Leadership Competencies and Capacities (Part 2)

Levels of Development

Humans develop through very specific stages over the course of their lives, and along the way they can become better equipped to handle the complexities of today’s fast-paced and interdependent business environment.

By understanding the stages through which people develop, you’ll be able to set forth a path to increase your effectiveness as a leader.

One of the best frameworks for understanding these stages that I’ve found is eloquently described in the book Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs. In their well researched book, the Authors identify five levels of leadership agility: Expert, Achiever, Catalyst, Co-Creator, and Synergist.

Let’s explore these at a high level. Please note that these are taken directly from Leadership Agility.

Expert Level (45% of managers): Experts are so named because they’re strongly motivated to develop subject-matter expertise, and because they assume that a leader’s power comes from expertise and positional authority. Experts are the least agile, but are more effective than the 10% that makeup the Pre-expert levels. They have a tactical orientation and a capacity for analytical problem solving and are best suited for environments where success can be achieved by making incremental improvements to existing strategies.

Achiever Level (35% of managers): They are highly motivated to accomplish outcomes valued by their organization. They realize that a leader’s power comes not only from authority and expertise but also from motivating others by making it challenging and satisfying to contribute to important outcomes. They have a capacity for strategic thinking and can be highly effective in complex environments where the pace of change requires significant shifts in corporate strategy.

Catalyst Level (5% of managers): They are able to use the abilities of the Expert and Achiever and also understand the power of vision and participation. They are motivated to create a participative culture capable of achieving valued outcomes over the longer-term. They are open to change, able to rethink their assumptions, and have a visionary orientation.

Co-Creator Level (4% of managers): They are committed to developing genuinely collaborative team and organizational relationships rooted in a sense of shared purpose. They understand the interdependencies between business and the rest of life.  With a deep awareness of their emotional capacities and ability to engage in dialogue and develop creative, win-win solutions, Co-Creators are well equipped for long-term success in the rapidly changing and often disruptive global economy.

Synergist Level (1% of managers): Although subtly different than Co-Creators, this level of leadership agility is represented by the leader’s ability to fully rain in the flow of the present experience, giving the leader the ability to stand out in contentious and chaotic situations. This ability to remain centered among competing demands enables them to drive solutions solutions that are beneficial for all parties involved, even in the midst of the most severe conflicts and chaos.

Leadership Agility also refers to a concept described as “Post-Heroic Leadership.” In their research they found that 90% of leaders in the Pre-expert, Expert, and Achiever levels operate from a “Heroic” mindset. That is, they assume sole responsibility for setting their organization’s objectives, coordinating the activities of their subordinates, and managing performance. This form of leadership worked well prior to our current era of constant change and complex interdependence. In today’ environment of collaboration, team work, and continuous organizational change, heroic leadership under utilizes subordinates, over-controls, and crushes innovation.

So, what’s the path forward?

Today’s environment requires that we have more leaders who operate at the levels beyond Achiever. But to do so, and to make significant strides in improving your effectiveness, leaders must explore their inner capacities and internal beliefs that drive their behaviors.

Stay tuned for our next few posts where we’ll explore three reactive styles that carry with them assumptions and beliefs that get in the way of rising to higher levels of leadership agility and, thus, leadership effectiveness.

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