Transforming Leadership Series Part 2: The Lowest Levels of Managerial Skill

Last week I gave you the list of the seven levels of transformation of leaders according to Bill Torbert (Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership).

This week we will look at the two elementary levels of leadership.

The Opportunist: 
People who manage people from this perspective do not last long as leaders unless they change. They live in a world of immediate gratification without a vision for the future. Their motives are to get ahead in the immediate situation and view luck as central to their success. Rules are seen as ways to thwart their progress, feedback is not appreciated and emotional control often absent.

What to learn:

  • To look beyond the present
  • To stop dreaming and start learning and improving as a strategy for success
  • To understand the purpose of the business as well as the policies that support the values of the business
  • To test assumptions by stating them and asking if your assumptions are correct

The Diplomat:
Torbert found that 80% of front line managers were at this level of leadership.

They typically thrive in a structured environment with policies and procedures to adhere to and to limit conflict. Their motivation is to be accepted and to save face. Criticism is taken very hard as having let others down, so the ethic here is to please the boss.

What to learn:

  • To overcome the inner critic
  • That failure is a learning opportunity
  • To test your own perspectives and your understanding of others’ perspectives
  • To offer options for action and illustrate how you see the situation to clarify it for others
  • Don’t take feedback personally, focus on the outcomes

I help leaders transform into exceptional leaders by increasing awareness of where they are and where they want to go, taking them beyond current beliefs and practices.


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