E36 - How To Evolve Your Leadership Maturity

The organisation is limited by the development of its leader. If your business is going to grow, you do too!

We look at:

  • A brief overview of leadership maturity stages
  • 3 key requirements you need for development to occur
  • Strategies to shift your action logic in their major developmental stages

Bonus Notes:

The Big Ideas Summit

Search Inside Yourself by Chade Meng Tang

Leadership Maturity Stages  


Zoë Routh:         Hi, this is Zoe and this is episode number 36 - How to Evolve Your Leadership Maturity. Let's get going with this one.

Speaker 2:          Welcome to the Zoe Routh Leadership podcast, your source of strategies and insights to make you a better leader. Influence, improve, inspire.

Zoë Routh:         Welcome, and happy 4th of July for this week for our American listeners. Happy Canada Day for my fellow Canadians on the 1st of July, which is also my birthday, so good on you, Canada. I'm delighted to share a birthday with you. What's interesting about these national days this year is that my Facebook feed was remarkably absent of patriotic vitriol from either country. There was a few Canadian flags wandering about, but I had virtually nothing on Independence Day from the Americans. What's up with that, America? Are you maturing or are you shifting or what's going on? Normally, you're the most patriotic bunch of us all, so I'm curious about that.

                             In any case, there's a lot going on in this corner of the woods, this corner of the woods, this corner of the planet, lots going on in Inner Compass land. Next week, we have a special webcast I'm replaying. Not replaying, but I'm doing it again. The webcast is called Association Leaders: How to Stay Relevant and Strive in a Competitive Environment. A couple things that we're going to be looking at are three critical mistakes to avoid when it comes to leading an industry association. I do a lot of work with associations and the bigger commodities I often work with and I've seen what works and what doesn't when it comes to customer engagement and membership engagement. It works for the little associations, as well as the big ones.

                             I think a lot of the stuff that we'll cover on this webcast are also relevant to other businesses, even if you're not an association, particularly when we're going to be looking at consumer trends and what to do about them, so some pretty good, juicy, business-service-related ideas in that webcast. All you need to do is go to my website, zoerouth.com, click on events, and you'll find the webcast registration page there. Yup, it's going to be recorded, so if you can't make it live, which is too bad because it's over lunch and it's kind of a fun way to spend your lunch, it will be recorded and you will get that as a resource for you and your team.

                             You know what else is happening in the month of July? Lots. We are launching Leadership Over Lunch in Brisbane, so we're taking Leadership Over Lunch to Brissie on July 25th. If you're a Brisabanite or if you're in Brisbane on the 25th of July, a Tuesday, come and sign up for Leadership Over Lunch. Just go to meetup.com, search Leadership Over Lunch Brisbane and you'll find us there. Come and join us. I've got two fellows already, maybe more, actually, signed up already offline, so don't be intimidated by being what looks like to be the first to sign up. I want to meet you, so come and meet me and we'll catch up then.

                             Leadership Over Lunch is happening next week in Canberra. That's our regular monthly shindig. We've been operating for about a year and a half now. Nice diverse bunch of leaders. New people have come every month. Our topic this month is disruption. Yeah. What are the things that are going to upend us? We'll have a conversation about that. What about this whole kerfuffle around Amazon? Is that the thing or is it driver-less cars? Is that thing or is it exponential technologies and renewables going to take over the planet and kill off the energy economy? These are the kinds of conversations we have at Leadership Over Lunch. Love to hear from you.

                             What else? Two more things. Oh, July 20th we have a half day workshop here in Canberra, Leadership Skills for Industry Association Executive, so if that's you, if you work in association or part of one, come along. You get to meet other folks in different industries running associations. I think one of the best ways that you can get a lot out of the event is actually learning from each other, so diversity is a key principle I like to put in my events and all of my programs. We're going to set you up so you can meet some other folks and make the most of the day. Not only will you learn scintillating leadership information from moi, you will also get to learn it from your colleagues. That's happening here in Canberra July 20th. You can find that on the event page at the website.

                             Later on this month, just before the Brisbane Leadership Over Lunch, I'm speaking in Toowoomba. I think I pronounced it correctly. I always want to say Toowoomba. I think that's wrong. Toowoomba. It is the Big Idea Summit. Now, this event attracts 350-odd business owners. It's cool. There is some big picture business thinking and strategy and leadership stuff happening at the Big Idea Summit in Toowoomba on the 24th of July. That's Monday. That would be cool to see you there. I'm really looking forward to this event. The event hosts are doing a great job of organizing it. They're doing stuff a little bit differently and I love that. It should be a good and rewarding time.

