E45 - Why we need new leadership maturity, and how to get there - Interview with Dr Maja Stanojevic-Andre

Maja shares:

  • What is leadership maturity and why it needs to evolve
  • Why Trump is appealing to many voters
  • How a real estate company became the ‘Google of Real Estate” and one of the top 25 places to work through deliberate focus on individual and collective leadership maturity
  • How to create horizontal and vertical leadership development to become more nimble and responsive as leaders and in organisations
  • Why the maturity of the leadership caps the growth and future of the organisation
  • Where to start if you want to encourage the leadership maturity in your organisation

About Maja:

Dr Maja Stanojevic-Andre, MD, FCPsych (SA) 

Maja is the pioneer of Leadership Maturity Framework and LMF developmental coaching practice in Australia. She has founded the Institute for Developmental Coaching with the purpose of raising the awareness and understanding of the developmental perspective and enriching the standards of coaching and leadership development practices in Australia and Asia Pacific region. Putting on the map the importance and need for the practices of “Vertical Development” to complement the already familiar practices of “Horizontal Development” of individual leaders as well as organizational cultures. She has been organizing, developing and facilitating Leadership Maturity Framework and Developmental Coaching workshops since 2006. It started in collaboration with Dr Susanne Cook-Greuter, US based renowned adult development theorist, and they co-facilitated together until 2013 when Susanne decided to retire from traveling. 

Since then, Maja has continued to teach, train and facilitate these workshops through the Institute for Developmental Coaching; both in an organizational leadership development context as well as training and authorizing coaches and consultants to use Leadership Maturity Profile in their coaching practice. Maja is passionate about equipping leaders and change agents as well as coaches and consultants supporting them, to be able to more effectively face, survive and thrive in this current time and climate often described as VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) In support of her role in teaching, mentoring and supervising LMF developmental coaches, Maja has completed both, SCTi-LMP scoring training and supervision training to the standards of the Australian Association for Supervision of International Coach Federation and Psychotherapy & Counselling Federation of Australia, 

For Maja’s full bio, visit Institute of Developmental Coaching

Bonus Notes:

Peter Senge and systems thinking

Learning Organisations

Resources on Leadership Maturity and organisational development 


Speaker 1:          Welcome to the Zoë Routh Leadership Podcast. Your source of strategies and insights to make you a better leader. Influence, improve, inspire.

Zoë:                     Hi, this is Zoë, and today I'm here with one of my most favourite people in the whole world. Her name is Maja Stanojevic-Andre, and she is one of the most amazing executive coaches, leadership coaches and mentors that I've ever worked with. She is the Founder of the Institute of Developmental Coaching here in Australia. She's got a very interesting background, she's lived through many a crisis in Europe, Africa, and then has come to Australia. Her work takes her to work with high-level leaders and organisations to really look at growing and developing their culture and their leadership. I first came to work with Maja almost 10 years ago now when I was first introduced to integral leadership theory. She came along and taught our group about integral leadership theory, and ever since then I've incorporated it into everything I do in leadership development. We're going to unpack a little bit of that today with Maja, and how integral leadership theory can really be instrumental in helping us develop as leaders, as well as organisational culture. So, welcome Maja.

Maja:                  Thank you Zoë, one of my favourite people in all the world. It was very sweet to listen to your introduction.

Zoë:                     I've long admired

Maja:                  Hello to everyone else.

Zoë:                     Hello to all our wonderful listeners too. So now I'm so thrilled to bring you to them. So Maja, you have a fabulous accent, so people always want to know, where is it from? So tell us a little bit about your story on how you ended up in Australia.

Maja:                  Yeah, it's a little bit of a long-winded way through Africa before I arrived in Australia, but originally I'm from what used to be Yugoslavia, and after the very painful, heartbreaking civil war that we had ... or actually at the beginning of that ... I realised that I unfortunately cannot join any of the sides because I could see that they were all right and they were all mistaken in the same time. So I had to find my way out because as a young person in that time, I could not influence much but I could have created a lot of damage to myself, so my parents were very happy to ship me off because I didn't know how to keep my mouth shut, which at that time was quite dangerous. So I ended up in South Africa, and one of the reasons at the time, because one, I wanted to go as far as possible from Europe and I was always fascinated with Africa. Another part of that was as a young doctor, there was a lot that you could learn working in that system, so I always heard that if you want to get a good experience, go work in Africa.

