The Cleveland Consulting Group



Hi Folks;

Like much of the world, we struggle in the Northeast Ohio's HOT Summer. High humidity with high temperatures have set record heat indexes. Nonetheless, several companies have announced that the recession created slicing cutbacks in costs which has now resulted in large amounts of cash. Some are looking to acquire and others are seeing opportunities for capital investment. Two of my clients are exceeding 40% real growth and adding significant numbers of workers. It seems we are slowly recovering and more importantly, it appears the global economy is really a mosaic of economies where not only nationally, but industrially, there can be a boom industry side-by-side with a bust. Something to ponder.

In this issue, we continue to look at the developmental stages of leaders utilizing the Leadership Development Profile1 created by Suzanne Cooke-Greuter2 and Bill Torbert3. In my work, I use a variety of assessment tools, including development assessments, to get a sense of what is the primary frame of perception driving the executive. Often, when given a developmental view, it enables the client to sense a new way of being that might be possible.

Using the work of Harthill Consulting, the base for the work of Bill Torbert, we will explore adult development and the creation of action logics that depict each stage of development. In the prior issue, we explored the "expert and achiever" action logics. In this issue, we will explore the two common action-logics: the Individualist and Strategist. We will explore the last two action logics in the next issue.

The Later Action Logics

The Achiever discussed in the July Newsletter is the latest stage in conventional adult development. It is the 'model' adult Action Logic of modern times. As an adult one is expected to pursue goals defined in output terms (professional leader role, personal income, market share, status, consistent effort, etc). The Achiever is the highest Action Logic fully supported by Western culture and society and encompassed by the traditional scientific frame of mind. Culturally it forms a kind of ceiling in development, passed by less than 10% of the general population. Those individuals who do develop beyond the 'conventional' stages (of which Achiever is the last) move into what are described as 'postconventional' stages of development. Research has found a sequence of four distinct postconventional stages of adult meaning making. We label these Individualist, Strategist, Alchemist and Ironist.

I encourage the readers to consider client situations and/or self-reflect on how you might use a particular action logic as your meaning making perceptual window to life.4

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Herb Stevenson


Refresher of the Nine Action Logics and their Dynamics

The Leadership Development Framework describes nine sequential changes in how a person interprets events, or makes meaning. Research and our extensive experience confirms that most people develop the Action Logics in the order presented.

Once an Action Logic has been assimilated it remains a part of the person's meaning making capability, even as later and more integrated logics are adopted (just as when a child learns to run it doesn't cease to be able to walk).

The Leadership Development Framework provides a way of understanding how a leader or
manager is likely to interpret situations and thus how they may act. Although people draw their understanding from multiple Action Logics, we can usually describe one, and sometimes two which are dominant. People may be in transition from one Action Logic to another or rooted firmly in one central logic. In stressful times adults often revert to behavior associated with earlier Action Logics because of unconscious patterns. People may choose to act from earlier Action Logics if the situation demands it (in a robbery Diplomat behavior is a lifesaver). In contrast, behaviors associated with Action Logics later than a person's current logic cannot be consistently summoned forth.

The Leadership Development Framework offers a chance to reach deep personal understanding and the option to identify unique developmental challenges. The Leadership Development Framework does not provide a once-and-for-all label which describes a person fully. It does not predict how people will behave in particular situations. It does not predict whether or when a person will transform to another Action Logic in the future.

It is important to understand that this framework is not a guide to increased happiness (or even wealth). Each Action Logic has its own merits and difficulties, beauties and shadows. There is no evidence that later stages bring more joy or greater satisfaction from life, only that the nature of what delights and what causes suffering changes. However the framework does give some very reliable pointers as to the qualities and types of leadership capability an individual may have.

