Effectiveness and results oriented; long-term goals; future is vivid, inspiring; welcomes behavioral feedback; feels like initiator, not pawn; begins to appreciate complexity and systems; seeks increasing mutuality in relationships; feels guilt if does not meet own standards; blind to own shadow, to the subjectivity behind objectivity; seeks to find ways around problems in order to deliver, may be unorthodox. Adopts rather than creates goals.
Individualist Innovates processes. Relativistic position with fewer fixed truths. Self, relationships and interaction with the system. Focus on self and less on goals; increased understanding of complexity, systems operating and working through relationships; deepening personal relationships; takes on different role in different situations; increasingly questions own assumptions (part of rise in self absorption) and assumptions of others; attracted by change and difference more than by stability and similarity; increasingly aware of own shadow.
Strategist Creates personal and organizational transformations. Links between principles, contracts, theories and judgment. Recognizes importance of principle, contract, theory and judgment - not just rules and customs; creative at conflict resolution; process oriented as well as goal oriented; aware of paradox and contradiction; aware that what one sees depends upon one"s world view; high value on individuality, unique market niches, particular historical movements; enjoys playing a variety of roles; witty, existential humor (as contrasted to prefabricated jokes); aware of dark side of power and may be tempted by it - may misuse their own abilities and manipulate others. Post conventional.
Alchemist Generates social transformations. Interplay of awareness, thought, action and effect. Transforming self and others. Seeks participation in historical / spiritual transformations; creator of events which become mythical and reframe situations; anchoring in inclusive present, seeing the light and dark in situations; works with order and chaos; blends opposites, creating "positive-sum" games; exercises own attention continually; researches interplay of institution, thought, action and effects on outside world; treats time and events as symbolic, analogical, metaphorical (not merely linear, digital, literal), involved in spiritual quest, often helps others in their life quests.

Detailed descriptions of the key Action Logics of the Leadership Development Framework

The Opportunist Action Logic

4% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Opportunist Action Logic.

The Opportunist treats the physical or outside world territory of experience as the primary reality and concentrates on gaining control of things there. This Action Logic views unilateral power as the only effectual type of power and works with very short time horizons, grasping opportunities and fire fighting emergencies.

The person acting from this frame of reference understands the world as a "what-you-see-is what-youget" place, a view of the world which looks only at the surface of things. Thus when an opportunity arises to get the things one wants, it must be grasped.

Opportunist managers develop a nose for opportunities and grab them. They are not concerned with how things have been done in the past or with what unintended or long term effects their action might create. They have an entrepreneurial bent. At the same time, by jumping at every chance, they can make bad decisions. Opportunist mottos are: "Might makes right", "the early bird catches the worm", "he who hesitates loses", "it"s a jungle out there". Opportunists see the world only from their own, "me-first" perspective, what is good for me is also "right". They react upon their urgent needs and desires without reflection. They seek visible gratification in financial and status returns.

We have found few Opportunist managers in our work and research because their unilateral, dictatorial style does not fit well with complex, modern organizations. Opportunistic behavior can occur with people at later Action Logics as an occasional lapse in judgment or as a deliberate choice tailored to the circumstances or the people involved.

Characteristics of managers with an Opportunist Action Logic


How Opportunists may regard the Leadership Development Framework

A way to label others, rather than help them to develop, and a source of power. Revealing their own stage is a threat as others may use it against them. They will believe their profile or disbelieve it according to what will be helpful at the time. Will be seen as too theoretical to have any use in the real world.

The Diplomat Action Logic

11% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Diplomat Action Logic.

Moving away from the "anything-goes-that-serves-me" framework of the Opportunist, Diplomats are aware of group strength over individual power. Thus, they seek to belong to established groups which may be based on kinship, club, church or profession. Since power comes from affiliation with others, rules and social norms are followed to seek approval and safeguard status as a group member. Any tensions in relationship are experienced as a threat to survival. You are either in or out. Thus, Diplomats seek to keep relationships friendly and smooth, conform to group norms and seek to avoid "bad" feelings and discord.

Diplomats provide group cohesion by creating a sense of shared community. They are willing team players and are loyal to their groups and organizations. They will advocate positive group relationships and attend to the sort of day-to-day activities (such as remembering birthdays) which create a pleasant and often productive work atmosphere.

As managers Diplomats tend to be overly agreeable, unable to criticize or reprimand others. They protect the status quo, avoid rocking the boat and defend the group, as well as themselves, from any outside influences or attacks. They adhere to the rule of command, do not question authority, and tend to accept group norms and ideas without examination. They keep doing what they do well, but feel embarrassed and puzzled when they are found wanting in any way. A great deal of their energy is spent on "saving face", and creating positive appearances. In return for their loyalty, Diplomats expect to be rewarded with visible signs of approval - status symbols, appreciation certificates, thanks and money.

As a subordinate, a Diplomat will tend to feel that organizational norms prescribe every possible action, and that there is no room for creative risk-taking. As a manager, a Diplomat will often subordinate himself to his own reports, and will not confront his own boss.

Diplomats are keenly aware of group differences and readily denigrate and dismiss those that do not belong to their group or believe in the same things they do. The split now is between "them" and "us" (in that order) while it was between "me" and "them" at the Opportunist Action Logic.

Because Diplomats do not feel empowered by themselves and need approval for their well-being, they preserve the group at all costs. Managers with later Action Logic understand team cohesion as one aspect of larger organizational concerns and will foster it where it is productive.

Characteristics of managers with Diplomat Action Logic


How Diplomats may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Any type of evaluation that one is not familiar with is seen as a potential threat. Diplomats prefer not to be singled out and individual differences may be a cause of shame. They may agree with any assessment, but not really absorb it; instead they try to change the subject quickly. They may be content with being at the Diplomat stage, as the positive qualities are so self-evidently worthwhile!

The Expert Action Logic

37% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Expert Action Logic.

In moving from the Diplomat to the Expert Action Logic individuals trade conformity to group norms for a willingness to actively experiment and seek more independent, but rational ways of doing things. Still needy of approval and beholden to traditional values, they do so, however, looking back over their shoulders to their reference groups. Unlike Diplomats, Experts no longer identify with what makes them the same as others in a group, but rather with what makes them stand out and be unique. This quest may be the source of original contributions to their chosen field of knowledge or expertise.

Experts admire "craft logic". They focus on the specific procedures and knowledge in their area of interest or expertise (i.e. "craft"). A belief in the superiority of their "craft" and their know-how becomes central to their lives. Problems and dilemmas have one logical answer that can be gained from authoritative sources (manuals, laws, reference books and authorities in the field). Experts often seek perfectionist standards in their chosen area and are very critical of unfamiliar ways of handling a situation or approaching a problem. They rely on established explanations and procedures and defend against having their professional knowledge questioned.

Managers with Expert Action Logic may be excellent in their specialization, are sticklers for detail and take great pride in doing their jobs well. They would say "a job worth doing is a job worth doing properly". They have a strong desire to seek incremental improvements and to find perfection. Thus, they play a vital role in the development of products, techniques and services. No modern society or organization could run without Experts, in the form of technicians, engineers, bureaucrats and specialists handling the day-to-day running of its affairs.

On the less positive side, Expert managers may be more impressed with efficiency, technical wizardry and perfection than with effectiveness. Typically, they will write a report extensively and well, but will not consider the relative value of doing the report at all; they will perfect a product from an engineering point of view, while the competition brings a less perfect, but functional model to market. Experts will operate within the framework as defined by their discipline and be drawn to perfection and details rather than goals and targets. A manager at this stage is likely to micromanage and be unable to priorities among competing efforts or to grasp the bigger picture.

However their contribution, built upon their depth of knowledge may be outstanding and business critical and few modern organizations thrive without Experts adding incremental competitive advantage.

Paradoxically, people at the Expert stage may be highly critical of their performance within their specialization, yet they resent feedback in general, especially from those not of a higher craft status than themselves. They are also hypercritical of others in their field of expertise. One-upmanship is common, as is the "yes-but" syndrome, providing endless alternative solutions or arguments. Moreover, Experts tend to overstep the boundaries in giving unsolicited advice about what they know.

Characteristics of managers
with Expert Action Logic


How Experts may regard the Leadership Development Framework

They may feel labeled and criticized, or resent that they are being "defined" by someone else"s theory. However, some Experts become interested in the technical detail of the framework and concerned with its logical validity and reliability. If convinced on technical grounds, they may be open to acquire the system as another tool or skill set. If they are supported, they may become more open to experimenting. Research indicates that Experts in general express great distrust of a developmental perspective and strongly defend their own style.

