More Women at the Top?

Given our preoccupation to have more women at the top of organizations, it’s curious to realize how gender archetypes underlie the shift from transactional to transformational leadership.

The “Achiever”, the final stage of conventional leadership is a highly masculine archetype – the warrior, the hunter, the breadwinner, creating transactional relationships to achieve the results and receive accolades from customers. Recent research shows that over 50% of Executives are anchored at this action logic albeit this is a niche executive population benefiting from investment in stage leadership development. This graph is from the PwC Report The Hidden Talent 2015 based on research by Harthill Consulting UK.

The consequences of our over-Achieving world, always wanting “more” and putting our heads in the sand by being continuously “busy”, are costly. It has led to depleted resources, profit before people causing financial loss and personal disaster, high levels of stress leading to increased ill-health in terms of obesity, diabetes and cancer not to mention Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as we age … Achievers are not inclusive, they are exclusive; short term thinkers, not long term. They are motivated to keep the spoils of the hunt for themselves.

The first step into the post-conventional world is a “Catalyst” (called Individualist in the table above) where 33% of executives are anchored (Harthill) although earlier research suggests only half this number (Torbert, Cook-Greuter). Significantly the archetype of the Catalyst carries largely feminine attributes. Catalysts are intuitive, introspective, the caregiver who engages authentically with all stakeholders (not just “buy-in” which is the Achiever’s model), the person who looks for intrinsic good, welcomes intimacy and appreciates the importance of genuinely listening into the intricate open space of relationships.

The New Post-Conventional World is Upon Us

The simultaneous emergence of new technology that enables 24/7 interconnectedness, increasing automation and relatively free access to knowledge provides us with the platform to make the shift into this new post-conventional world. It is the ideal platform for Catalysts to engage widely and generate collaborative efforts. Ideal roles for Catalysts cross borders and focus on building momentum to endorse a shared inspiring agenda that breaks through the current mold of thinking. Catalysts in standard Achiever roles will feel stymied and unappreciated for who they are and what they can do.

The culmination of leadership development from Achiever to Catalyst is represented by the next consolidation stage of the “Strategist”. Just 8% of leaders are stationed here (Harthill), other researchers suggest 5%. At this stage transformational leadership blossoms in terms of the capacity to lead, build and sustain transformational change. Strategists integrate masculine and feminine attributes with a focus on realizing sustainable outcomes over and above immediate results (the Achiever) embracing all stakeholders en route (the Catalyst) to generate a visionary transformation that leads to greater wellbeing and a more sustainable world (the Strategist).

Thus, while the world needs more women at the top to reflect a just society, we do not need more female Achievers at the top. Rather we need more Strategists at the helm, women and men.

Given that women arguably naturally demonstrate more feminine archetypal qualities, the participation of women in senior executive levels will actually help to facilitate the emergence of more people operating as Strategists, provided that top leadership is not besieged by the Achiever mentality. Executives will be more able to integrate both masculine and feminine attributes if they have an ongoing interaction with both through shared decision-making to realize broader perspectives, higher aspirations and visionary intentions.

We need people with strong feminine traits (high on I and P in Myers Briggs) to integrate Achiever attributes while transcending the need for short-term success. And we need people with strong masculine traits (high on J and E) to integrate Catalyst attributes in order to foster a greater sense of community based on shared values. By integrating the masculine and feminine gender archetypes, as well as developing our perspective in other ways, we can grow to become transformational leaders with the perspicacity, wisdom and compassion to create a more sustainable world.

Develop Strategists in Your Organization

The following 9 Steps will lead to the development of more Strategists in your organization.

  1. Assess your leaders in Stage Leadership Development. I use the Global Leadership Profile, a sophisticated and rigorous personal questionnaire based on the University of Washington Sentence Completion Test that has been used by thousands of executives and generates an invaluable 20+ page report followed by in-depth feedback and goal setting with a post-conventional coach (Strategist/Alchemist).
  2. Diagnose the aggregate results in terms of strategic organizational talent needs integrated with the emergent growth zones of senior leaders.
  3. Bring in post-conventional Executive Coaching (Strategist/ Alchemist) to coach your CEO and C-suite Leaders, one-on-one and as a team, and give them a year to make a genuine shift in action logic to post-conventional if they are not there already – some will resist and they will need to get off the bus.
  4. Engage your senior leaders to expand their roles or adapt the design of the organization to accommodate the development of post-conventional action logics.
  5. Bring in Group Leadership Coachingfor all Senior Leaders so they engage across peers (not immediate team members) to build bridges and drive overall org performance through advanced leadership development as described by Kegan in his recent Harvard Business Review article on deliberately developmental organizations.
  6. Review your organizational structures and management systems relative to the Specialist/Achiever/Catalyst/Strategist action logics that ideally cascade top-down throughout your organization. Open space liberating structures are essential to stimulate post-conventional mindsets while the feedback loop of team scorecards enables Specialists to become empowered Achievers.
  7. Utilize action logic analysis based on objective assessments when recruiting and promoting – even panel interviews are notoriously ineffective due to unconscious bias - just knowing about unconscious bias doesn’t have the effect of lifting one’s mindset or action logic.
  8. Introduce innovative talent strategies where the place, weight, style and type of work is as flexible as possible to meet the work/life balance needs of both men and women as joint parents of their family.
  9. Create a more democratic workplace where views and voices are invited and heard up, down and across the organization.

If this resonates with you, take up the opportunity to complete the Global Leadership Profile Assessment to determine your current, fallback (under stress) and emergent (with support) action logics and develop personalised leadership development goals. You can extend this to your executive team and put into place post-conventional executive coaching (Strategist/Alchemist) to build a strong leadership culture.

I am keen to work with a CEO leading between 500 and 1,500 people who wants to be a truly inspiring leader, transform their organization and create a performance breakthrough by actively developing their people and culture. See the results achievable below. If this resonates with you, please complete the Global Leadership Profile Assessment, set up a time to talk by clicking here or email me at [email protected] or.

Culture & Engagement and Leadership Gaps are Widening

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 Report, the two biggest concerns that CEOs have are Culture & Engagement and Leadership, and the gap to meet current needs and goals has widened to over 30%! Standard leadership development and organizational interventions are no longer as useful as they do not breakthrough conventional paradigms to ignite and advance post-conventional leadership capacity. Here is Robert Kegan's account of deliberately developmental organizations which also win awards for outstanding business performance (HBR, 2014).

The sorts of results you can expect are: the shift from an Achiever/Catalyst action logic to Catalyst/Strategist in one year; a 20% increase in leadership effectiveness across senior leaders in one year; and a 30% increase in People Engagement in six months. It might sound incredible but with a post-conventional Strategist mindset this is eminently possible and has been done before. Here is my report on the Special Findings from my PhD Research documenting the stage shift made by >80% Achievers to Catalyst/Strategist – it also outlines the stages of development in more detail. 

The Fastest Growing Trend in Leadership Development Today

You can also check out the Centre for Creative Leadership’s White Paper by Nick Petrie on Vertical Learning, the fastest growing trend in leadership development today. And here is the PwC report on Strategists in organizations including Harthill’s research but please note that this was published by their London office. While they quote Qantas as an organization who is doing this well, a Senior Executive at Qantas has told me that they are not actually taking the Stage Leadership Developmental journey there!

Click here for a comprehensive outline on Developing Transformational Leadership and a Highly Engaging Leadership Culture with proven methodologies. This outline includes the above research findings. Given Aon’s research that higher People Engagement leads to significantly improved financial performance, the ROI is significant and substantial.

If you’d like to make 2016 a breakthrough year and lift yourself, your Executive Team, your Senior Leaders and your people up a level to realize higher aspirations, increase productivity and generate transformational and sustainable triple bottom line business results, please get in touch with me at[email protected] or set up a time to talk. Your first step will be your own Global Leadership Profile. Click here to get started.

I greatly appreciate you taking the time to read this post and hope you gained something really valuable from it. If you did, please Like, leave a Comment and Share it with your network. It would make my day!

Do connect with me and follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter. To see all my posts and keep up to date, please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership GroupClick here to find out more about the Stages in Leadership Development.

Click here for FREE reports or to book a complimentary coaching meeting with me if you're interested in Executive Coaching to take you to the next level. If you’d like to know more about Group Coaching or Leadership Coaching Programs for your organization, please email me at [email protected]

All the best,


About Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks is a Transformational Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years global experience. In recent years she has coached more than 50 Senior Executives, led many Strategic Offsites for Executive Teams, and Leadership Development Programs in organizations with outstanding results.

Antoinette graduated with an Honours degree in Law and Political Science, has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing her PhD at the MGSM in Leadership Transformation. Previously she was the Head of Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific, GM People and Culture with Vector in New Zealand and Strategic HR Manager for Shell across Latin America and Africa.

Antoinette is also the bestselling author ofExecutive SOS outlining the 7 Proven Steps to Set Up Your Own Strategic Operating System. This book shows you how to rise above the noise, get off the treadmill and lead your division and stakeholders as an Inspiring Strategic Leader, showcasing a number of success stories from executive clients.

Click here to read the First Chapter.