Heroic and Post-Heroic Stages

3D Illustration of business woman dressed in a suit with a Cape superhero on a background the sky

In previous posts on leadership development stages, we introduced you to developmental theory for adults and how developmental stages are being applied to leaders. A better understanding of how leaders grow can help organizations and coaches approach leadership training with an expanded perspective.

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. When working with leaders, Maestro's coaches relate the inner game to a strong personal foundation that further underpins competencies.

In our last post, we described five levels of leadership, summarizing the leading experts' classifications. The first two levels (Egocentric, Reactive) are based on leaders’ ability to hold themselves out as heroes, providing answers and solutions. However, operating with this mindset means you are intent on meeting your own needs: wanting to be the recognized expert, achieving results, and being admired.

When you transition to the third stage (Creative, Self-Authoring, Catalyst), you no longer have an externally based self-worth. At this point, you aim for a higher purpose, are willing to share power, and can let go of previous assumptions and any hero complex.

Great leadership and business performance emerge at the “post-heroic” stages. Research show that in the top 10% of the highest-performing businesses (half million surveyed), the average leadership effectiveness score falls into the 80th percentile. In other words, these leaders score better than 80% of their peers. 

Surging Beyond the Norm

Most adults fail to progress beyond what is normative: the Socialized or Reactive mind. Only 10% of adults progress beyond the Achiever level, according to the Leadership Agility authors, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs.

Viewed from The Leadership Circle research, only 20% progress beyond the Reactive stage, pointing to the urgent need for leadership-development programs that address far more than skills and outer competencies.

Our clients are encouraged to include Emotional Intelligence in leadership-development program to support the progression beyond the Reactive mind and toward executive peak performance.

Why All of This Matters

At higher levels of development, leaders can detect nuances, deal with paradoxes, and respond with agility in lieu of being reactive. Today’s volatile business environment demands higher levels of consciousness.

Developmental-stage theories are more than descriptive tools. The stages chart a path that can help leaders develop more complex forms of mind. The framework also helps match a leader's mindset at any given time with that required by a particular task.

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.

The Link with Emotional Intelligence

These specific capacities identified in Berger's quote relate to Emotional Intelligence in areas of empathy, interpersonal relationships, emotional independence, problem solving, reality testing, and impulse control.

As a leader, your ability to make sense of greater levels of complexity continues throughout the lifespan and has a significant impact on both leadership and development. You acquire special competencies and skills with experience, as well as a mind that sharpens over time. Only when leadership development programs take developmental stages and emotional intelligence into account will you grow into a better leader.

The Link with Rejuvenating Peak Performance After Setbacks

Setbacks related to personal health can derail a leader's development and sustainable peak performance. During and after the event, making sense of greater levels of complexity may be compromised. The THRIVE Plan coaching program developed by Patricia Muir incorporates developmental-stage theories with emotional intelligence to assist leaders in going beyond coping toward thriving at new levels of peak performance.

Do these ideas resonate for you? What have you observed as the leaders in your organization have matured?

We would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and begin the conversation about the value we can bring to your organization.

Contact Patricia Muir at  patricia@maestroquality.com, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedInMaestro’s FacebookTwitter

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