                             All right. What I'm reading these days, I just finished this great book by Chade-Meng Tan. He is known as the Jolly Good Fellow at Google. Yes, that is his title. He's an engineer, I think. One of the things he did in his 20% Google time is he started to implement a mindfulness program. That became a whole program that they rolled out at Google called Search Inside Yourself, initially called that tongue-in-cheek and then it's just taken off, so that's the name of the book, Search Inside Yourself. It's really awesome. It's a practical handbook for both mindfulness, meditation, and it's linked to emotional intelligence. Yes, it is a very pragmatic, practical tool and it's got Daniel Goleman doing an intro piece in it, too, so it incorporates a lot of Goleman's work on emotional intelligence and how you can use mindfulness and meditation to integrate with that. Yes, very good book. I recommend it. The link to that book you can find on the podcast show notes page, which is zoerouth.com/podcast/mature. Yeah, that's the slug for today, mature.

                             All right. Leading into this podcast for today, one of the things I've been pondering is and it came on my birthday. I had an amazing birthday and didn't do anything totally wild and over the top. I just woke up. It was a beautiful, sunny winter's day here in Canberra. I just had this amazing experience of just being fulfilled, happy, and content with everything in my world. I zoomed out and had to think about everything that had contributed to this moment, the way that I'm experiencing my life, the things that I've experienced across the last 40-something odd years, 47 years. Can't believe that. I just felt this great, deep, inner sense of gratitude and peace. I thought this is awesome. I want to feel this way all the time because I had this huge sense of expansion and being anchored at the same time. All my petty, individual, immediate concerns of the individual month, week, whatever seemed to just dissolve and had a different perspective on that.

                             The question I'm pondering is can you stay in that state perpetually and should you? Is it a good thing to stay in that state? It sounds like an addiction to cocaine where you just feel awesome all the time. Is that realistic? Is it even desired because without the contrast of pain, you don't really get to appreciate those moments. I'm going to ponder this some more. I'm going to talk to my spiritual guru today, this afternoon, and I'll come back to you on that one. That's what I'm pondering. Love to know what you think. Send me an email, zoe@innercompass.com.au if you have an experience of living in bliss perpetually. Love to hear about that. 

                             Okay. We're talking about how to evolve your leadership maturity. There's a couple things we're going to go through with that. First of all, what the heck is leadership maturity. That sounds very pompous or parental or something. It comes from a lot of developmental theorists' work that's happened over the last 20-odd years from different developmental theorists, including Clare Graves, Jane Loevinger, Susanne Cook-Greuter, the work in spiral dynamics and Don Beck, Bill Torbert's work in action inquiry. All of these theorists and professionals had this similar concept or correlating concept that people's worldview, how they see themselves, how they see the world and their action logic, meaning how they take action in the world, can actually shift and evolve over time depending on their context.

                             There are common stages that people go through. There's many things that are interesting about these theories is that one of the key principles is that we tend to evolve and transcend and include our previous stages. Wherever we're at, our way of thinking and being, we take it with us. It's not like you finish one stage and you go on to the next. You always have that sense of that perspective, that way of being inside us. You can turn to that and use it in different context where it's appropriate.

                             It's a fabulous, fabulous theory and it's incredibly useful to us as leaders because when we know what stage we're at and possibly what stages other people around us are at, we can then be more versatile in how we connect with other people, how we explain things, how we set up projects, how we manage people to help them be more effective. It's incredibly remarkable.

                             It also helps us to make sense of what we're thinking and feeling because as we evolve, when we go through a stage transition, it's really disconcerting. It's discombobulating, one of my favourite words. It's discombobulating because our sense of reality and who we are changes. All of a sudden, what we thought of the world and what we thought of ourselves changes and we realize oh, I didn't know everything I thought that I did. Maybe I was doing things not that well and there could be a better way, which means I haven't been as good as I thought I was. That's kind of a painful awakening and a painful awareness, so growth can be painful. It's opening up the lens onto yourself.

