Leadership Development

Leadership Development – 7 Transformations Of Leadership

Leadership development is often spoken about as a subject; Google the term “leadership” and page upon page will come up in the search results. So how do you embark on your own leadership development journey? How do you decide what model of leadership development to follow? The starting point to being a phenomenal leader is to know your strengths and areas for development;

and once you know your areas for development address them on a continual basis to effectively manage challenging situations and take people with you. Yet, all too often we see leaders fail, and such failure can often be attributed to that particular leader either believing they have nothing more to learn or simply becoming too busy and overlooking the need to continue learning.

A great way to identify your strengths and weaknesses is to participate in a 360º assessment. For further details, visit:
360 feedback assessment

So what can you do, to make sure you do not fail as a leader?

David Rooke and William Torbert submit that there are seven stages every successful leader needs to go through, and by learning new skills they can then progress to the next stage. They called this “The 7 Transformations of Leadership”.

Leadership 7


Rooke and Torbert asked senior business leaders to complete 36 sentences related to leadership. From their evaluation of the results they created seven distinct categories to illustrate how leaders approach the external environment and how they think in any given situation.

They took this a step further and asserted that that each stage has its benefits, albeit some were more effective than others and moreover that some stages are more likely to be successful than others, which leads to higher overall performance.

An interesting theory! So, let’s take this a stage at a time to develop your sophisticated approach to leadership:

  1. Opportunist.
  2. Diplomat.
  3. Expert.
  4. Achiever.
  5. “Individualist.”
  6. Strategist.
  7. Alchemist.
  1. Opportunist

Opportunists place emphasis on personal success rather than on the success of their organisation, department or team. They are likely to exploit the strengths of others, manipulate circumstances to their own advantage, and take advantage of their colleagues to achieve their overall aim. Consequently, trust with others is eroded leading to ineffective working relationships. If you perceive you may be in this camp, then you need to ‘transform’ to the next stage quickly, otherwise your success in the longer term will be minimised.

Moving On From Opportunism

If this is you, focus on the contribution of others; acknowledge hard work and reward success and talk about the input of others. Remember there is no ‘I’ in TEAM. Some will view your initial behaviour with some scepticism seeing it as yet another ploy to get what you want. Be humble and recognise that your behaviour was at times inappropriate. Others will appreciate you owning your actions. This will mean developing your emotional intelligence too. Ask others for feedback, take it on the chin, learn and move on:

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  1. Diplomat

Diplomats dislike conflict and will avoid it any cost. They seek to please, especially more senior managers and will not want to upset colleagues or other team members. They will desist implementing change, knowing that conflict is likely to occur or at the very least others will become upset. However, diplomats are also very effective in a team environment. They are often the ‘glue’ that holds a team together, as they will always seek to find the middle ground and soothe troubled waters. As a leader though, they can be seen as weak, avoiding making decisions, and being walked all over by others.

Moving On From Being a Diplomat

If this is you, recognise that conflict can be healthy. It stimulates discussion, generates ideas and encourages others to voice an opinion. It needs to be managed carefully and honestly. Attend training on How to Manage Difficult Conversations; Managing Conflict or Dealing with Difficult People to learn how to be more assertive and confident in saying ‘no’. If you continually sit on the fence, others will see you as a push over and not worth bothering with.

Diplomats often find it difficult to give feedback. Again if this is you learn how to use the SBI Model (Situation, Behaviour, Impact) and even better still, if you have a colleague you trust ask them to role play with you.

  1. Expert

Most senior managers are ‘experts’ in their field. That’s usually why they have got the role they have, and consequently there is assumed authority. Others will listen as they are deemed to have tacit knowledge that others do not have. Consequently, experts will rely on this knowledge, skill and experience and will revert to past experiences when making decisions. They are often effective in role, and add value to the company they work for as they are able to relate to a variety of situations given previous experiences. However, they can adopt a very dogmatic approach and be closed off to the ideas of others, and consequently alienate colleagues by seeming dismissive. This may make others reluctant to engage them, and in worst case scenario others may avoid speaking to them all together.

