Transforming Leaders. More than Meets the Eye!


A Harvard Business Review article titled, The Seven Transformations of Leadership (Rooke & Torbert, 2005) stated that leaders develop “internal action logics” which are used to assess and interpret different situations. The authors stated,”leaders are made not born”,  so understanding how leaders develop this internal  “logic” is an important part of leadership development and organizational change efforts. Based on a 36 question survey tool, Rooke and Torbert (2005) identified 7 dominant ways of thinking (ranked below from least effective to ideal). If you find yourself responding using less effective logic, all is not lost…according to the Researchers, leaders can actually transform between action logics!

  1. The Opportunist -Opportunists, focus on trying to control the world around them and as leaders are the least productive and effective. Often characterized by mistrust, egocentrism, and manipulativeness. Opportunists, are commonly seen as being out for themselves and their reactions are largely based on whether or not they control the outcomes.
  2. The Diplomat: Diplomats concentrate on controlling their own behaviour. As leaders they focus attention on pleasing higher-status colleagues while avoiding conflict. This action logic focuses on gaining control of their own behaviour and doing their job well—more so than controlling events or other people.  A diplomat will seek acceptance and influence through group cooperation. Diplomats focus on group cohesion and are most commonly found in Junior management positions and are least effective in top management because of their avoidance of conflict.
  3. The Expert:  Experts try to exercise control by perfecting their knowledge, both in their professional and personal lives. They focus on developing watertight thinking and use hard data and logic in their efforts to gain consensus and buy-in. Experts are great individual contributors because of their pursuit of continuous improvement, efficiency, and perfection but are less effective as managers because they are less open to other perspectives and ideas.
  4. The Achiever:  Achievers aim to create a positive environments with focus on deliverables. They demonstrate more complex thinking than the three previous logics and are open to new perspectives, ideas and feedback that they use to interpret their world. Achievers can creatively transform or resolve conflict and are known to easily balance immediate and long-term objectives. Achievers and Experts have been known to clash.
  5. The Individualist: The Individualist recognizes that all constructions of self and the world are created. Individualist leaders focus on understanding different perspectives and communicating with other action logics. Achievers are aware of a the possibility of conflicts between principles, values and actions and leverage the tension to create, grow and develop new opportunities. Individualists are often described as unique or unconventional and tend to ignore rules they regard as irrelevant often raising eyebrows of bosses and colleagues.
  6. The Strategist: Strategists focus on organizational constraints and perceptions, to achieve  actions and agreements. The Strategist is a visionary “Change Agent”, encouraging and believing in the value of both personal and organizational transformations and change. Strategists deal well with conflict and other people’s resistance to change.Strategists are fascinated with three distinct levels of social interplay: personal relationships, organizational relations, and national and international developments.The Strategist are systems thinkers working to create ethical principles and practices beyond the interests of self or organization.
  7. Alchemists: Alchemists have the ability to renew or even reinvent themselves and their organizations in historically significant ways. Alchemist have an exceptional capacity to deal simultaneously with many situations at multiple levels. The Alchemist can talk with both kings and commoners. They can deal with immediate priorities yet never lose sight of long-term goals. Alchemists are typically charismatic and extremely aware individuals who live by high moral standards. They focus intensely on the truth.

To discover more about the internal “action logics” visit the HBR article here-  7 Transformations of Leadership

Another interesting article with a slightly different perspective by Brian Uzzi in HBR July 2015 submission titled- Great Leaders Can Think Like Each Member of Their Team

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