Barrett C. Brown, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development (2012)
This is an empirical study of rare leaders from business, government, and civil society with a developmentally mature meaning-making system, or late-stage action logic (Cook-Greuter, 1999; Loevinger, 1966, 1976; Torbert, 1987). It explores how they design and engage in complex change initiatives related to social and/or environmental sustainability. Participants were assessed for their action logic using a variation of the Washington University Sentence Completion Test (Loevinger & Wessler, 1970). This study has significant implications for the fields of leadership, sustainability leadership, and constructive-developmentalism. The sample has more leaders with documented, advanced meaning-making capacity than any other leadership study (6 Strategists, 5 Alchemists, and 2 Ironists). The results provide the most granular view to date of how such individuals may think and behave with respect to complex organizational and system change. The leaders in this study appear to: (a) design from a deep inner foundation, including grounding their work in transpersonal meaning; (b) access non-rational ways of knowing and use systems, complexity, and integral theories; and (c) adaptively manage through “dialogue” with the system, 3 distinct roles, and developmental practices. Additional results include 15 leadership competencies; developmental stage distinctions for 6 dimensions of leadership reflection and action; and 12 practices that differentiate leaders with a unitive perspective (Alchemists, Ironists) from those with a general systems perspective (Strategists). A constructive-developmental lens is shown to provide important insight for sustainability leadership theory. It is recommended that all leadership programs work to develop the meaning-making capacity of leaders because of the enhanced abilities that emerge with each new stage of development.
This research was supported by a research grant from Fielding Graduate University.