Moving On From Being an Expert

If this is you, remember you have lots to offer, but you do need to tune into your emotional intelligence. Ask for feedback, opinions, thoughts of others when considering a decision you are about to make. Even if the opinion of others does not correlate with your own, ask open questions such as “What”, “How”, “When”, “What if”, but do avoid using “Why” as this can make people think you are questioning their judgement and consequently become defensive. Reflect back what you have heard and check your understanding to show that you are really listening.

  1. Achiever

Achievers are outcomes focussed. They set SMART goals for their team and themselves.

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Perhaps even more importantly, they have a higher emotional intelligence than people with the three previous action logics. They can read others well and consequently manage conflict ably, and can often flex their style to a given situation readily. They make great leaders as they are good at motivating others, they are often inspirational to listen to, and they seek the opinions of others which shows great empathy and understanding. Because they are so outcomes focussed however, they can have a tendency to stick to the tried and trusted methods which can frustrate those who are more innovative in their thinking.

Moving On From Being an Achiever

If this is you, stop and think about the goals you are setting. Are there better ways of doing things, can a process be more streamlined and even more effective as a result? Try not to get so bogged down in the detail; take a step back and ask for the opinions of others. Even better delegate the detail to allow you to remain focussed on the strategic big picture. Working together with your team will in all probability result in greater creativity and even better outcomes. Use techniques with your team, such as The Ladder of Inference or De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to really brainstorm an idea.

  1. “Individualist”

“Individualists” are also very emotionally intelligent. They appreciate how their style can impact on others and also how others see the world. They are also very good at flexing their style to suit a given situation. They are reflective and will seek to understand how the goals they have set, and whether these goals are aligned to organisational values. Because they have great personal insight they are often highly effective communicators and build strong and effective working relationships.

They are usually identified as top performers but can often disregard procedures, processes etc., that do not suit their purpose. This can annoy others.

Moving On From Being an Individualist

If this is you, you will have spent a great deal of time developing personal skills including working effectively with others. However, you may think you work collaboratively but with your tendency to disregard processes and procedures you may be seen as a bit of a maverick by your colleagues. Stop and think about the impact you may have on others and work more collaboratively with people to achieve outcomes. Recognise that this may sometimes take a little longer than you would like, yet the time spent seeking the views of others will be a good investment in the longer term. If you recognise these traits in yourself, consider a mentor. Find someone who will challenge you and make you stop and think.

  1. Strategist

Every organisation needs Strategists. They have the unique ability to anticipate change and propose constructive solutions. They are not afraid of conflict and are adept at managing it; often highly ethical and ambitious for the organisation they work for. Not too dissimilar from the Individualist, in that they are also good at communicating however, unlike the Individualist they are effective at sharing their vision with others. Consequently, others are more willing to engage and work collaboratively to achieve ambitious targets and goals. This also makes them very effective at managing change.

Moving On From Strategist

If this is you, do not become complacent as there is still more yet to learn. Yes, you have great communication skills, and you are powerful when sharing your vision with others. A mentor can however, help you take this even further, particularly your ability to collaborate with others; great leaders develop teams based on appreciate enquiry.

To develop your skills even further, build a network who will challenge your way of thinking; even more importantly, be open to this challenge and reflect on your own understanding of any given situation before reaching a final decision.

  1. Alchemist

The final stage of transformation is the Alchemist. The Alchemist differs from the Strategist in that they have the resilience to reinvent themselves as and when they need to. Almost chameleon like they are adept at dealing with short-term projects whilst keeping one eye firmly on the big picture.

They build a strong rapport with others, regardless of role or status, and will say it as it is because the truth is first and foremost the most important thing to them. They are good at using anecdotes to explain a problem or situation and they can read the emotions of others which helps develop a positive and engaged team. They are often seen as very busy, yet will always find time to deliver all of their responsibilities.

Growing as an Alchemist

Even as an Alchemist, there is still room for you to grow. Make sure you don’t overlook the importance of building good relationships no matter how busy you are.

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