The Achiever Action Logic

30% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Achiever Action Logic.

In most organizations, Experts and Achievers are responsible for delivering day-to-day business success. While Experts focus on the exacting detail of getting a job done well, Achievers are concerned with successful plans and outcomes. They focus on output measured in terms of profit, turnover, volume, market share and personal career satisfaction.

Achievers share the Experts" interest in experimenting. Unlike Experts, however, who work on improving given procedures, Achievers design whole new methods and approaches to solving a problem and to streamlining processes.

The greatest strength of Achievers is also their greatest weakness: a singularity of purpose, focus and drive. In pursuit of their personal favorite goals, Achievers will disregard other important areas of business and/or personal life. For example, an Achiever coordinator of an international aid charity was so dedicated to raising funds for the needy that he did not see how hard he pushed himself and his own staff and at what costs to himself, his home life and the organization.

Achievers apply energy in a consistent direction to solve problems and use the tools of science and/or their trade creatively. They initiate change and seek to move mountains. Their determination and energy is often inspiring to others. Achievers are open to learning and discovering - they welcome behavioral and tactical feedback, especially if it can bring them closer to their envisioned goals. However they may well resist feedback which questions the very framework within which they operate.

Achievers believe deeply in linear cause and effect and objective rationality. From their point of view, the natural world, including the behavior of people, is governed by predictable patterns and laws. These can be researched, made explicit and applied to influence and control outcomes. Thus, results are secured by relying on an objective "scientific" approach and by applying one"s personal conviction and energy to refining the knowledge base.

As managers they tend to be matter of fact, concerned with getting things done, but also fair and perceptive in engaging others. They will listen to others" reasons. Achievers seek to priorities among competing projects and tasks, cooperate around mutual goals and delegate work in a way that Experts cannot. Sometimes, they anticipate unintended outcomes or side effects. They may enjoy teaching or coaching others to greater performance. They realize that there are multiple causes for human behavior.

Characteristics of managers with Achiever Action Logic


How Achievers may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Achievers will scrutinize the framework for a rational logic and seek to understand how they can learn to be more productive from it. If they find that its perspectives offer personal insight, greater influence or effectiveness, they may embrace it with enthusiasm. On the other hand, if they interpret the framework as challenging their Achiever world view and values, and if they are not themselves in transition to the next Action Logic, they may be irritated by its complexity and defend their position by rational means and logic. Beginning with the Achiever stage, behavioral and interpretive feedback is acknowledged as useful data and welcomed more than at earlier stages.

Consistent with their often competitive nature Achievers may experience mild to keen disappointment that they have not profiled at a later (and in their frame -- "better") Action Logic.

The later Action Logics

The Achiever is the latest stage in conventional adult development. It is the "model" adult Action Logic of modern times. As an adult one is expected to pursue goals defined in output terms (professional leader role, personal income, market share, status, consistent effort, etc). The Achiever is the latest Action Logic fully supported by Western culture and society and encompassed by the traditional scientific frame of mind. Culturally it forms a kind of ceiling in development, passed by less than 10% of the general population. Those individuals who do develop beyond the "conventional" stages (of which Achiever is the last) move into what are described as "post conventional" stages of development. Research has found a sequence of four distinct post conventional stages of adult meaning making. We label these Individualist, Strategist, Alchemist and Ironist.

The Individualist Action Logic

11% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Individualist Action Logic.

The psychological energy of the Individualist stage can be deeply different to the earlier stages. The discovery that objectivity is a myth and what one sees depends upon one"s viewpoint can have a profound effect. The Individualist recognizes that neither this nor any other Action Logic is "natural" -- all are constructions of oneself and the world. Energy is directed towards challenging the assumptions of the Achiever stage in a self authored and individual way.

Individualists become attracted to difference and change and will create this in their lives, often through inquiring into who they are and what they want. They may then open themselves to increased awareness of the possible conflicts between their principles and their actions, or between the organization"s values and its every day actions. Resolving this conflict can often be a source of creativity - it can also make the Individualist look (and feel) like a rebel or malcontent.