                             The metaphor I use is it's kind of like seeing a video of yourself. Most people go, "Oh, don't like seeing myself on camera." Yeah, it can be quite confronting because as you see yourself on camera, you're like, "Oh, wow. Do I really talk like that? Do I really look like that? Look at my posture. I thought I was skinnier." Whatever it is for you. Not saying that's me. It can be like, "Oh, I thought I was different." Then you go through this experience of self-awareness and you realize hmm, what I thought of myself isn't necessarily the reality and is there a gap that I want to traverse with that. Do I want to bridge the gap of how I perceive myself or is there a different way of perceiving myself? What can I do to bridge that?

                             We're going to look at some of the critical stages that I experience as a coach with my clients that are pretty significant transition periods. First though, what you need to know about what you need in order to go through a developmental shift. By the way, I will put links on the show notes page about the theories, so if you want to go and do a bit of a deep dive into that, a deeper dive, you can go and have a look. The show notes are at zoerouth.com/podcast/mature. I don't know why that word makes me giggle, but there you go.

                             All right. The things that you need in order to develop. There's three major conditions. One is that there needs to be a need to develop because we often evolve in our context. What I mean by that is that we are environmental beings. We live and work and operate within particular contexts. All of us on the planet have very different contexts, so the people living in Sudan have a very different context than the people living in Toowoomba. There might be some similarities, like all of us need to eat and sleep. However, how we eat and how we sleep can be radically different, as an example, in those two different environments. Our environment and our context shapes our perspective and, therefore, how we engage and take action in that context. Hence, the starting point for shifts in leadership maturity.

                             If you have a change in context, like you get promoted or you move to a different organization or to a different city or to a different country, it can rattle your cage and you might need to think and behave differently as a result. Sometimes, this is a developmental shift. Sometimes it's just a change of habit. That's the first thing you need is a need to change because honestly, development is not necessarily a mandate. You don't need to develop, necessarily.

                             There's lots of benefits to developing. I think that's also worth noting is that when you grow and expand your leadership maturity, your action logic, and your worldview, it gives you more versatility to respond and be effective in more complex contexts. In other words, in plain English, it gives you more opportunities to be a more effective leader at different levels of influence. If you wanted to be an effective, influential leader in your sector, it's very useful to have an evolved leadership maturity stage because you'll be able to respond well to different stakeholders, to different complex challenges, and you'll be able to serve your purpose, your leadership purpose in that context better. That's the thing.

                             A need is one of the key things you need. The second thing you need in your development as a leader has ... Blah. There's always at least one time in a podcast where I go blah and the tongue goes [inaudible 00:15:34]. The second thing that you need for development of leadership maturity is a willingness to do the work. Since it is confronting and since you put this mirror up with a video camera on, it can be a little painful to discover that what you thought was the ideal or the right thing to do is not necessarily the right thing to do or the most effective way to do things and that maybe the way that you were behaving was a little offensive, potentially sometimes or less than ideal. It could be better, in other words.

                             If things could be better, the corollary ... Oh, that's a tough word for me today. The side thing, the side thing related to things could be better or I could be better is that I'm not that good right now. That's often where people jump to self-judgment and they berate themselves for who they are to date. That's the thing. You only know as much as you know until you know that there's more to know. That's a difficult self-awareness piece. I don't think it serves us at all to beat ourselves up for being not as evolved as we are now.

                             The willingness to do the work is a critical factor in being able to shift and evolve because you've got to learn about yourself and you've got to learn new ways of being and thinking. It's not necessarily unnatural, but it can feel uncomfortable because it's new. It's like moving from driving a Volvo stick shift to driving a Ferrari.  I'm not sure that's the best analogy because driving a Ferrari, I'm not sure if driving a Ferrari is excellent or not. Never driven a Ferrari. I can imagine it's excellent. There'll be differences. Driving my 1970s Volvo was a pretty full-bodied experience. I imagine that driving a Ferrari would be equally full-bodied in a completely different way.

                             In any case, the point is, putting on a new worldview is weird at first, so you got to learn that piece. You got to have a need to shift, a willingness to do the work, and the third thing that's helpful for you in your development is the support to go through the stage of development because it can be a lonely road, particularly in the later stages of development of maturity because there's fewer and fewer people at the later stages. The cultural ceiling around leadership maturity is shifting, so there is much more of a global consciousness and global awareness and global citizenship that is moving our collective leadership maturity along the evolutionary journey. Yet, there are not as many people recognizable at those stages as there are at the more conventional stages. Yeah, it can be lonely, so support and having somebody who's been there, done that, or who's at a later stage of development than you can help normalize and make sense of what's going on for you.

