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Such developmental stages are assessed using the leadership development profile (LDP), a refinement of the WUSCT which Torbert and Cook-Greuter accomplished and which is one of the most thoroughly researched and validated and assessment tools in the field. The research conducted by Harthill Consulting includes over 8,000 sentence completion tests and ongoing research continues to adapt and validate the profile for use in the organizational setting. The LDP assesses an individual leader's developmental stage, or action logic, according to three domains: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional ways of knowing. The preconventional domain includes the Opportunist action logic, which is characterized by a person who seeks to win any way possible. His is a short-term horizon wherein "might makes right" and deception is as legitimate an action as not. He typically rejects feedback, externalizes blame, and is distrustful. Seeking personal advantage, he takes an opportunity when it arises.

The second domain is the conventional and includes the Diplomat, Expert, and Achiever action logics. Cook-Greuter (2004) notes that most people in modern society function at the conventional stages, or 75-80% of them. The conventional action logics are associated with gaining knowledge, such as noticing more pieces of the puzzle, discovering patterns, rules and laws, and to be better able to predict, measure and explain. These stages are concerned with knowing more and doing more, and enhancing skills and competencies.

Finally, the postconventional domain includes the Individualist, Strategist, and Alchemist action logics and comprises no more than 15% of managers generally. These action logics are associated with wisdom and show increasing integration whereas the conventional domain is associated with increasing differentiation. The postconventional stages reflect gaining deeper understanding, recognizing assumptions, seeing whole dynamic systems, stripping away illusions, and transforming oneself and creating conditions for others to transform.

The six action logics in the conventional and postconventional domains are described here as they apply to leadership and organizational change work. Table 13.1 shows these six action logics organized in these domains and by Dependent, Independent, and Interindependent groups (Kegan, 1982). Each of these successively more complex action logics suggest the different ways in which leaders interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged (Rooke & Torbert, 2005).

Table 13.1. Action Logics in the Conventional and Postconventional Domains

Action Logics in the Conventional and Postconventional Domains

Conventional Action Logics


Torbert's (1987, 2004) research shows 12% of managers profile at the Diplomat action logic. The Diplomat wants to avoid conflict at all costs as he wants to belong to the group, obey group norms, and so rarely rocks the proverbial boat. A strength of this action logic is that a leader operating from this center of gravity offers support which can help teams and departments operate more cooperatively. A downside is evident in those times when this leader will not stand up to his superiors to defend his team or take appropriate action for removing obstacles for his subordinates. The Diplomat seeks approval and so acts according to socially expected behavior norms, such as speaking to "the party line" and being excessively polite or deferential. He encourages and even requires conformity to the party line, a managerial behavior that can block organizational change efforts as often as aid them.


Thirty-eight percent of managers profile at the Expert action logic in Torbert's research. This is the action logic associated with powerful individual contributors, those skilled in a particular craft or function, such as engineering, accounting, investment analysts, and consultants, for example. They are characteristically ruled by logic and expertise and seek rational efficiency in their decisions, whether it be solving a sophisticated technical problem or managing people. They can even tend toward perfectionism. Because craft logic rules operating norms for these leaders, they are often adept at implementing and managing to procedures and achieving amazing feats of efficiency. They will give their personal attention to detail, even seeking perfection, and arguing for their own 'correct' position and dismissing others' concerns.


The other action logic most often found in managers after the Expert action logic is the Achiever, at 30% of managers in Harthill's research database (Fisher, Rooke, & Torbert, 2003). The Achiever is concerned with achieving goals across a system and so is adept at getting results in corporate settings. He effectively achieves goals through teams, as he is skilled at working across organizational "silos" to achieve success within the system. He can juggle managerial duties and demands of the market with sophistication and ease. One might say Western business selects for this goal oriented action logic as it is well suited to managerial roles because the Achiever can both challenge and support subordinates as well as create a positive team atmosphere. The Achiever leader sees how strategic initiatives in a complex corporate setting can be met, and thus may be given broad authority in matters of determining budgets, reorganization imperatives and other enterprise-wide initiatives.

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