This blog seven part blog series talks about Leadership 2050 and the leadership mindset necessary for success in the future. We walk through what the future of leadership will look like then walk you through the story of Jill as she moves through the developmental perspectives. Growth through the perspectives is a linear process in that we progress through each step without skipping stages.
In the post last week we saw Jill growing through the Achiever Developmental Perspective. This week we will see her move to the Individualist Perspective as she becomes more complex in her thinking and her time horizon expands. This is the fourth of the five perspectives that we see most often in professional settings.. Our intent is to illustrate how a leader progresses through the developmental perspectives and how they “fit” in jobs aligned with their developmental perspective.
Let’s proceed further with Jill’s narrative:
At 37, Jill was out-of-work and disoriented. She had spent fifteen years with the firm that summarily cut her out. She spent the first few weeks after losing her job feeling a bit lost; she was at home all day with no immediate agenda other than figuring out what she wanted to do next. This was a question she never imagined she would be asking herself. Matthew was working even more than his usual 60 hours to attempt to ensure he did not meet a similar fate.
Jill was fortunate that her firm offered outplacement services. Her counselor helped her begin to explore what she wanted in the next phase of her career.
In addition to considering her career, Jill started thinking about what this would mean for her life. She picked up her journal and wrote her thoughts about her motivations and choices. She started thinking about the roles she had made for herself: daughter, employee, boss, and wife.
As the months went by, Jill withdrew somewhat from her social life and became more introspective, trying to make peace with what had suddenly happened. However, filling a need to get up and move, she decided to start taking yoga classes. She recalled wanting to do yoga before but had never found the time. So, she started in and connected with a new group of people. The individuals in her yoga class were different from her other friends and she enjoyed learning more about them and their perspectives. Jill talked quite a bit with another man in the class, Randy. He was also a business professional so there were similar backgrounds. Randy was laid off several years ago so Jill was able to relate to him. Randy found another job that provided him much greater satisfaction than the one he had left and was able to provide a sounding board to Jill as she evaluated her life. Jill started to deeply value the opinions of those around her, particularly when they differed from her own. This seemed new to her as she didn’t recall input and feedback being so critically important to her before. She was experiencing many things differently as she stretched her mind.
She was less focused on her five-year plan and more on what was happening in the moment. Jill started meditating to help maintain a sense of calm and focus. She found that meditation helped keep her mind from wandering and away from her ongoing questioning of what she had done wrong to lose her job. In conversations with Randy, Jill talked about the different parts of herself and the different roles she played in life. She saw how the different roles had taken over at various points in her life. Specifically, how she had weighted the logical, analytical side so heavily during her career that she had lost the part of her that loved sports and reading books. She talked with Randy and wrote in her Journal about how to rediscover these different aspects of her personality in a meaningful way. Jill reached out to her family and spent a couple weeks with her parents asking questions about their beliefs and choices. She was amazed to hear their stories about her childhood; she learned things about herself and her parents that she hadn’t realized before. For example, as a small girl, she had loved to play in the woods and watch her dad cook. Her family had traveled around the country camping in National Parks. As a child, she had developed a deep love and reverence for the natural world but had forgotten these passions as her focus shifted during her life. In an attempt to reconnect with the passions she had as a younger person, she helped her dad in the kitchen during her visit and was surprised how much she enjoyed slowing down and delving into the different ingredients. It was a sensory, tactical experience that she had devalued during her career when she was focused on all things logical and analytical. She decided to plant a garden in her yard to grow some of her own food. This placed her outdoors allowing her to reconnect with her love of the natural world and with food.