                             Let's look at some examples of some classic developmental challenges. One of the key ones I get with my coaching and it was more my early days of coaching. I think it was just reflective of where I was at and also the best clients I could serve back then, like 15 years ago, and often, the key challenge that I get with clients who wanted coaching with me one-on-one about 10 to 15 years ago is that I'd ask them, "What's your key challenge? What do you want to get out of the coaching?" They'd say, "I want to be more confident." You know what? The desire to be more confident shows up in different ways across every leader in any role, though those who really struggle with confidence, that's their key barrier, not just a side one, it's at a particular stage of leadership maturity.

                             Often, I see it when someone is wanting to move from the diplomat stage to the expert stage. Now, if you're not familiar with those terms, doesn't matter. I'll just explain a little bit. The diplomat stage of our development is when we want to fit in. It's when we realize that being part of a group, a club, a tribe, a social entity is actually a really good thing to be part of because it gives us a sense of safety, a sense of community, a sense of support, and it's really valuable to us. The diplomat stage of development is all about fitting in, following the rules, and being one of the group.

                             At one part of our stage of leadership maturity, these are the early, conventional stages, we work out that you know what? It's good to be part of the group and I've got an idea to share. I've got a perspective to share and I need to speak up. I don't have the confidence, necessarily, to do that, to stand on my own two feet, and I want to develop that confidence. This is often what clients would come to me with. It's like, "I want to develop the confidence to be able to participate more fully, to be a contributing member."

                             The stage that you're starting to edge towards is called the expert stage. The expert stage of development is when you develop a body of knowledge, a specialty, a body of expertise, if you like. That's why it's called expert stage. Your identity, our identity is related to our body of experience and knowledge. We start to feel a sense of self based on what we know and based on what we know and our sense of self and sense of confidence comes through that. We then take the very courageous move of being able to put our hand up and say, "I've got a perspective on this. I've got something to say about that." We challenge the status quo. It's an incredibly important stage of leadership development because it takes courage. It takes courage to stand out from the crowd, to put your head above your social group and say, "I challenge the status quo. I've got a different idea than that," and especially in Australia with the tall poppy syndrome. This can be rife for execution, if you like. It is a pretty difficult one.

                             How do we actually develop confidence? How do we move through this stage? When I'm working with clients, the first thing that we do is a couple key things. I call it self-mastery. It's the foundations of self-mastery. Couple key things that we focus on are self-care. This is universal across all the stages. No matter what stage of development you're at, self-care is always a key premise. You can't do anything unless you have enough energy to do it, so self-care gets some extra special attention. That means nutrition, exercise, sleep, how you look after yourself. Where are you on your priority list?

                             The second piece I cover with self-mastery is boundaries. How are you interacting with others? How do you allow other people to interact with you? What's acceptable standards of engagement with you? Most often, people with low self-confidence need to strengthen their boundaries with folks. The third piece that we do is raising standards in terms of standards of your own behaviour, of your own expectations of your environment, the kind of clothes that you wear, how you treat your body, how you treat your belongings. All that gets elevated.

                             The deeper introspective piece, we do a values journey, so we explore who we are to date, how we got here, and what's important to us. That forms the inner compass, hence, my business name, forms the inner compass to help guide the individual through difficult decisions. When it comes to speaking up, they've got the energy. They've looked after themselves. They feel more confident because people are behaving better towards them. They're looking after themselves well. They are able to speak up. That's the developmental stage number one that I often see is going through from diplomat to expert.

                             Here's a second scenario. The symptom or sign of somebody going through developmental stage, and you might be familiar with this one, is they turn up asking for support through coaching with this key challenge, and that is overwork, exhaustion. Burnout is looming. They're just frenetic. They're highly successful. They've achieved many goals. They've had number of promotions. It just doesn't feel sustainable. When they come to work with me, they go, "There's got to be a better way." They're feeling challenged by the self-sacrifice they've had, etc.

                             How do we help them go through this developmental shift? By the way, it's kind of at the ceiling of the achiever stage, which is the stage that comes after expert. The achiever stage is when we work out how to set goals and work towards them on our own and with others. It's the great emotional intelligence development that happens at this stage. Some of the key things to help us get through and master this stage are around values prioritization. Whereas at diplomat expert we looked at values and we determined what they were, it becomes even more important at consolidating achiever and moving to the next stage, that we prioritize that. What are the key values and how do we make decisions based on that in our bigger, longer term picture?

