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

Posted in leadership

Leadership White Water

I recently read a paper by the Center for Creative Leadership that used the metaphor that leadership is perpetual white water. I was immediately drawn to it because I believe it to be true. There is always something to keep an eye on, always something that may make your day trip of calm water turn into a rapids ride, and always something that could turn your day completely topsy-turvy. There is also something about navigating exciting white water that draws leaders to the role.

On page 7, the author discussed VUCA, an army term, to describe this new environment:

  • V – change happens rapidly and on a large scale (volatile)
  • U – the future cannot be predicted with any precision (uncertainty)
  • C – challenges are complicated by many factors any there are few single causes or solutions (complex)
  • A – there is little clarity on what events mean or what effect they may have (ambiguous)

And on page 5, we are reminded that “In the agricultural era, schools mirrored the garden. In the industrial era, schools mirrored the factory, with an assembly line of learners. In the digital information era…VUCA. “

According to those interviewed for this paper, the most common skills, abilities, and attributes needed for VUCA white water leaders (page 9) will be

  • Adaptability
  • Self-awareness
  • Boundary spanning
  • Collaboration
  • Network thinking

Aids to improve the skills, abilities, and attributes listed above (page 9) will be

  • Training
  • Job assignments
  • Action learning
  • Executive coaching
  • Mentoring
  • 360-degree feedback

One leader interviewed stated, “Some people want to put Christ back in Christmas I want to put development back in leadership development,” (page 10). Suggestions to improve leadership development (page 22) include

  • Open flow of information
  • Flexible hierarchies
  • Distributed resources
  • Distributed decision making
  • Loosening of centralized controls

Does all of this sound familiar and simple? I think so. Do you know of a lot of corporations and agencies who follow it? You be the judge.

Cite: Future Trends in Leadership Development by Nick  Petrie

Posted in leadership

Engaging Questions

Leaders need interpersonal and relationship building skills for communicating more effectively and constructively. As a leader, regularly ask yourself:

  • What can I do to get people more engaged?
  • What can I do to get people working collaboratively?
  • What do others need from me?
  • What do they have to contribute that I haven’t been noticing?
  • What value am I adding to the team?

Daily complete this sentence, just for today, I will…

Posted in leadership, women

Women Wisdom Snippets – Part Deux

One of our senior leaders retired after 39 years of federal service. Here are some of her parting reminders:

  • Everyone is a leader, treat them accordingly.
  • Hunger for wisdom, always.
  • Assume good intentions, always.
  • Act with courage, always.
  • Do the right thing, always.
  • Think about your employees when making decisions.
  • Have fun, and remember the words of George Carlin –At the end of my life, my only regret is I wasn’t kinder to people.
Posted in leadership, self-improvement, women

Women Wisdom Snippets

Recently some friends were kind enough to hold a panel discussion at my workplace (via electronic means) for women leaders in our agency. I removed all the agency specifics, but I thought you may enjoy these bits and pieces:

  • Be your own advocate.
  • Be proactive whenever you can.
  • Decisions have to make sense for all.
  • Don’t let the culture change you, you change your culture.
  • Focus on self-issues first so you have the energy to assist others.
  • Supervisors are held to a higher level, act like it.
  • Rely on your support systems and relationships.
  • Identify who or what is causing the frustration.
    • Why is this important to you?
  • Take advantage of any work professional development dollars available.

Each one of these snippets can be great conversation starters. Do any of them speak to you?



Posted in leadership, self-improvement

Question Thinking

Question Thinking (QT) is out ability to be in charge of our own thinking, moment by moment. How do I fix it? takes you from being powerless to confident enough to take constructive action.

Three important questions:

  • Are you willing to take responsibility for your mistakes and for the attitudes and actions that led to them?
  • Are you willing to forgive yourself and laugh at yourself?
  • Will you look for value in your experience, especially the most difficult ones?

Question Thinking is a system of skills and tools using questions to expand how you approach virtually any situation.

  • Question everything.
  • How can you get the best answers without asking the best questions first?
  • Questions drive results.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

Cite: Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams


Posted in leadership



There is lots of information out there on being a coach instead of a boss. However, there are times when you need to be the boss. When to be a coach and when to be a boss is thoughtfully covered in a November 15, 2016 article by Brenda Smyth, 4 Key Ingredients to Managing like a Coach. P please enjoy these quick notes from the article on supervision.

Good coaches are

  • Humble
  • Compassionate
  • Passionate about their subject
  • Clear when to communicate without talking too much
  • Successful;  employees trust the coach and know the coach has a plan
  • Enthusiastic; makes employees want to be part of ‘doing great things’
  • Empowering employees by building their confidence AND competence; they don’t check and monitor, but the concentrate on employees reaching a higher level of performance
  • Knowledgeable when to turn into good bosses

Good bosses use the directive style (telling people what to do) when dealing with

  • New or experienced employees
  • Tight deadlines
  • Crisis
  • Dealing with problem employees
  • Running a meeting

Good bosses want to be careful of over-managing because

  • Employees don’t learn to think for themselves
  • Employees become disengaged because they believe they are not being heard

Good bosses/coaches

  • Provide direction by clearly defining the goals
  • Improve performance by creating a learning environment where employees are supported to continuously improve
  • Open up possibilities to develop employees to solve problems and make decisions
  • Help remove obstacles by staying close to projects by asking questions and confronting people who become obstacles to their employees