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Four Stages Of Leadership Development

‘Leadership’ isn’t short of scholarly or practical inquiry, and while our fascination with leaders remains high, views and expectations of them are changing. Today’s organizations, and the leaders that run them, are faced with increasing and unprecedented complexity.

In this turbulent environment, leaders are expected to deliver on hard and the soft indicators. For instance, along with innovation, employee well-being is being prioritized. And since leadership is thought to be a key factor for engaged employees and flourishing organizations, there is a need for more ethical, people-centred management.

In his book Source: The Inner Path of Knowledge Creation Joseph Jaworski suggests that in this environment traditional analytical leadership approaches are inadequate for dealing with this complexity. Jaworski suggests that leaders need to transition through four Stages of leadership development to create truly profound innovation in a challenging environment.

Take some time to self-reflect and think about what Stage you’re currently in.

Four Stages of Leadership Development:

Stage 1: Self-Centric Leaders

Jaworski calls Stage 1 ‘a Stage of underdeveloped spirituality’ and believes people in this group are generally unable to love others. While they may appear to be loving (and perceive themselves as loving) their relationships with others are essentially manipulative and self-serving. And because their behaviour is not governed by principles, they lack integrity in their being. They often lack follow-through and consistency because their actions are dictated by passing emotions.

Stage 2: Achieving Leaders

Leaders in Stage 2 have evolved from the self-centric orientation of Stage 1 to value those around them. They identify themselves by their family, peers, organizations, faith groups, or nations. Individuals at this Stage of development conform to the rules of their faith or organization and expect others to do the same.

‘Achieving Leaders’ experience professional success because their pursuit of excellence is characterised by fairness, decency, and respect for others. They are self-disciplined; and as they continue to develop themselves, they develop and strengthen others as well. Progressing through Stage 2, these individuals get to a point where they succeed with and through others.

Stage 3: Servant Leaders

In Stage 3 the leader recognizes their connection with the whole and identifies themselves with any race, gender, class or creed. Servant leaders question rigid belief systems and transcend conventional rules and roles. It’s with greater understanding of the whole that they improve those around them, creating more servant leaders in the process.

It’s important not to misinterpret the word ‘servant,’ as individuals at this Stage of development still have a high desire for achievement. However, unlike leaders in Stage 1, they don’t pursue achievement at the cost of others.

Servant leaders are highly independent and have a low desire for conformity. They take risks, have a strong sense of self-efficacy, and can tolerate ambiguity. As such these leaders can perform well under pressure, turbulence and complexity.

Stage 4: Renewing Leaders

Leaders in Stage 4 “embody the characteristics and values of servant leaders but have matured to a more comprehensive and subtle level of development.” They are extraordinary performers and have a capacity for tacit knowing, strategy formulation, operational excellence, and innovation as well as the ability to create a compelling vision of the future.

I’d call Jaworski’s ‘Renewing Leaders,’ ‘Enlightened Leaders’ because they believe that there is an underlying intelligence within the universe that is capable of guiding us and preparing us for the futures we must create. These leaders have reached a level of awareness that is too abstract for those in former stages to comprehend.

Where are you?

So, what stage of development are you in? If you’re not where you want to be, what can you do to take your growth to the next level? What small step will you take today? Because as Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

To becoming the enlightened leader you are destined to be,

With so much love,


1 Comment

  1. […] Leaders lead by example and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They don’t ask their followers to do anything anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. For more on the concept of servant leadership check out Four Stages Of Leadership Development. […]

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