                             The skills of emotional intelligence, as I mentioned, are also critical here, how we communicate, how we influence, how we delegate. This is going to be the critical factor in getting stuff off our plate. Too often, when we are expert moving into achiever is that we hang on to doing all the tasks because at expert, we're building our expertise through doing. At achiever, we get our sense of success through accomplishing goals and the successful achievers do this with others, not just on their own. If they're doing it too much on their own, it means they're not delegating. They're not empowering the people around them. They're not building up the capacity of those around them. This is a critical skillset to develop.

                             The other key piece to moving through this stage is oh, yeah, self-care. Self-care bumps up the chain of importance again, particularly as you're facing burnout. It's often when people have a burnout type of experience and for me, it was a wake-up call of cancer, thank you very much, burnout. That's a time to reassess what's most important and how you're managing yourself and your life. I always say do not let it get to a critical illness before you decide to make a change. The smart folks, the ones who aren't so bloody-minded and bullish in their opinions and focus, like me, work this out sooner rather than later. If you feel like you're going down the overwork, burnout path, great opportunity to launch into a shift in development and you do these mastery pieces here.

                             The third scenario, which is the other key developmental shift that I work with often with folks is after having gone through the burnout re-evaluation and re-prioritization and getting back on track and feeling like you're in control again and you're hitting milestone after milestone, goal after goal, promotion after promotion, you get to this thing where you have this realization or this question come up that is is this all there is? Really? Is this what life is all about? It's about promotions and goals and things and stuff? There's this sense of emptiness that burns people up when they're in this tipping point into the transition from achiever into the stage known as individualist or pluralist.

                             I want to tell you a story about a client that I met who was immersed in this stage when I first met him. Let's call him James, not his real name. I remember having this conversation with him in a group program. He was sort of frustrated and exhausted. He said, "I just want to know, I just want to know how do I do happy? That's what I need from this course. I need to know how to do happy. What do I need to do to do happy?" I looked at him and I said, "James, you don't do happy. You be happy." He remembers this moment like he had been hit with a ton of bricks. It was one of those massive thing moments where the penny dropped for him and he realized happiness was not another thing to put on his to-do list, which is achiever mentality. It's like wow. I don't actually need to do stuff in order to be happy and that being happy is actually a matter of focus, a matter of experience.

                             I love this. I love that story because it marks a critical shift in his development. He started to explore this idea of if I want to be happy, how do I experience happiness? How do I set things up in my life differently? What else is there to be, do, and have? I don't need to set another set of objectives in this one. It's a game of exploration. This is symptomatic of the individualist stage, where all of a sudden, we go from black and white linear thinking, set a goal, achieve it, to the world is my oyster. It is not black and white. It's grey. It's rainbows. I can try any number of different things and it often sparks this great exploration of things that you can experience in the world. Sometimes people quit their job. Sometimes people start taking dance lessons or art classes or listening to different books or exploring spirituality. They start to be excited to learn about other worldviews and other perspectives because their own worldview had served them only so long and they found themselves down a tunnel of malaise at the best of things and deep frustration and angst at the worst side of things. It's a pretty exciting phase to be in.

                             What to do if you find yourself there asking those penultimate questions is get really excited about opportunity. Go on a trip to somewhere where you've never gone before. Start doing things differently and discover what they have to offer. Interview people. Now, that sounds very formal. Talk to people that you wouldn't normally talk to. Go into a news agent and pick up a magazine you would never pick up and wonder about it. Just be curious.

                             What happens from a leadership point of view is that you start leading with questions instead of answers. This is a pretty significant thing because you start to become aware of the value of other people's perspective, so you invite perspective instead of just canvassing it. What that means is that you invite perspective because you want to open up your own ideas, as opposed to just picking and choosing different ideas that will serve your interest. It's a very cool stage of development.

                             All right, folks. Those are the three scenarios to be more confident, which is symbol of diplomat to expert. Overwork is a sign of consolidating and getting to the end and edge of your achiever stage and asking the question is this all there is, a key shifting point into the post-conventional stages of leadership maturity. I'd love to get your comments on this. I would love it. Also, if you left a review on iTunes to boost the ratings of the show, so more people can listen to this really cool stuff. In the meantime, live well, lead well.