Most of us have had the painful experience of working for a leader who seemed a little less ‘mature’. Perhaps the greatest rendition of this is Steve Carell’s character on The Office “Michael Scott.” Although he means well, his grandiosity and insecurities are a comical barrier to productivity and effectiveness for the employees of Dunder Mifflin.

There may have been a time in the past when the maturity level of a leader was not so important. However, in today’s complex business environment where the stakes are high and talent is scarce, it is of paramount importance. An interesting framework through which to view the maturity of a leader is the work of Robert Kegan, a developmental psychologist and Harvard professor for 40 years. In his book The Evolving Self, he describes 5 stages of development:

Stage 1 Impulsive Mind: Purely impulse or reflex-driven (infancy and early childhood).

Stage 2 Imperial Mind: The person’s sense of self is ruled by their needs and wishes. The needs and wishes of others are relevant only to the extent that they support those of the person. Effectively the person and others inhabit two “separate worlds” (childhood to adolescence).

Stage 3 Socialized Mind: The person’s sense of self is socially determined, based on the real or imagined expectations of others (post-adolescence).

Stage 4 Self-Authoring Mind: The person’s sense of self is determined by a set of values that they have authored for themselves (rarely achieved, only in adulthood).

Stage 5 Self-Transforming Mind: The person’s sense of self is no longer bound to any particular aspect of themselves or their history, and they are free to allow themselves to focus on the flow of their lives.

For the purposes of this blog, I want to  focus on stages 3-5, graphically represented below:

The majority of leaders within an organization operate within stage 3. There are of course exceptions (such as Michael Scott), but this is a baseline. There are some leaders who have reached stage 4. They are governed by internal principles and values that they have authored and can therefore operate independently of their environment. They can appreciate that others have different yet equally valid value systems. These people make great executives and create a learning environment and stability for their organizations.

A stage 5 leader, on the other hand, is quite rare. They also happen to be the most effective type of leader in today’s environment. This is because their approach is fluid and informed by the unique circumstances of each individual situation instead of coming from the past. This allows them to pivot rapidly when the business strategy is no longer a match for the environment. Their minds don’t struggle with ambiguity or paradox, equipping them to navigate the complexity of today’s reality effortlessly. Most importantly, they are inherently inclined to assist others in the journey of transforming through their own stages of development.

What stage would you speculate you and your leaders operate from?

How can one accelerate the maturity through the stages of development?

One tool at MCG we use to equip leaders in elevating their maturity is the Agile Leader. It is a principles-based approach to leadership with an emphasis on Self-Awareness and Integrity as the access to growth. The 360 Assessment also accounts for the skills necessary to navigate the complexity of today’s environment.

More mature leaders mean a more engaged workforce, happier customers and accelerated business results. It is what fulfills us as a Talent Optimization firm and forms the basis for all our work. We would love to talk further about equipping your leaders to develop quickly..

About the Author: John Griffith 

About MCG Partners

MCG Partners is a leadership and talent optimization firm– aligning your business and people strategy for maximum results. MCG Partners a woman-owned consultancy and is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner. To learn more please contact John Griffith at john.griffith@mcgpartners.com and at mcgpartners.com

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