Time for a new diagnostic profiling tool for leadership vertical development

Published by matt on

27 February 2015

This week I’m launching a new leadership profiling tool called the Evolutionary Leadership Profile (ELP) and I’m using this blog post to explain some of the reasons for doing this, as well as set the topic of profiling within the context of evolutionary leadership.

This has primarily been prompted by the success of Frederic Laloux’s ‘Reinventing Organizations’ (see previous blog post) and the need for a leadership diagnostic and profiling tool that lines up with Laloux’s paradigms and translates them into leadership styles.

Laloux’s system of organisational paradigms is based primarily upon Ken Wilber’s (e.g. see Integral Psychology, 1999) and Jenny Wade’s (e.g. see Changes of Mind, 1996) meta-analyses of the various models that focus on different aspects of human development (e.g. ego-identity, cognitive, moral, value systems, etc.) at individual and collective levels and are founded on validated scientific research. It is also very close to the bio-psycho-social model of value systems developed by Clare Graves that is also the foundation for Spiral Dynamics. I have chosen Laloux/Graves as my core model because it can be used to describe both individual leadership style and collective cultural development, and integrates well with other models.

There are many different approaches to profiling leaders. These can be broadly grouped into personality type approaches, work or behavioural style approaches and developmental approaches, each with their relative advantages and disadvantages. I favour a profiling approach that includes all three (e.g. Jungian type, Belbin and ELP), although this may not always be realistic. I have compared the relative advantages and disadvantages more fully elsewhere, but overall I would argue that developmental approaches are more dynamic than personality and behavioural approaches in several ways. Specifically they:

(i) show the connection between inner subjective perspectives and orientations (described as paradigms, worldviews or value systems) and outer behavioural and relational preferences and recognisable leadership styles

(ii) provide a dynamic view of how individuals develop over time and identity common patterns, recognisable stages and transitions

(iii) offer a framework for moving between the dimension of individual leadership styles and collective organisational cultures

(iv) address the situational context of leadership style and shows how it relates to different types of organisation, stages of organisational development and different situational challenges

What developmental models and tools already exist? The two I have used are Spiral Dynamics and The Leadership Development Framework. I never found the standard Spiral Dynamics diagnostic tool to be user-friendly (many respondents reacted to the language used), so over the years I developed my own short profiling tools. The Leadership Development Framework is in many ways a better leadership model because the stage descriptions are in a language specific to leadership. There is an excellent and well established LDF Profiling service provided by Harthill, but it can be costly and slow. I also suggest that they have been complacent by not significantly updating the model (despite developments elsewhere in developmental psychology) and relying upon a sentence-completion tool that was designed by Jane Loevinger more than forty years ago. Although more of their 36 sentences are now organisational in context (a good boss…, teams…, change is…), there are still more family or gender-contextualised questions, which can be off-putting for some respondents. In addition, the LDF does not line up well with Laloux’s paradigms (there are stage gaps both ways), so with the growing interest in his model, I felt like it was time to create something new.

In summary, I believe there is a need for a relatively affordable leadership profiling tool that focuses on vertical development and is easy for coaches and leaders to use. I have therefore developed a new diagnostic tool that is set within an up to date organisational and personal development context, and which is aligned with Frederic Laloux’s leadership paradigms, which we have called The Evolutionary Leadership Profile. The tool includes self-completion and 360 feedback elements and can use the output from Belbin 360 feedback as an additional input.

A few words about the difference between Laloux and Graves; Laloux’s system culminates with the Evolutionary paradigm, which extent this conflates two distinct stages within Clare Graves’ schema (GT/Systemic and HU/Holistic) and possibly three stages within the LDF (Strategist, Alchemist, Ironist). This is not a great problem when talking about organisational paradigms as transformational and radically different ways to look at organisation. However, when applied to leadership styles, I maintain that it’s important to make the distinction between GT/Systemic and HU/Holistic, using the Graves model. For example, the Systemic stage is more individualistic and the Holistic stage is more collectivist. I strongly recommend not losing sight of Graves’ cycling between individual and collective orientations in the developmental spiral, as it helps create awareness of this dimensionality. In my practice of profiling leaders I have noticed quite distinct differences between these perspectives and expressions, that the Systemic paradigm invariably comes first, and that little of the Holistic paradigm is found in large modern organisations (so much so that for some years I took it out of my diagnostic tools, but with Laloux’s work I am encouraged to bring it back). Therefore in the profiling tool that we have developed we will make this sub-distinction within the evolutionary paradigm. So we will sometimes describe the later paradigms or styles together as ‘Evolutionary’ and sometimes as two distinct phases, Evolutionary-Systemic and Evolutionary-Holistic. This may be a little messy both is theory and practice, but I think it is also important that we follow Laloux’s model as closely as we can as this is the one that I expect to take hold in mainstream discourse.

If you want to find out more about the ELP and my profiling service, please download the Leaflet and explore the background documents which are available for download here:


As always, please feel free to get in touch directly if you have any questions about this topic

Best wishes, Aubyn

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