Every company needs to have leaders who are able to navigate across a range of meaning making systems in order to spearhead change, elevate profitability, gain market share and in fact, change the very rules and patterns that every competitor might be trying to outdo.

Many executives are able to drive their expertise to achieve strategic goals and juggle managerial duties. Very few executives (and organisations), however, know how to cultivate their inner capacities, talents and multiple intelligences to live into such innate capacity, which might be available within, but are not yet being resourced. These executives have the ability to think and operate beyond convention – and to generate both organisational and personal change. Collaborative and far thinking, these leaders are able to demonstrate an unerring ability to weave in the pragmatic and the visionary while, inside of self, they can actively work to find their own wisdom and maturity to take a business and its people, to the next level.

The tragedy here is that it is very often that the same system that is asking for thinking, actions and meaning making that goes beyond the norm – does not in itself have the capacity to embrace the depth of thinking of such individuals. These leaders then find themselves frustrated as they keep hitting a ceiling of locked mindsets and either retreat, "dumb down" or leave!

While much accumulation of knowledge along the leadership path is about becoming better/strategic at the job at hand; gaining knowledge and experience in known ways of the organisation; cutting costs; making more money: there are very few opportunities, support, or systemic conditions to cultivate for these rarer minds to consciously break conventional patterns and truly take their businesses to new territories.

Mostly it's about doing more of the same – just better. This is not a 'wrong' thing – it is a 'right' thing to do. However, to truly innovate and transform business mindsets to create new ways of innovation into a market lead that is a step change above the rest, business has to allow a few things to change and to have time to slow down and think. This process brings an anxiety and a call for the internal capacity to hold the polarities of emotion, resistance and transitional unknowns. The latter, often called the soft stuff, is the hardest piece of work!

Organisations need to know this can be done while the business continues to do what it does well – it is not about throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. It is about business as usual while allowing something else! It is about clearly assessing and including what is working while also transcending mindsets to take on new ways of thinking which will support the new way of work! This is where leaders need to build up their capacity to tolerate ambivalence and pay close attention to their own contractions and fears of the unknown – while the new territory is chartered out by a skilled leader who incrementally brings his/her fellow colleagues into this new mind of business.

Difficult! Much of the executive instinct and habit is about reaction, fire fighting and running to targets, which sadly just reinforces things staying the same. There is often little time or long-term perspective holding, to allow for the path of multi dimensional growth and development that might in some areas, slow things 'up' while new learning takes place. The pressure for closure around the known ways of getting results sustains the fallacy, that 'to do something else requires too much time and too much (conscious) effort'. "We can't afford this!" The truth is that it takes effort to change the way we think! And hence the resistance to the "new" – as "new" needs exploration, understanding, buy-in and practices that support the building of new muscles in changing mindsets. The greatest inhibitor to change is that transformational learning is developmental – not instant! Very few businesses know how to take the time AND continue to do business as usual.

To do this you would need to have a full grasp on developmental learning and that path of vertical development and growth in both the maturation and broadening mindsets of your talented individuals who can liberate their innate intelligence into new actions. In developing executives – who show signs of far reaching mindsets that are able to hold new thinking and complex thinking– it is a journey over time!

Beware the rush to shift a bright mind into a position where they might truly be 'in over their heads', as the transformational leader has to have done the internal maturational work before it translates to the external. This requires:

  • Growing up through each stage (there are 9 stages that have been identified) of their development, none of which can be leap-frogged or by-passed, as leadership maturity is incremental, though some will get there faster. Identifying the latter and accelerating this is a way to build these capacities.
  • Demonstrating that they can hold multiple lines of intelligence (emotional, strategic, interpersonal, market intelligence etc) at the same time and move beyond complexity;
  • Making the most healthy use of their personality strategies to include the many strategies of other personality types;
  • Being able to manage their state of mind through paradox and ambiguity;
  • Demonstrating the incremental wisdom accumulation that comes with moving through their own adult and leadership developmental growth stages to become a transformational leader, not just an expert or a driver or a leader of teams, but a leader who can see the patterns and break the patterns without breaking his/or her people or the back of the business.

Knowing about vertical stage development allows for broader decision-making and culture shifts. Enabling such development with conscious attention to the gifts and limitations that each stage holds, and knowing who can move to these later stages to bring about transformative practices is critical. And validating all stages as necessary in the system – now that is a transformative leader! How many are you identifying and grooming to take on this challenging 21st Century of ours?

Dr Paddy Pampallis