A capacity, emerging at the Achiever Action Logic, to see systems complexity is reinforced. No longer is the world a place of discrete objects and events to be managed in a linear way with reliable cause and effect. Rather, causation is seen as circular, relational and systemic. This opens the Individualist to a more inquiring stance and to be willing to experiment with their own behaviors and with the structures and processes in the workplace.

Less driven by the need to deliver, the Individualist has a different relationship to time. The sense of time becomes more fluid and current situations are increasingly considered within a longer historical context. The future, so vivid for the Achiever, remains a concern and added to this is an increased awareness of the unique qualities of the moment. How these qualities match with espoused values will concern the Individualist.

The Individualist enjoys an increasing sense of independence -- wanting more space to explore and create than many organizations are willing to give. This may cause them to leave their "Achiever" organization, to work at its margins or to seek out organizations more "Individualist" in culture.

Individualists can be fun to have around: they relish their individuality and pursue whatever appeals to them with gusto. Though aware of conventional social norms, they are not overly constrained by them. At the same time, they truly appreciate others for their uniqueness and different perspectives and can play coaching or consulting roles in helping others become more fully themselves.

Characteristics of managers with Individualist Action Logic


Since Individualists acknowledge a fundamental uncertainty about what one can know, they tend to provide less certainty and firm leadership to others. From the point of view of the Achiever employee, Individualist superiors cannot be counted on to be consistent and to engage fully with them on their terms. "I don"t know where she"s coming from" might be said of an Individualist manager or leader. Aware of layers upon layers of assumptions and interpretations, they feel people are better left to figure things out by themselves.

Paradoxically, all of this is potentially the groundwork for the development of a more strategic leadership style based on a deepening of relationships with others. Beginning with the Individualist stage, there is an increasing value placed on complexity, a growing appreciation for individual differences and an ability to think in terms of how complexities and paradox can be integrated into larger, coherent wholes or systems.

How Individualists may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Usually with interest! This framework may explain why some issues have moved lately from being clear cut to being rather more confusing and complex. They may embrace the theory as a deepening way to look at the world, particularly if it offers a revealing description of themselves as meaning makers. There is a danger that the framework may take on too central an interpretive position in their thinking, or that it may simply become another method for poking holes into others" mental models,

The Strategist Action Logic

5% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Strategist Action Logic.

Moving from Achiever to Individualist and on to Strategist involves a major shift in frame of reference. The Diplomat"s desire to stay in touch, the Expert"s love of craft logic and the Achiever"s focus on conventional results are replaced by self-generated and individual ways of viewing and interpreting the world.

The Individualist stage is the first post conventional stage because Individualists no longer automatically conform to the reality view and to the behavior scripts offered by their culture. With this comes a shift in perspective about the objective nature of reality. Having found no position to stand on as final truth and no way to priorities among competing perspectives and positions, the Individualist takes a relativistic position. All views are equally acceptable or unacceptable. Strategists, in contrast, are able to adjudicate among rivaling opinions and beliefs based on the quality of the arguments and ideas given. They tend to value those perspectives that are constructive, people-oriented, inclusive, dynamic, and foster continuous learning over those perspectives that are critical or judgemental, single position, exclusive, static, and merely fact-oriented or "objective."

Thus, Strategists want to know how the different systems they are engaged in (organization, family, society) interact with each other. They assess the balance and adequacy between the larger organizational mission (social vision) and the strategies and actions used to pursue them. Increasingly, they will be concerned with what is happening at all levels of an organization and point out potential long-term outcomes (intended and unintended) both for the organization as well as for its members and wider circles of influence. That is, they have become capable of systems thinking.

Strategists are as interested in the processes of doing something as in the results achieved. Strategist leaders question the social, technological, productive and market oriented facets of their businesses and the interplay among them. They have learned to examine alternative perspectives and to choose one that allows for optimal effectiveness and influence as well as system-wide transformation. Reportees and juniors at earlier Action Logics may feel disconcerted by them and their "odd view of reality". They may find them too complex and not practical enough, always looking beyond immediate concerns.

Strategists invite thoughtful feedback from all sources as a necessary means to overcome their blind spots and grow in self-knowledge and understanding of the world. Because they know their own view of reality to be partial, they value others" perspectives as part of a more complete picture or as a possible impetus to change their current strategy or actions. On the other hand, they are able to discern among different types of feedback, and seek out illustrations that will confirm or disconfirm the assumptions, attributions, or evaluations embedded in the feedback. Because they are used to relying on their own assessment of complex situations, some Strategists may discount information that doesn"t come from those they look up to.