                             So I was fortunate enough to live for about eight, nine years in South Africa, and most of my medical training actually took place there, but what I was most fortunate about is actually to have this juxtaposition of seeing what leaders and leadership does, and what tragic consequences were in Bosnia when you had the leaders who were very immature and very polarising, and very much nationalistic; and how much damage they have created for years and years and years to come. And then arriving at a time of Nelson Mandela being freed and elected to become the first African president in South Africa, and to see what was possible, what looked impossible, and the magic of his wisdom and maturity, that created ... and did a lot of through watching what is possible, and also giving me, through that, hope to live, as well as kind of pointing me to see the power of leadership and the leverage, and what happens if you have immature leadership, and what happens if you have mature and wise leadership.

                             So I suppose that was one of the reasons why later in life, when I arrived to Australia, it kind of created that big career shift of leaving medicine and psychiatry, to devote my life to development of leadership, as I could see that they can make a huge difference in both directions. So that what was left of my little life and whatever little or big influence I can make was then devoted to nurture and develop maturity within the leadership. So that's from the professional side. From personal side, it was my husband who at the time wanted us to live in another culture and environment, and we looked, obviously that ticked all the boxes of requirements at the time. It was English-speaking and South Hemisphere, and on the sea, and that had to have a McKinsey office. Basically, Sydney was the place that ticked all the boxes. I'm very happy and pleased that we made that decision and choice, been here for 17 years and loving every minute of it. That's the long and short of how I ended up in Australia.

Zoë:                     Australia is a pretty darn good choice, and you couldn't have more contrast from Bosnia to South Africa to Australia. That is ... it is quite a journey. This idea of leadership maturity I think is an interesting one, because it is not common in the whole leadership dialect, about having maturity in leadership. So what is leadership maturity, and how does that sort of fit in the developmental theory?

Maja:                  Within the integral theory, as you are familiar, there are all these different perspectives that we can look at ourselves and at life, and one of those perspective is actually looking at how do we grow and develop our heart, mind and action, so it's kind of growth of consciousness, growth of ego. And then how does that impact our business performance and our leadership effectiveness?

                             So what I have noticed is that for many many years, for centuries, we had conditions and contexts outside, it was kind of okay with the command and control way of leadership that has been effective for a very very long time, but the interesting thing and why suddenly there is much more interest in the developmental and adult development theories, and maturity in leadership, is that as the conditions on the outside change, that we have much more volatility, more complexity, uncertainty; all the things that now no one can actually in a way deny ... it's whatever they call it, the VUCA world: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity ... we have noticed that more of those conditions are in the context, that more need is for more complex kind of mind and heart, that can be able to one, see; two, process and think; and then choose actions that would be wiser and more sustainable, both long-term as well as more inclusive in terms of the spatial, so to speak, both geographical as well as in terms of the variety of different stakeholders that are always within these different systems.

                             So we realised that people who are most effective in times like these are those that have capacity for system thinking, that can understand complexity theories, and would be able to actually combine different ways of being in a world, in a leadership, that would be context-appropriate. So that's one of the reason I think that interest in leadership maturity has sprouted, because we realised that the way that worked well before are just not working anymore. So the old adage that culture eat leadership for breakfast, or leadership eats strategy for breakfast, in a way is that the fact that no matter how intelligent our thinking of what it is that we want to do, unless we have a plan that we have created, unless we have the ability to be both in the long term and short term, like every minute, paying attention to what's going on in all these different systems, it's very difficult to achieve a successful outcome if we are not able to be present sort of minute to minute, moment to moment, what is happening, to accordingly adjust our thinking and our actions.

                             So in that way, leadership maturity is basically both theoretical and the practical ... how to navigate through the life and work. I'm thinking both here in businesses, no matter are they private or big corporate, as well as politics, what are the different kinds of political and economic systems that we need to create, that will be wiser and more inclusive, more effective, because as we are looking around the world now, we can see that there is a lot of upheaval because whatever was working and kind of worked well enough in the past is not working so well anymore, but we haven't yet created new structures, so we are in this interim liminal space in which what it was is not anymore, and the new has not yet become. So it's a lot of confusion and a lot of hardship, and some people kind of go backwards into the old ways, because thinking that's going to help, but then very soon will realise, maybe not, and we may actually evolve rather than regress. But it's usually as the hero journey goes, you go down before you can go back up and more wiser and capable to meet the new set of conditions.

Zoë:                     I'm hearing the Trump story in what you described about regression and going down before we come out. Certainly when you look at polarising leaders, he's certainly one of them, and you can see a better example of somebody who is not inclusive, somebody who is divisive, somebody who is nationalistic instead of embracing. So from a developmental perspective, how do you see the Trump leadership playing out in the world? Have you got ideas around that?

Maja:                  With these things it's always very difficult to sort of diagnose someone who you have not have a direct experience, so kind of use the scientific method. All we can see, we can see what are the sets of behaviour that we are seeing. So the behaviour that we are seeing in this case is very much of that world of command and control that is very divisive, so it's what we call more of that diplomat stage of development that is "us versus them", and that it is basically is, "You do as I say," with quite a bit of opportunistic behaviour, and in his case, kind of that expert ... I'm speaking in the language that not many people might be familiar with, but in developmental theory they have stages that in order to make them a little bit more understandable, they used particular names that try to point to what is the main theme of that stage, but at the same time they can be quite obscuring because it's not just the particular behaviour that people see.

                             So in this case you see that he believes he is right, everyone else is wrong, and that he will appeal to people who feel afraid and scared, and they need someone who appears to be confident and knows what he is doing, even if he doesn't really know, but he believes he does. You know, for the comfort, when we feel young and scared we look for strong leaders, those that appear strong. This is not a time for that, so talks about the adaptive leadership, and that is kind of when we don't know what it is because we haven't had examples. The world was not before as it is now, so to go and look for those examples of, "This is how we are to do this," we don't have it because we haven't had that experience. So for us individually as well as collectively, to create new ways of seeing and understanding, and probing, experimentation, to find what would be the new better way, more effective way to be in a world, to organise ourselves as societies and economies, is something that every each one of us in a way is going to be part of.

                             Some people believe, "Well, let them just do it, and then when they're done, then I'll join," but we knowingly or unknowingly in a way contributing to that. So we might as well consciously do what can we do, understand the self and the other and the situation, and do what we can in our series of real conversations within environment in which we are, to see what it is, how we all collectively going to create what this world is going to be like, if there is going to be the world. What are all the stakeholder of Mother Earth, and what we see as natural resources, actually seeing that rather than just as a resource, something that needs to be taken care of, so some reciprocity needs to take care of. Otherwise there will be no Earth to be taken care of.

Zoë:                     Absolutely.

Maja:                  It's an interesting time.

Zoë:                     It is very interesting times and that's one of the biggest issues we've got for sure, is how are we going to live lightly and well in congruence with our planet. So let's bring this back to practical immediate hemisphere, if you like. I know that you've been working with different organisations, and one organisation in particular, around their leadership, individual leaders as well as collectively in their culture. Can you tell us a little bit about the journey you've had with that organisation and how leadership maturity ideas and explorations has informed the development of both the people and the culture there?

Maja:                  Yeah, I have been very fortunate that I had a chance to work with one of the leaders for a long time to form mutual trust over a period of time, that he was willing to be open to the experimental and to allow me in a way to do some things that may not have been tested, and to be quite innovative in that context. A part of that was also to see how can we ... what can we do to actually affect the particular industry that may not be the best in terms of the ethics and the way how they were doing their business. So about five years ago, it in a way coincided with their desire to grow and develop, so we said, "Okay, if it is to grow and develop, then we have to create the conditions that will not just be to a few," because it was partnership who were entrepreneurs starting the business on their own.

                             That they on their own cannot do that, but that we need to develop a collective leadership that will be leading the changes that need to happen, and that part of that is developing the level of comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty, that you usually will have when you start to create and step into unknown waters. So because of the amount of disruptions and the changes that are happening, not just in this but in many different business domains, they in the beginning were kind of, "I'm not so sure what you're talking about because it wasn't as evident at the time," but fortunately they said, "Okay, let's give it a go."

                             So we started a long journey of developing both individual and collective capacities and capabilities of their leadership team, as well as the whole organisation, to design and co-create what their future vision would be, and what sort of values and beliefs they need to have in order to make it happen, and help them to see, "Okay, this is what we want, where it is that we are right now? Let's not fool ourselves but let's see realistically where it is that we stand, so that we see what it is possible right now with this next step." So over the five years, we had many trials and tribulations, many victories and many challenges, but overall it has been growth from that dependent, and conform, and command and control culture, towards independent achiever culture; and we are just now developing and strengthening more of that interdependent collaborator culture.

                             One of the thing that I hear all the time in the business is that what we need now is this agile and collaborative culture, and people that are able to do so. But it is very very difficult to do that. These are such advanced practices for us, that expecting that people will just do it is a little bit naïve. And also it opens the problems, if we believe we've got it and then we let them do it, and then we realise that it's not there. So whatever plan we have, it's not going to work, it’s not going to be married with the reality. So we knew that it's going to take time, and changing technology is much quicker and easier then actually changing our mindsets and capacities to change ourselves and transform. So luckily after a period of time and really steady devoted work on monthly group leadership, real conversations and sessions, and individual and working with both the actual rather than just the concepts, has enabled them to little bit by little bit big to really become ... to step out of what is the norm for their industry.

                             And a few of the people I spoke with were very chuffed when the young people come to join them, that they call them the ‘Google of the real estate’, since they kind of like that they are now perceived in the marketplace as different and more progressive and advanced. Part of that was literally sitting and holding the space for them to be both challenged and supported in making meaning, making sense of who they are and what the world is, and what it is that they want, as they work through real challenges and real innovative prototyping projects both with the products as well as the people, interactions and processes. Recently they just got elected into top 25 best places to work with in Australia, which kind of had a sweet ... or a sweetening taste for all the difficult yet really powerful work that they have done, so that there was some recognition and celebration, and they are to keep going.

                             But it is very much the work in which both individuals and them as a whole collective are working on being challenged and strengthened to see all the different systems that they are part of. To think differently, to ask different questions, to be able to be exposed to many different perspectives that they would not be exposed otherwise, and to stay in the grips of not understanding, and the conflict that arises so that actually better solution can arise from that, rather than going towards easy and known but may not be applicable to whatever is the demand from outside. And they, through that process, learned to trust themselves and each other much more, so that when you have the difficulties that arise, they are able to sail through the storms rather than sink with that. And through that to be less scared as the storms come, because they learned that they have a capacity to survive and then thrive afterwards.

                             A part of that was actually really working with both vertical and horizontal developmental techniques. Horizontal is the ones that we are all very familiar, learning more about who you are, what you leadership style and the type and strength is, as well as many different self-awareness techniques that we do already having in the market. As well as the vertical which is this what I was talking about, more being stretched to be in the situations that they're thinking that they could not be meeting the demand that they're having, and therefore being called to evolve. The classic Einstein, that the problems that we have created cannot be solved at the level of the consciousness that we have created them. So we need to evolve our consciousness.

                             So they very much been part of working with whatever the legacy of their industry and their own previous organisational leadership culture has been, and developing new ones. And in all of that, growing through in that vertical perspective as well, which is towards this more interdependent ... realising those interdependence. That in itself, sometimes we do not see how much we really all depend on each other, and it's not dependency that is the early, "Please take care of me because I can't do it myself," but it's not that independency, "Ah, I can do it on my own, I don't need anyone," but actually real understanding and humility to know that, "Actually, I cannot do this on my own, and neither can others. So we need each other, and I have both courage as well as humility to develop whatever wise judgement we need."

                             To step into unknown with others, be informed and get constant feedback through which we can adjust our actions and keep moving towards what matters to us. And again, not just matters to us individually or as organisation, but within that larger context. So they are now very much take care of the planet and educating themselves in terms of the environmental impact, and have all the recyclable bins and glass, reducing plastic, and doing what they can to be good citizens, not just corporate citizens but of this planet, to take care of it. So it's just a great joy to watch them as they're mostly in their 30s, some of them in their 40s.

