The desire to lead comes naturally to many but the ability to lead is a whole different story. What makes one able to lead? How can you be certain that you should lead? And how does a leader`s mind work? We are about to embark on a journey where articles like this one will be our train stations, in the attempt to answer some of these questions and unlock the secrets of evolutionary leadership. This will be part of a much greater conversation, the one about employee engagement. How and what motivates employees seems to be the Holy Grail for any leader. But If we ask Richard Barrett, the father of „evolutionary leadership” things are not that blurry anymore.

The Seven Stages of Psychological Development

We all grow and evolve through seven different psychological development stages. Each stage of development requires satisfying a certain set of needs to advance further. The first three stages are focused on satisfying our basic needs: survival, belonging and self-esteem. Stages four and five focus on our primary growth needs – individuation and self-actualization and stages six and seven focus on satisfying our secondary growth needs – integration and service to society. Once a need is satisfied we can move on to the next psychological development stage.

The 3 mind types & how they link to employee engagement

In the book „Immunity to change” Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow, professors at Harvard, state that the seven psychological development stages have three growth levels. Basically, we can separate the human mind in three major types: the socialised mind, the self-authoring mind and the self-transformative mind. As we grow and evolve psychologically, our socialised mind moves to the self-authoring one and, ultimately, to the self-transformative mind. Each change represents an advance in awareness and complexity of thought, as each of the three minds has different motivations and tendencies, in a strong relationship with corresponding levels of work complexity. In order to build a high performing organisation, with a high level of employee engagement, a leader needs to understand how each of the three mind types work.

Understanding what motivates employees you get how they get involved and by understanding what gets them involved you find out what engages them. Ultimately, employee engagement is the key to great performance. So, if you want to build a truly performing organization you need to develop a deep understanding of what motivates your employees and how you can deliver what they are looking for. Generally, what people look for is based on two main factors: the psychological development stage the person is in and what their current life circumstances ask of them. In our articles about evolutionary leadership we will focus on the stages of psychological development, as the second factor is purely relative from one person to another. We will dive in what motivates and inspires employees, guided by Richard Barrett`s teachings, founder and chairman of the Barrett Values Centre.

In the next episode, we will go through the inner workings of the socialised mind, what motivates it and what makes it react in certain contexts. Until then, we are curious in what stage of development you feel like you are right now in your life. We also invite you to exercise guessing in what stage relatives, friends or colleagues around are. We promise the „a-ha!” moment is guaranteed. You can also take the Full Spectrum Leadership Assessment, to see how your leadership style aligns with the seven stages described above.


Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Laurentiu Horubet

Founder & Consultant @ Let's — Talk | Leadership Consultancy