Posted in leadership

Adult Levels of Development

I recently read a paper by Nick Petrie at the Center for Creative Leadership that used the metaphor that leadership is perpetual white water. This is my second blog post on the paper. For the first one, check out the August 6, 2017 post. The paper discussed the new era of digital information leadership and talked about how to develop leaders in this new white water era.

Discussing Adult Level of Development, Kegan lists three categories:

Category 3 – Socialized mind. At this level people are shaped by the expectations of those around them. What people say and think is strongly influenced by what people think others want to hear. #Dependent Conformer. #Opportunist. #Diplomat.

Category 4 – Self-authoring mind. At this level people have developed their own ideology and internal compass to guide them. Their sense of self is aligned with their own belief system, personal code, and values. They can take stands, and set limits on behalf of their own internal beliefs. #Independent #Achiever. #Expert.

Category 5 – Self-transforming mind. At this level people have their own ideology but can step back from that ideology to see if it is limited or partial. They can hold more contradiction and oppositeness in their thinking and no longer feel the need to gravitate towards polarized thinking. #Interdependent Collaborator. #Strategist. #Alchemist. #Ironist. (page 13)

Reading this, what category are you? Are you a different category at work? At home? With friends? Did reading this cause you to think about things differently?

A quick list:


  • Characteristics: Wins anyway possible, self-oriented, manipulative, might makes right.
  • Leadership strengths: Good in emergencies and sales opportunities.
  • Weaknesses: Forcibly self-interested and manipulative; Rejects feedback and externalizes blame.


  • Characteristics: Avoids overt conflict; Wants to belong, Obeys group norms; Rarely rocks the boat.
  • Leadership strengths: Good as supportive glue within an office; Helps bring people together.
  • Weaknesses: Avoids conflict; Rigidly conforms and is status-driven; Sees negative feedback as punishment.


  • Characteristics: Rules by logic and expertise; Seeks rational efficiency.
  • Leadership strengths: Good as an individual contributor.
  • Weaknesses: Critical and dogmatic; choose efficiency over effectiveness; Resists subjective feedback.


  • Characteristics: Meets strategic goals; Effectively achieves goals through teams; Juggles managerial duties and market demands.
  • Leadership strengths: Well suited to managerial roles; Action and goal oriented.
  • Weaknesses: Can be over driven to achieve self-chosen objective standards; blind to complex sustainability


  • Characteristics: Interweaves competing personal and company action logics; Creates unique structures to resolve gaps between structure and performance.
  • Leadership strengths: Effective in venture and consulting roles.
  • Weaknesses: Can be a maverick, an outsider, or rebel; Their independence can work against collaboration.


  • Characteristics: Generates organizational and personal transformations; Exercises the power of mutual inquiry, vigilance, and vulnerability for both the short and long term.
  • Leadership strengths: Effective as a transformational leader within large contexts such as organizations.
  • Weaknesses: Tempted by the dark side of power; May not employ their skills in a given context.


  • Characteristics: Generates social transformations; Integrates material, spiritual, and societal transformations.
  • Leadership strengths: Good at leading society-wide transformations.
  • Weaknesses: Personal suffering may obstruct the use of their skills.

Cite: Future Trends in Leadership Development by Nick  Petrie



Dr. Sheila Embry is a govie, author, pracademician, sister, aunt, cousin, and friend who loves to read, write, think, and laugh. Many of her blog postings are summaries or excerpts of books that she read and wants to share to encourage others. An author with more than 25 years experience within the legislative and executive branches of the U. S. federal government holding 3 accredited degrees: Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership, Master of Arts in Human Resources Development, and Baccalaureate of Business Administration, she believes in continuing learning both on and off the job. She has been recognized with multiple professional and writing awards for her peer-reviewed, publications. Click the bibliography page above for a listing of all the publications.

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