Zoë:                     Wow.

Maja:                  Some of the in their 20s, how much they are stepping in and kind of creating whatever the platforms we need in the future for the younger generations, to do what are some of the things we messed up in those areas. So kind of standing on our shoulders with all the good stuff, but also helping clean up and clear up the things that we done with becoming so good in our productive ways that we have created a lot of damage and destruction as well. So we all learned how to clean up behind as well as not throw the baby with the bathwater, but also let the bathwater go and get a fresh more nourishing ways to be in the world.

Zoë:                     Yeah, what a fantastic journey.

Maja:                  I know, I am so ... I'm talking quite a lot, so I'm hoping that this is not going over people's heads.

Zoë:                     Don't worry. We'll put lots of references in the show notes, which people will find at zoerouth.com/podcast/coach. The show notes will be there and I'll put the links to different integral leadership theories so people can dive into the background, because I know we've just skimmed the surface in our reference to it in terms of vertical development, horizontal stages, which is quite extensive. I know, it takes you five days to unpack it all, at least in a program.

Maja:                  And I just realised five days is far too little as well, so it's interesting is while we do it, we realise that it actually needs much much more work. But it's great if you can put the references to some of the familiar work that Peter Senge has been doing for many many years around organisational learning and systems theories, and complexity theories and integral ... That would be very helpful for listeners to actually know what are the places to go and explore these very vast territories that can be helpful in times like this.

Zoë:                     Yes, absolutely, it is very complex and as you are discussing, the process by which this one particular organisation and team went through; that a lot of sitting and confronting and finding your way through greyness and confusion is not for everybody. Like I think about some of the organisations I work with, and those teams are so far from being anywhere near being able to have conversations that are that confronting. What are your tips to help people on that journey? Because it's one thing to get a leader who you've worked with and built some trust, and then created the conditions to start incorporating having those confronting conversations with his team. What about organisations and individual leaders who aren't necessarily in that context, what are your suggestions to help them explore the new territory, so to speak?

Maja:                  Yeah, that is very challenging, Zoë, and none of this theory, it's not a magic wand and a magic potion that one can give, but all one can do is start where one is, it's meeting people where they are, and actually as one measures what is the capacity of this particular organisation, doing step-by-step. This is really putting seeds and allowing them to germinate and then sprout and then grow. So depending what is the leadership maturity capacity of the leader or leadership team, the organisation that you as a consultant or coach joined, it will kind of determine what is possible for that organisation. One of the things that we teach in our own training workshops, how to use the developmental theory, is that you get quite familiar what are the strengths and what are the challenges of every particular developmental stage.

                             So if one understands that, then you can more tailor, sort of fit to the stage and look where the pain points are. So if you help them to have a little bit more awareness, space around understanding what their current challenges are, that that can give them the first step. If we create too big of a gap, it will lose them, but if we just make a little stretch, little pointers of giving a little bit larger perspective but not too large, on what their current challenges are, then that may create the conditions for step by step going in that direction. And it does, that's where this theory's powerful, we see that organisation who have more mature leaders, what we call the post-conventional, they are more likely to be capable of transformation and growth.

                             And the earlier stage, it's less likely unless it has a very powerful consultant who can then slowly find a ways how to stretch ... I'm saying that and as I'm saying, I'm thinking of the conditions. If it is larger corporate that has the board that has many different stakeholders that influence that, it will require much more than that. One of the reason why I have started working rather than with the large organisation, with the smaller, more privately owned entrepreneurial one, because you can do more because they're less limited sometimes with the shareholder structures, or the boards if the boards are not mature enough. And because they quite quickly change and therefore they will be more keen on short-term result rather than being willing to suspend short-term result for a long-term result.