During her time between jobs, Jill began taking time to enjoy being outside. Initially she went to local parks to hike and journal. She began to remember the joy she felt when she was alone in the woods. Over time she started going to a retreat center in the woods where she spent days with her journal and books. She was away from her computer and cell phone for the first time in over fifteen years. She and her dog, Yoda, took long hikes often. Over a period of months, she began to feel more connected to what it seems she had lost during the years of long hours of work and graduate school. She began to have a sense of peace in her life. As she re-evaluated her perspectives, Jill was becoming more environmentally conscious and beginning to think about and question long-term organizational sustainability. Living in the state capital, she had ample opportunity to join groups focused on sustainability. Her interest in environmental sustainability expanded and she began volunteering her time at a nature preserve.
During this time period, Jill’s relationship with Matthew became rocky as he was unable to relate to what Jill was going through. She spent time thinking about why she got married and what Matthew brought to her life. After much thought and frustrated discussion with Matthew about what she was doing with her life, they sought counseling to work out their differences. While they had drifted apart, they were dedicated to each other and recommitted to one another during this process. Both Jill and Matthew agreed to make changes in their relationship including discovering common activities and making time for one another. During the rekindling of their relationship, Jill began to feel the support she needed to explore options other than returning to accounting. Jill began looking at new career opportunities. She wanted to find work where she could feel satisfied and make a difference in the world. Also, she wanted to work for an organization that was socially responsible. Exploring the worlds of yoga, hiking and environmentalism were wonderfully satisfying to her but none of them would provide the paycheck she needed to survive.
Jill began exploring what she needed to live. She considered downsizing her house, if Matthew would support this choice. She did not want to return to a job that would require her to work so much. She wanted more balance. Her growing awareness of the world around her changed the meaning of things and they became just that: things. She felt weighed down by all she had accumulated and wanted to simplify. Jill’s trip to her parents stayed with her and she developed an enduring and unexpected interest in food and nature. She began trying out recipes and exploring cooking the foods she grew in her garden. She also augmented her diet with food from a local farmer’s market. She started buying organic food and cooking healthy meals. She would often invite her new friends over to taste her food. She felt a sense of joy in having another way to connect with friends beyond the fancy restaurants and trendy bars they had hung out in during her years with the accounting firm.
As Jill explored her professional options, she began looking at different ways to combine her professional skills with her passion to make a difference in the world. She decided to take a job as the Director of Finance with a national medical supply company that was socially responsible. This job allowed her to use her financial and leadership skills and also work for a company that impacted society in a positive manner through their socially responsible initiatives as well as their focus on minimizing their environmental footprint.
Additionally, she began teaching cooking classes in an adult learning program and she became involved in the slow food movement. She continued to have friends over to experiment with new recipes that she would share with her adult students.
People who exhibit the Individualist perspective demonstrate a much higher level of self-awareness, self-regulation, social-awareness, and relational ability than those at earlier perspectives. They are more likely to think “outside of the box” and often will try to redefine or make sense of “the box” in terms of their own personal experience. Because they are less constrained by conventional thinking, they often develop more creative or innovative solutions to challenges.
As you think about how different levels interact, consider the unique perspective of each level, such as how the Individualist is interested and focused on being out of the box while the Expert needs to use the box to help define the right terms of success. Thus, if an Individualist leader supervises Expert employees, successful outcomes will hinge upon the clear definition of tasks.
According to an HBR article, Seven Transformations of Leadership by Torbert and Rooke, 10% of leaders test at the Individualist level. Characteristics include:
- Increased capacity for advanced complex thinking.
- Exhibits an ability to appreciate paradox in circumstances.
- Begins to value and use rudimentary aspects of intuition.
- Beginning awareness that perception shapes reality, including their own.
- Self-reflective and investigative of their own personalized assumptions, as well as others.
- Understands mutual interdependence with others.
- Lives personal convictions according to internal standards.
- Style is tenacious and humble.
- Longer time horizon: five–ten years.
In this post we saw Jill as she grew into the Individualist Developmental Perspective. Next week we will see her move into the Strategist perspective. We believe that Strategist is the perspective needed for leaders to navigate large complex change.
To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.
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Photo credit: www.flickr.com Elsie Esq