Theorists including Cook-Greuter and Torbert hold that vertical development, or progressing to later developmental levels corresponds to more effective leaders. Cook-Greuter (2004) concedes vertical transformations "in human consciousness or changes in our view of reality are more powerful than any amount of horizontal growth and learning" (p. 276) However, lateral development, or the potential in consolidating thinking and acting capacities within a specific action logic is of particular interest in this chapter.

Imagine a senior leadership team comprised of a Strategist CEO, one Individualist vice president, three Achiever vice presidents and two Expert vice presidents. Imagine further that each of these seven executives is engaged in his particular individual developmental momentum characterized by consolidating the learning potential at his key action logic plus one action logic below and one above. All of their individual developmental work can be considered occurring in overlapping ways within their organizational team and larger system. As a result, their individual and collective horizontal developmental efforts could be envisioned in a diagram similar to that shown in Figure 13.1.

Individual and collective developmental strands of individuals in an executive leadership team (Rooke & Mulligan, 2004).

Figure 13.1. Individual and collective developmental strands of individuals in an executive leadership team (Rooke & Mulligan, 2004).

These overlapping lateral fields of development and developmental efforts conceivably give rise to potentially new knowledge about leading, following, and learning itself in that group's organizational context. The new forms of knowledge that may emerge when leader development is considered in the collective can be explored using key concepts from complexity theory.


To provide a theoretical context for exploring overlapping lateral development as it may occur among leaders and workers, complexity theory can be used to describe some essential constructs operating in the organizational terrain. As both complexity theorists and developmental psychologists hold, the relationship between the individual and the collective is not distinct and it is the "continual settling and resettling of this very distinction" which is what development is about (Kegan, 1982, 1994). Using Kegan's concept of a holding environment in which a mix of high supports and high challenges are offered according to developmental stage, many possibilities emerge in which organizational leaders and managers can create overlapping developmental opportunities in the ways in which they design tasks, staff project teams, create new work groups, and define reporting relationships, to name a few. The following tenets from complexity theory provide a basis for exploring potential, unique developmental knowledge that can emerge from overlapping lateral development across persons, and thus augment self-knowledge gained by individual leader development (Uhlbien & Marion, 2008). These features from complexity theory will be used to explore the overlapping lateral developmental spaces in the actual case discussion that follows.

1. Uncertainty refers to the emergence of unpredictable outcomes and the capacity to manage the unexpected;

2. Catalysts are persons, events or perturbations that trigger change;

3. Interindependent interactions as between leaders and others are interactive dynamics which are connected in any number of ways in the system;

4. Disorienting conflict or surprises/unexpected occurrences;

5. Feedback loops;

6. Boundaries;

7. Awareness of what might be trying to emerge.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >