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StageSHIFT partners with executive leaders to inspire and accelerate a quantum vertical shift in conscious leadership capacity and effectiveness, embracing the opportunity in systemic complexity and rising volatility to co-create more sustainable, healthy, and equitable business ecosystems where everyone and all of life flourishes as a community.

A Caveat on Vertical Assessments

vertical development May 07, 2020

Three conversations with advanced later stage leaders in the last few weeks have alerted me to a caveat on vertical assessments:

Just because we’re assessed at a later stage e.g. Synergist, Constructivist or Alchemist (see table below to correlate these stages across various practitioners), it doesn’t always mean we’re demonstrating leadership capacity at that stage. There’s a difference between what and how we’re thinking, projected and assessed in the sentence completion vertical assessment, and why and how we’re actually expressing ourselves in day-to-day interactions with others.

I’ve been advocating for the urgent need for more leaders at later stages. Now I’d also like to implore leaders at later stages to get fully involved in leading transformation in their worlds. As evolved leaders at the stages of Synergist and Alchemist at a cognitive and potentially emotional and spiritual levels, there is so much valuable latent leadership capacity to realise.

There’s a sense of drifting I’ve picked up with some – they can see the problem, the systemic source of the problem, even see a breakthrough solution or synergistic ways to proceed, yet they don’t know precisely how to go about transforming the current collective context and therefore feel stalled. Given the shadow that is still lurking in their psyche, the risk is considered too high to experiment with mutual inquiry and emergent collaboration.

In my 10+ years of experience explicitly coaching strategic leaders in vertical development to later stages, I’ve discovered that until a leader is actually transforming their collective context, they don’t mature into the leadership capacity of a Synergist – a stage previously called Strategist but this term is confused in the corporate world with the ability to devise strategy, a capability that arises at Achievist.

In my experience, it’s essential to actually evolve the organisational architectural frameworks within which people interact, with the purpose of liberating their potential, to manifest leadership maturity at Synergist. I’ve also found that it’s essential to explore, resolve and heal shadow with a loving heart to arrive at a calm, clear and open mind free of inner voices competing for our attention to realise the calm way of being at Synergist.


Due to the two-step structure of development (Cook-Greuter, 1999) and my observations and reflections, I’ve concluded that a leader’s Centre of Gravity can only really be at an integrated stage of development i.e. Achievist, Synergist or Alchemist (the stage following Constructivist i.e. mature 5th person perspective). At the initial individuation stages, a discovery process of exploration, rather than transformation, prevails.

I’ve discovered that leaders who are demonstrating this later stage capacity have also released the grip of earlier integrated stages i.e. at Synergist, the striving of the Achievist has been resolved, released and/or integrated, and at Alchemist, the impetus to lead a large collective dissipates in favour of an ingenuous idea to transform a structural paradigm inhibiting social and/or economic evolution. Further, I have found in my personal experience and in observing others, that a mature capacity in an integrated stage comes to fruition as a person leans into the next individuation journey as their new leading edge.

For more information on the transformative StageSHIFT approach, check out our introductory program The Spectrum Stage Shift. We also offer SYNERGIST Leadership Programs for strategic leaders and Coaching Certification Programs for executive coaches. Lots of Free Resources including StageSHIFT Research recently published in the Integral Review at

Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks is a thought leader in Vertical Leadership Development and a Master Certified Executive Coach with >3,500 coaching hours with more than 250 strategic leaders from across the private and public sectors. She has a proven track record in expediting rapid shifts to later stages enabling strategic leaders and executive coaches to realise transformative outcomes in just one year. 

She presents at coaching and leadership conferences and leads online Synergist Leadership and Coaching Certification group programs to inspire and enable the fruition of mature Synergist leadership capacity leaning into Alchemist. Her new book, Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership: The Drivers and Dynamics in Vertical Development, will be published by McGraw Hill in mid-2020.

Brilliant, confident, bold, generous. Impressive command of subject. Elegant and sophisticated in its simplicity, Antoinette presents a congruent and holistic model of vertical development to fuel personal growth and transformative development.


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