With all the disruptive technology and rapidly expanding nature of global business, there’s an urgent need to grow better leaders as I wrote in my last post. To develop truly effective leaders, executive coaches need to address leadership stages.

Yet, few leadership development initiatives address the inner game: how leaders perceive, find meaning, make decisions and handle complexities. The theory of developmental stages for leadership indicates that if we try to grow leaders’ inner game, rather than outer competencies, leaders increase their capacity to handle more complexity and thus lead more effectively.

As they progress from one level to the next, leaders expand their strengths and abilities. They can grow into the next developmental stage, recognizing there will be a learning curve and inherent challenges.

“Leaders with different forms of mind will have different capacities to take the perspectives of others, to be self-directed, to generate and modify systems, to manage conflicts, and to deal with paradox.” ~ Jennifer Garvey Berger Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, Stanford Business Books, 2011

Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), applied developmental-stage theory to create the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360°assessment tool that measures leaders’ developmental stages.

Similarly, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs use developmental-stage theory as the foundation for Leadership Agility 360°, their 360° assessment tool, as explained in Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (Jossey-Bass 2007).

These assessment tools are based on decades of psychological studies and are designed to accurately measure leadership effectiveness and identify a leader’s developmental stage. More than descriptive, the stages point to leadership behaviors that help target how to coax a leader to the next level.

By identifying stages of progressive development, we can create behavioral action plans and use coaching to expand a leader’s form of mind and modify behavior. Progressive organizations have adopted this strategy to promote leadership agility.

How are leaders being developed in your organization? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here or on LinkedIn.

Leave a Comment