The "go-it-alone" tendency of the Individualist is replaced by a desire in Strategists to co-create and work in collaboration with others. Because they appreciate that different people see reality differently, they are dedicated to developing shared visions for projects and organizations that attract the commitment of members. They tend to be entrepreneurial, not just in an economic sense, but in a social, ecological, and /or developmental sense as well.

Characteristics of managers
with Strategist Action Logic


How a Strategist may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Strategists will likely be fascinated by the framework and their own stage of development. They may experience disappointment that they are not yet "Alchemists" and relief that they have crossed the boundary beyond "conventionality". They are open to examine feedback about their shadow side or blind spots and attempt to integrate these as part of themselves. As self actualisation is one of their main values, a developmental outlook can explain better than other theories just where one"s potential for growth may lie and from where one"s greatest challenges are likely to come.

The framework will be seen as what it is -- another way of looking at the complexity which is the human being -- useful and limited, but how it is used will raise curiosity.

The Alchemist Action Logic

Less than 2% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Alchemist Action Logic.

The next post-conventional Action Logic is labeled Alchemist. In organizations, as well as in society at large, people who score at this level are very rare. In one sample of nearly 500 managers in the USA only three were at the Alchemist stage. It is possible that you do not personally know someone whose Action Logic can be described as Alchemist - although there may be elements or glimpses of Alchemist behaviors in yourself or people whom you know and admire. We have not found a title for this stage that does justice to its quality and complexity. Other terms considered for this stage, such as Shaman, Jester, Crone, Witch and Magician, also have connotations that are useful and misleading.

Alchemists are individuals who embody a deep wisdom coupled with the humility, ordinariness and the lightness of a jester. They are likely to personify seemingly opposite attributes such as complexity and simplicity, joyfulness and sadness, intensity and tranquility. In other words, they live in paradox, and at times appear to transcend it in a "marriage of opposites".

At the Alchemist stage, people are committed to transforming themselves and others as well as changing the society and institutions in which they participate. They are able to hold many perspectives at once, seeing their multiple, interconnecting pros and cons. They are less likely than Strategists to initiate well-meaning interventions based on principled, but personal theories of what is good for the world.

In pursuit of potential transformation, Alchemists seek timely action on a moment-to-moment basis founded upon exquisite awareness of what is happening and who the potential stake holders are in the widest sense. They base decisions on all available sources from dreams to intuition to data and experience. Alchemists seemingly have a knack for doing the right things (often unexpected or unorthodox) at the right time.

They handle many things at once as they often hold more than one significant post in organizations and society, yet have adequate time available. The following is a description of a vice-president of Motorola, who measured at the Alchemist stage by a consultant who worked with him: "... he is visionary yet practical, effervescent yet confronting, playful yet at work by 6.00 a.m. most mornings ... (he) generates spontaneity, laughter, long-term focus and attention to execution and follow through (from his team)."

Alchemists are capable of friendly contact with adversaries. They may create more enlightened social rules as Gandhi did for non-violent protest and in overturning the caste principles within his own household. Like many charismatic leaders at this stage, he was abhorred by more conventional people for his actions and beliefs.

Unlike Achievers in organizations, Alchemists may not be the persons who dedicate themselves to immediate goals and outcomes if the moment or long-term considerations require a different approach. The Alchemist"s ability to simultaneously attend to multiple practical, ethical, ecological, immediate and long-term concerns, as well as to emotional, rational and spiritual realities, may disturb others or arouse suspicion in them. Historically, Alchemists have been the kind of social catalysts and visionaries who have been rejected, locked up, assassinated or simply ignored as being mad or out of touch with common sense "reality". High profile examples include Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela.

What allows the move from the Strategist to Alchemist stage is as yet not well known. Near-death experiences (both physical and psychological) have been reported as key turning points. Alchemists have also mentioned outstanding mentors, an ongoing spiritual quest or discipline as a crucial dimension of development into this stage.

Characteristics of managers with Alchemist Action Logic

We cannot describe Alchemists as "typically" doing anything. The sample is small and by definition Alchemists are highly post conventional. However some of the following might be observed about leaders at this stage.


