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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.

Vertical Development: The Transformation to Synergist

Mar 07, 2020

Vertical leadership development is rapidly growing in momentum.

Terri O’Fallon’s breakthrough research establishes an underlying iterative systemic architecture that is elegant, resonant and meaningful. She adds the square dance of the alternating individual and collective zones to Susanne Cook-Greuter’s two-step dance of individuation and integration for each new person perspective i.e. the third person perspective begins at 3.0/Specialist (Expert) and integrates at 3.5/Achiever; and the fourth person perspective develops at 4.0/Catalyst (Pluralist, Individualist, Redefining) and integrates at 4.5/Synergist (Strategist, Transforming).

NB I’ve chosen terms for the stages that reflect the shift in leadership capacity that is pertinent to that stage of development and is highly relevant to the nature of the role that stage plays in organisations.

This set of four stages combine to form a Tier of Development focused on the objects under consideration: first, the Concrete Tier (first and second person perspectives), then the Subtle Tier (third and fourth person perspectives) followed by the MetAware Tier (fifth and sixth person perspectives). This is a monumental breakthrough in our understanding of the stages of development that significantly informs the nature of vertical leadership development.

A synthesis of these findings suggest that vertical development through the neighbouring two sets of two stages involves a two-step square dance that signifies a Spectrum Stage Shift.

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Based on these new research breakthroughs, my own coaching research and even more importantly, my experience as a practitioner in Vertical Leadership Development, I suggest that:

  1. While a person’s centre of gravity can theoretically be placed in an individuation zone e.g. 4.0/Catalyst, it can only effectively operate as a centre of gravity, an inner anchoring point, if it is in an integration stage i.e. the second step in the two-step square dance.
  2. This is because the first individuation stage at x.0 develops inner awareness; it is only during the integration stage at x.5, that the new x person perspective is activated in the outer world. Until this integration takes place, (x-1).5 continues to dominate in the outer world.
  3. This can be seen in my research of the shift from 3.5/Achiever to 4.0/Catalyst and onto 4.5/Synergist. The predominance of the 3.5/Achiever stage does not diminish until the 4.5/Synergist stage has been consolidated.
  4. The 4.0/Catalyst rating is nominated as the primary stage due to the fact that is has the highest Total Weighted Score. However, the additional weighting of sentence completions at later stages due to their increasing rarity, add significance to an individuation stage that, in my experience, is not yet evident in practice.
  5. A stage transformation is therefore best seen, not as a shift from stage to stage, but as a Spectrum Stage Shift of four-five neighbouring stages around one integrated stage e.g. 3.5/Achiever, to the four-five spectrum of stages around the next integrated stage i.e. 4.5/Synergist, signifying the full adoption and activation of the new more expansive fourth person perspective: the shift from "me" to "we" including everyone!
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The implication is that Authentic Leadership Programs that stimulate the intrinsic leadership qualities of the 4.0/Catalyst are helpful but not sufficient to generate the activated leadership capacity of a 4.5/Synergist. The focus on the development of the Self at 4.0, while essential, is simply not sufficient to activate the manifestation of the transformation of the Self onto 4.5.

This, in part, accounts for the fact that while the proportion of executives at 4.0/Catalyst (light green) have been growing at the rate of 11% in each of the last two decades (PwC Report, 2015), the proportion at 4.5/Synergist (teal) has only been growing at the snail’s pace of 1% in each of the last two decades.

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This is important to appreciate as it is only at the stage of 4.5/Synergist when the fourth person perspective is integrated and activated, that a person can lead synergistic collaboration and sustainable transformation. They can transcend the turmoil and cut through complexity, trust emergence and navigate uncertainty, and transform their world by sparking ingenuity. This integrated stage of development translates into the leadership capacity to integrate multiple mergers, reinvent business models, flourish in disruption and resolve polarising issues amongst discontent people.

While it was thought to take five years to shift to post-conventional stages at 4.0/Catalyst and 4.5/Synergist, two days (avg. 8*90-min sessions pa) of StageSHIFT 121 Transformative Coaching led to a 100% stage shift of 12 participants in a research study with two participants shifting two stages to 4.5/Synergist in the one year. In contrast, twenty days pa in Group Leadership Programs has resulted in up to a third of participants shifting a single stage, with the exception of the renowned 20-day Integral Leadership Programs which also generate universal stage shifts. 

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Given that organisations and nations urgently need more leaders at 4.5/Synergist to lead collaborative transformation, you may wish to examine the drivers, distinctions and dynamics that led to the Spectrum Stage Shift from 3.5/Achiever to 4.5/Synergist in StageSHIFT Coaching.

Make 2020 a transformative year for you and join the spectrum stage shift to 4.5/Synergist!

To find out more about the Spectrum Stage Shift, go to and download the new report. The Early bird 20% discount is available for all 121 and group StageSHIFT Coaching Programs for executive leaders and executive coaches. It expires at the end of this week on 31 January 2020. If you’re keen to make the Spectrum Stage Shift to 4.5/Synergist, join a 121 or Group StageSHIFT Program now.

Warmest wishes,

Antoinette Braks

[email protected]


#leadershipdevelopment; #executivecoaching; #verticallearning; #O'Fallon; #Cook-Greuter; #stagedevelopment; #laterstagedevelopment; #leadershiptransformation

Antoinette Braks is a master executive coach, strategic facilitator and vertical leadership consultant who brings deep insight and a global business perspective to her transformative work with C-suite leaders, executive teams and whole organisations to realize amazingly swift transformative outcomes. She has coached more than 250 strategic leaders over more than 3,500 hours.

Antoinette is a thought leader in stage leadership development and has a proven track record of enabling strategic leaders to accomplish very rapid shifts in vertical leadership transformation and generate extraordinary organisational and business outcomes. She is the author of Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership: The Drivers and Dynamics of Later Stage Development, to be published by McGraw Hill in May 2020.


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