Monday, June 6, 2011

Leadership and Cultural Transformation: Evolutionary Road Maps

Workplaces transform when leaders transform. But how do you inspire transformation? Is there a road map?

There is ample evidence that people and collectives (such as workplaces) develop along an evolutionary continuum. Knowing how this happens is essential whether you are developing leaders or workplace cultures. It is much easier to find the next step for your own development or that of your organization and its leaders if you can determine where you are on the evolutionary development scale. While there are many evolutionary maturity models for personal and organizational development, they all point to similar findings. When you lay the well-researched models next to each other, you can't help but be struck by the similarities. Check out these resources and see if you agree.

Spiral Dynamics is a powerful model and predictive theory of human development and cultural evolution. For a primer on this look at the evolution of leadership consciousness and worldviews, visit EnlightenNext and read “The Never-Ending Quest Upward”. This work is based on exhaustive research originally conducted by Clare W. Graves.

My favorite application of this model is for designing communication strategies to appeal to the various worldviews. My friend John Marshall Roberts explains this clearly, focusing on how to break through the various filters that people use to judge if a change being proposed is “good” or “bad” according to their worldview. His book can be found here, and he has a new online training program on the topic of building empathy here.

Richard Barrett uses a model developed from the later work of Abraham Maslow. His Cultural Transformation Tools can measure the overall culture of an organization as well as the specific leadership values of leaders. Barrett’s seven level maturity model is the basis of organizational culture change around the world. His organization has even started measuring the values of nations. We highly recommend using these tools as a values lens on employee engagement and workplace cultural health.

Several other recent books on corporate culture and leadership development find similar evolutionary maturity models at work. Tribal Leadership is another look at stages of consciousness through the lens of language & relationships. Easy to read and very accessible, the book offers practical tips on language and behaviors to support transformation up the various stage levels.

A complementary evolutionary model is also offered in the business best-selling book Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change.

The research is compelling, and while the models may differ slightly in how they slice and dice the evolutionary levels, any review of the above materials will reveal a maturity model that moves from foundational levels of survival and personal achievement to one that embraces teamwork, collaboration and goals for the common good. Put simply, each of these models shows that personal and organizational maturity is a shift from a focus on “me” to a focus on “we”. 


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