How Alchemists May Regard the Leadership Development Framework

Alchemists will likely see both its strengths and its limits! They may find it too categorical, linear and hierarchical. While they may recognize and appreciate its transformational potential, they will not overvalue or overestimate it. Thus they may use the Framework as a powerful support in helping people and organizations to conceive of and foster transformation by making them more aware of natural developmental patterns, whilst holding that it is just another construction.

Applications of the Leadership Development Framework

Beyond supporting individual development the Leadership Development Framework offers a powerful interpretive framework for use in organizational development. Harthill and associated consultancies have used the framework in the following ways:

Talent identification and development

Team development

Development of leaders

Organisational development


Further Reading

The three most current, most easily readable and most practical pieces about developmental theory and action inquiry by David Rooke and Bill Torbert are:

Rooke, D. & Torbert. W. April 2005. Seven Transformations of Leadership. Harvard Business Review.

Fisher, D. Rooke, D. & Torbert, W. 2003. Personal and Organisational Transformations through action inquiry. Edge/Work Press

Torbert, Bill & Associates. 2004. Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership. Berrett-Koehler.

Other developmental readings and exercises

We highly recommend the following work by our colleagues, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, including:

2001. The Real Reason People Won"t Change. Harvard Business Review.

2001. How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation. Jossey-Bass.

A book full of personal, team and organisational development exercises one can try is:

Senge, P. & Associates, 1994. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. Currency Doubleday.

Recently, Senge and other associates have published a wide-ranging inquiry into how science and society can transform:

Senge, P. & Associates, 2005. Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society. Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd

Likewise, two of Ken Wilber"s many books offer a whirlwind tour of global developmental traditions and futures:

Wilber, K. 2000. Integral Psychology and A Theory of Everything: An Integral Vision for Business, Politics, Science, and Spirituality. Shambhala.

Autobiographical reading and writing

In recent years, a growing number of autobiographies are being written to document the real developmental struggles and breakthroughs of a lifetime. Examples include:

Harrison, R. 1995. Consultant"s Journey. Jossey-Bass.

Jaworski, J. 1996. Synchronicity. Berrett-Koehler.

Keenan, B. 1992. An Evil Cradling. Vintage.

Jamison, K. R. 1995. An Unquiet Mind. Vintage.

Raine, N. 1998. After Silence: Rape and My Journey Back. Crown.

Erikson, 1993. Gandhi"s Truth. Norton.

Writing autobiographically yourself can be a powerful catalyst for transformation. It can help you understand your own prior transformations from one Action Logic to another, thereby granting you more empathy for others" developmental struggles and potential. One example of such an autobiography can be found in Chapter 6 on the Individualist in Torbert & Associates" Action Inquiry.

Other related work

Kegan, R. 1982. The Evolving Self. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Kegan, R. 1994. In over our heads: The mental demands of modern life.

Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.

Owen, N. 2004. More Magic of Metaphor : Stories for Leaders, Influencers, and Motivators. Crown House.

Rooke, D. & Torbert, W. 1998. Organisational Transformation as a Function of CEO"s Developmental Stage. Organisational Development Journal Vol 16, No 1, pp11-28.

More scholarly works

Beck, DE. & Cowan, C. 1996. Spiral Dynamics Blackwell.

Cook-Greuter, S. 2000. Postautonomous Ego Development: A Study of Its Nature and Measurement. Cambridge MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education Doctoral Dissertation.

Kohlberg, L. 1984. The psychology of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row.

Miller, M. & Cook-Greuter, S. Transcendence and Mature Thought in Adulthood: The Further Reaches of Adult Development. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wade, J. 1996. Changes of mind. State University of New York.

Schon, D. 1982. The reflective practitioner. How professionals think in action.

New York: Harper-Collins.

Wilber, K. 1996. A brief history of everything. Dublin: Newleaf.

If you would like to arrange a conversation with a consultant at Harthill who is deeply engaged in understanding and applying the LDF to leadership, team and organizational development please get in touch with one of the following people:

Jackie Keeley
Director of Harthill Consulting

Lynn Draper,
Project Manager, LDF

or Telephone: +44 (0)1594 530223

I Appreciate Your Feedback

Please let me know if you found this article interesting or useful.
I will not submit this information to any third parties.

To Top

Share This Page: