Bill Torbert’s work on the leadership development has implications for why things remain the same no matter how much people talk about change. This is equally true at the individual level and at the organizational level.

Torbert’s research has identified seven main ways of leading. All of these levels of leadership development have a different time horizon, a different view of power and a different perspective on trust and inquiry. Fifty five percent of managers fall into the first three levels – Opportunist, Diplomat and Expert. At the highest of these three levels, the Expert, has a time horizon of 9 to 15 months which is a timeline associated with projects.

At this developmental level, the manager typically ends up telling others what to do or doing the work themselves because others don’t do it the way they expect it to be done. Both of these approaches are discouraging to others in the work environment and ultimately affect the bottom line results.

The long term goal is to work toward a higher developmental level which would be the Achiever, Individualist and Strategist in Torbert’s model. At the level of Strategist, the leader understands that there is a more leveraged way to get results. They understand how to focus on the present “in the moment” needs of all team members and stakeholders as well as the long term system and strategies that match and model the desired outcomes.

Success in bottom line results and facilitating effective change depends 10% on personal factors, 25% on what’s happening in the system and 65% on interactivity – in other words how you engage others has the greatest impact on transforming the workplace.

I attended a morning presentation by Bill Torbert where he presented a synopsis of his years of research and work with organizations. The depth of this work cannot be captured in a brief presentation or article. The Harvard Business Review “The Seven Transformations of Leadership” gives a more complete outline of the model and some concrete examples of developmental transformations and the impact on organizations. What I did come away with from this intoduction to the model was the importance of having flexibility in behaviour, different ways of communicating depending on the context and the importance of understanding the developmental level of those you are working with. The ultimate goal is to operate out of what Torbert refers to as a “Collaborative Inquiry Trust- Building Model” as opposed to A “Mystery- Mastery Trust Eroding Model”.

To learn more you will find information about the assessment tool that goes with this model at http://www.harthill.co.uk

Category: Leadership
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