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Personal and Organizational Development – [Really nice intro/summary of leadership development models]

December 7, 2010

Railroad Weeds by Kevin Dooley

If you know little about the developmental approach to leadership and it’s ability to increase influence and effectiveness this is the place to start. Douglas O’Loughlin provides an excellent (and concise!) introduction to viewing leadership effectiveness as a journey of psychological development.

Starting with early developmental psychologists like Piaget and later Kegan, O’Loughlin quickly moves to highlights the theories advanced by business thinkers like William Torbert who view both leadership and organizations as highly dynamic entities that have an inherent capacity for developing towards ever-more-sophisticated ways of conceptualizing themselves and the world around them.

The key point stressed by O’Loughlin is that those in positions of leadership need to always be building a greater awareness of their developmental potential in order to broaden capacities and inspire effective responses to a world that is growing increasingly complex, nuanced, and interconnected.

Amplify’d from
Most organisations and leaders are now facing higher levels of complexity, change, diversity, and uncertainty than ever before.
Kegan suggests that the demands of modern life are often mismatched with our order of consciousness or mental capacity. How can we develop and expand our individual and collective “agility”, where new challenges and opportunities can be met with elegance and effectiveness?…
Having a more evolved way of making sense of the world would increase a leader’s capacity to deal with higher levels of complexity, diversity, and uncertainty.
A more evolved sense-making system is a “vertical” journey, rising up to more expansive ways of seeing the world, like climbing a mountain to get a better view.
The field of developmental psychology offers a map of the territory, by identifying stages that people pass through on their development.  The further along a person is on the path, the more able they are to manage complexity and uncertainty, and the map provides direction for possible future growth.   Once people are made aware of the map, they can choose to consolidate within their current stage and/or to plan on how to begin their transition to a higher, or later, stage.
Since 1987, a number of authors have written about stages of making sense of the world, and how it relates to leadership and organisations.   To name a few, Kegan’s In Over Our Heads  (1994) includes a chapter on management; Beck and Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change(1996); Barrett’s  Liberating the Corporate Soul: Building a Visionary Organization (1998); and a number of books by Ken Wilber,
being mindful about following a development plan can increase leadership agility, make a difference in the world, and help leaders enjoy the person they become in the process.
Torbert and David Rooke (2005) believe that leadership philosophy or styles are not as important as a leader’s stage of development,
By presenting a developmental roadmap as part of leadership and organization development, we can decrease the chances of the leaders getting caught “in over their head” and increase the possibilities they can manage a world on increasing complexity, diversity, and uncertainty.


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