Leading Transformation From Within

An organization cannot evolve beyond the level of consciousness of its leaders.


Most of us are experiencing rapid change in our world. Whether it is career uncertainty, relationship challenges or disruptions and advancements in technology, the result is an undercurrent of overwhelm. In addition, outdated ways of thinking and leading do not address the level of interdependence and complexity we currently face. To address these challenges, our consciousness needs to shift, and we need to be open to managing change in an integral way that focuses on both internal and external transformation.

Organizational change efforts fall short when personal and cultural change are left out of the equation. A solid strategy is not sufficient. To be successful, we must attend to the three dimensions of business:

  • IT — achieving exceptional results
  • WE — embodying the best of the organizational culture
  • I — allowing for full expression of each individual’s gifts and talents

Corporations tend to focus least on the “I” dimension or development of the individual’s inner world. However, cultural transformation begins with personal transformation. For the system to evolve, people have to evolve.

Human consciousness grows through a series of stages. Robert Kegan, author and professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education, and Lisa Lahey, advisory board member of Axialent, are the leaders in this research and theory. There are three stages of adult development including the socialized mind, self-authoring mind and self-transforming mind.

  • Socialized mind: The self is defined from the outside in and succeeds by acting within socially prescribed roles. Leaders at this level typically lack the capability of broadly sharing power.
  • Self-authoring mind: The self follows its own path, and action becomes an expression of inner purpose. Leaders at this level begin to share power.
  • Self-transforming mind: The self engages with shadow side and parts that have been ignored or not developed with curiosity and compassion. Leaders at his level become community oriented with a focus on sustainability and common good.

As the leader transforms into a higher version of himself or herself, the system and culture of the organization can transform as well. The evolution of both the leader and system is interdependent. The organization cannot evolve to a higher stage of consciousness than the leadership. Until the system organizes at a new level, it delays the development of people in the system.

What is it that allows us to operate more consistently at a higher stage of development? Practices do. Practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery of body, mind, heart and soul as well as dialogue are key to transformation. Without practices, shifts from stage to stage are less likely to happen.


Research strongly suggests that practices such as meditation accelerate the stages of development. Meditation is one way to cultivate mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being aware of or bringing our attention to this moment in time, deliberately and without judging the experience. When we are overwhelmed and stressed, the higher order executive functions of our brains literally shut down. Critical decision-making reverts to the more primitive and reactive brain centers, and we go on autopilot to cope.

Neuroplasticity is a process by which we train our minds and change our brains. What this means is that we can cultivate qualities and states of mind through mindless habit or intentional discipline. Through repeated practice, we can measurably reshape and rewire our brains. In as little as two weeks of a disciplined mindfulness practice, there are measurable changes in the number of connections between neurons and the thickness of portions of the brain related to increased self-awareness, greater self-mastery and higher mental processing. These potentials are only realized if we have the discipline to engage in the inner work to develop the neural connectivity.

4D Self-mastery: Body + Mind + Heart + Soul

Our human potential includes a range of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities. As we move through the stages of development, each of these aspects are developed and ultimately brought into balance. When we are young, our primary focus is body intelligence. In adolescence, emotional intelligence emerges. As we move into the socialized mind, we tend to focus less on our bodily and emotional intelligence and begin to favor rational capacities. Developing higher stages requires we reclaim our bodily and emotional intelligence valuing gut and heart.

So what is spiritual intelligence? It is a way of seeing and acting that focuses on doing the tough work of transforming body, heart, mind and soul. It is the practice of transformation itself.

If you are interested in assessing yourself in each dimension, download the 4D self-mastery assessment. This will give you an idea of what you are doing well and where you could focus your attention: 4d-self-mastery-assessment


While individual transformation is essential for organizational transformation, we still need to find ways to work together so we can create higher order systems. Dialogue is a key tool for being in higher order relationships and accessing the deep wisdom that is in the collective. It is a means for both personal and collective transformation.

Dialogue practice involves suspending judgment, listening deeply, and balancing advocacy and inquiry. These are skills we teach as authentic communication. These can be practiced in 1:1 coaching, mentoring and team conversations. People share their truth and listen to the experience of others. Through dialogue, assumptions and beliefs have a chance of being exposed and reexamined in service of creating a higher order system.

Albert Einstein once said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Our task as leaders is raising consciousness. Choice follows awareness, and your choice has the power to transform. Through practices such as mindfulness, self-mastery and dialogue, we can lead transformation from within.

What is your current development goal?

Mindfulness: The Path to Leadership

463300_26143722Mindfulness in leadership is becoming quite trendy.  I have been receiving Google alerts on mindful leadership for the past few years and I am excited to see an increase in interest and commitment to mindfulness practices by organizations.  Why is mindfulness getting so much attention and how can it help you lead?

Jon-Kabat Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center defines mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way; on purpose,
in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.   I believe the interest in mindfulness is increasing because of the lasting physical and psychological benefits experienced by those who regularly practice.  There are over 10,000 research papers now available on the subject and what once was seen by many as “woo-woo” or “out there” is finding its way into the mainstream.  Companies such as General Mills, Google, Apple, Astra Zeneca, Aetna and others have implemented mindfulness programs. Continue reading “Mindfulness: The Path to Leadership”

6 Beliefs about Leadership that Can Change the World

Change the world.I recently completed an intensive 10-month leadership development program. Once a quarter, 24 people from all over the world would come together for a week of experiential learning at a retreat center in Asheville, NC. During this journey, there were plenty of breakdowns, breakthroughs and even a broken finger.

When people hear the word leadership development, they often think of managers and executives receiving training. Certainly this can be the case and still I believe there is another way to think about this. I chose this training program over many others because I believe everyone is a leader and with this perspective we can change the world for the better. Imagine everyone in your organization recognizing their capacity to lead and realizing that leadership is not based on positional authority. What would be possible?

Continue reading “6 Beliefs about Leadership that Can Change the World”

Dare to Care: How Compassion Impacts the Bottom-line

Compassionate leadershipBecky’s frustration grew as she watched Joan blow up in her office yet again. Becky had served as the Director of Sales for a successful pharmaceutical company for the past six years and struggled with her relationship with her Sales Manager, Joan. Careful to not say anything that would trigger Joan, Becky began to hold back in their conversations and avoided meeting with Joan altogether.

“Not again.” Becky thought. “It seems that every time I meet with Joan she gets upset when I ask her a tough question or I disagree with her position. This is driving me crazy!  How can we work like this?”

Continue reading “Dare to Care: How Compassion Impacts the Bottom-line”

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