                             So there are many contexts, what one can do is just really be informed by the developmental theory, and where are those in the system who are capable of that? They usually are people in the system, so how to highlight them and help them stand out in that leadership team so that people will pay more attention and listen to some of the comments that they will have, that they usually will not pay attention to because they would see them as less than, usually, rather than more than, in terms of their thinking and their ideas. So one of the example that I can give is that if you have one or two people within the system that actually has the capacity to do so, and they are leaders who do have a power and maybe are at the earlier stage, become aware of that, they start to respect them more and they give them more leeway, more space to actually start to lead, that they did not have a chance to do so before.

                             So you start with a first next step, which is giving awards to those that may have not had awards before, that deep respect, get to be heard more, and therefore make more effective decisions, and then you build on that. But the likelihood of very early organisational stage and early-stage leadership team to create a larger transformation would be quite difficult. And yet probably the failure that they will face will be something that will then stimulate possibly change, because if they tried all the different things that they would do and nothing succeeds, at some point you come to the place that people replace the leadership, either the leaders or the leadership team, and that hopefully more people will be now aware of this particular perspective.

                             And look how when they choose leaders, they choose that they have capacity for what's needed in that organisational system. If system is stable, no problem, just keep going with what it is, but if it is not stable and if it is in the midst of these changes when all these disruptions are happening, and then they don't majorly change their way of doing what the business that they're doing, that they might just become obsolete. The cold dark moments, as they're called, when you do not actually pay attention to the weak signals that are ... and sometimes they're quite strong but people still don't want to pay attention, then their business will collapse and then that will become, I suppose, the fertilizer for something else that might rise and grow from there. It's a bigger picture that we can step back and see that maybe that's all part of the cycle.

Zoë:                     I agree-

Maja:                  Maybe not very practical, so sorry.

Zoë:                     No, it's metaphysical and big picture, and it's about making meaning from what the individual is going through. I think the key premise is first the awareness to be able to see the landscape and to see the dynamics of what's going on, is probably the first critical thing. So the leaders that I work with, I help show them how they can read the landscape, whatever stage of development they're at, is to help give them the tools to see the dynamics of what's going on, and then to show up and be agents, and be able to take actions with agency, I should say, in their own life and their organisation, is kind of the first feeding I guess ... if you want to use that language and that metaphor ... the feeding of growth in their own world, and also sometimes in their organisation. Though I think you would also agree that sometimes very aware leaders will butt their heads up against the wall, and if the leadership and the context doesn't shift, it's best that they go elsewhere so that they can grow and thrive. Would you agree with that?

Maja:                  Yeah, yeah, and I think that it's brilliant what you said, that there is a lot of these very practical tools that can be used, as you say, as the first feeding, for them to get a larger perspective and different perspective to what they were looking at. And then you start to grow from that, so the power of having leadership coaches and coaching in general, it's invaluable to be able to have these different perspective, and someone to both support and challenge you appropriately, so thanks God for Zoë.

Zoë:                     I would say thank God for Maja. I know you've been very helpful to me in my own growth over the last many years in terms of showing up and exploring many many many layers of who we are and how we can interact with the world. So I wanted to thank you for that, Maja.

Maja:                  And I thank you, and you know, what you said, with all of this, what helps the most is really having compassion and understanding for people wherever is it that they are in their stages, so that we don't get angry with the rain and clouds because that's their nature, but actually seeing what are the conditions that we can create to over time change that. But being frustrated and angry and wanting it to be something else, it's not going to help. So how to compassion and understanding people wherever is it that they are, and yet put our hands, including Donald Trump of this world, as difficult as it may be; what is it that we can do to actually rather than build and deepen the gaps, how can we start building the bridges in between these sometimes smaller gaps and sometimes large gaps? So that together ... because none of us can do it on our own ... how can we together keep doing what we need to do to make this world a better place?

Zoë:                     Maja, I think that's probably a beautiful way to end. I love it. So showing up with compassion rather than anger and frustration, I think is one of the biggest lessons we can take from many many things that are going on around the world. So thank you for that, and thank you for your time this afternoon. I really appreciated it, and have a great trip to Europe.

Maja:                  Thank you. Yes, I'm going to go and take care of my daddy who is now needing a lot of taking care of. Thank you, you're so sweet. And thank you, thank you for spreading the word, and go back to the ski slopes and enjoy that.

Zoë:                     I will, thanks Maja.