Overview of the key Action Logics
of the Leadership Development Framework
Action Logic Key Traits Leadership Style
Opportunist Wins any way possible. Self-oriented; manipulative; ‘might makes right’. Short term horizon; focus on concrete things; deceptive; rejects feedback; externalizes blame; distrustful; fragile self-control; possibly hostile humor or ‘happy-go-lucky’; views luck as central; views rules as loss of freedom; punishes according to ‘eye for eye’ ethic; treats what they can get away with as legitimate. Seeks personal advantage: takes an opportunity when it arises.
Diplomat Avoids overt conflict. Wants to belong; obeys group norm; rarely rocks the boat. Observes protocol; avoids inner and outer conflict; works to group standard; speaks in clichés and platitudes; conforms; feels shame if they violate norm; avoids hurting others; seeks membership and status; face-saving essential; loyalty is to immediate group, not distant organization or principles. Attends to social affairs of group and individuals. Provides supportive social glue.
Expert Rules by logic and expertise. Searches for improvement and rational efficiency. Is immersed in the self referential logic of their own belief system, regarding it as the only valid way of thinking. Interested in problem solving; critical of self and others based on their belief system; chooses efficiency over effectiveness; perfectionist; accepts feedback only from ‘objective’ experts in their own field; dogmatic; values decisions based on the incontrovertible facts; wants to stand out and be unique as an expert; sense of obligation to wider, internally consistent moral order. Consistent in pursuit of improvement. Strong individual contributor.
Achiever Meets strategic goals. Delivery of results by most effective means. Success focused. Effectiveness and results oriented; long-term goals; future is vivid, inspiring; welcomes behavioral feedback; feels like initiator, not pawn; begins to appreciate complexity and systems; seeks increasing mutuality in relationships; feels guilt if does not meet own standards; blind to own shadow, to the subjectivity behind objectivity; seeks to find ways around problems in order to deliver, may be unorthodox. Adopts rather than creates goals.
Individualist Innovates processes. Relativistic position with fewer fixed truths. Self, relationships and interaction with the system. Focus on self and less on goals; increased understanding of complexity, systems operating and working through relationships; deepening personal relationships; takes on different role in different situations; increasingly questions own assumptions (part of rise in self absorption) and assumptions of others; attracted by change and difference more than by stability and similarity; increasingly aware of own shadow.
Strategist Creates personal and organizational transformations. Links between principles, contracts, theories and judgement. Recognizes importance of principle, contract, theory and judgement - not just rules and customs; creative at conflict resolution; process oriented as well as goal oriented; aware of paradox and contradiction; aware that what one sees depends upon one’s world view; high value on individuality, unique market niches, particular historical movements; enjoys playing a variety of roles; witty, existential humor (as contrasted to prefabricated jokes); aware of dark side of power and may be tempted by it - may misuse their own abilities and manipulate others. Postconventional.
Alchemist Generates social transformations. Interplay of awareness, thought, action and effect. Transforming self and others. Seeks participation in historical / spiritual transformations; creator of events which become mythical and reframe situations; anchoring in inclusive present, seeing the light and dark in situations; works with order and chaos; blends opposites, creating ‘positive-sum’ games; exercises own attention continually; researches interplay of institution, thought, action and effects on outside world; treats time and events as symbolic, analogical, metaphorical (not merely linear, digital, literal), involved in spiritual quest, often helps others in their life quests.

Detailed descriptions of the key Action Logics of the Leadership Development Framework

The Individualist Action Logic

11% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Individualist Action Logic5.

The psychological energy of the Individualist stage can be deeply different to the earlier stages. The discovery that objectivity is a myth and what one sees depends upon one's viewpoint can have a profound effect. The Individualist recognises that neither this nor any other Action Logic is 'natural' – all are constructions of oneself and the world. Energy is directed towards challenging the assumptions of the Achiever stage in a self-authored and individual way.

Individualists become attracted to difference and change and will create this in their lives, often through inquiring into who they are and what they want. They may then open themselves to increased awareness of the possible conflicts between their principles and their actions, or between the organisation's values and its every day actions. Resolving this conflict can often be a source of creativity--it can also make the Individualist look (and feel) like a rebel or malcontent.

A capacity, emerging at the Achiever Action Logic, to see systems complexity is reinforced. No longer is the world a place of discrete objects and events to be managed in a linear way with reliable cause and effect. Rather, causation is seen as circular, relational and systemic. This opens the Individualist to a more inquiring stance and to be willing to experiment with their own behaviors and with the structures and processes in the workplace.

Less driven by the need to deliver, the Individualist has a different relationship to time. The sense of time becomes more fluid and current situations are increasingly considered within a longer historical context. The future, so vivid for the Achiever, remains a concern, and added to this is an increased awareness of the unique qualities of the moment. How these qualities match with espoused values will concern the Individualist.

The Individualist enjoys an increasing sense of independence – wanting more space to explore and create than many organisations are willing to give. This may cause them to leave their 'Achiever' organisation, to work at its margins or to seek out organisations more 'Individualist' in culture.

Individualists can be fun to have around: they relish their individuality and pursue whatever appeals to them with gusto. Though aware of conventional social norms, they are not overly constrained by them. At the same time, they truly appreciate others for their uniqueness and different perspectives and can play coaching or consulting roles in helping others become more fully themselves.

Characteristics of managers with Individualist Action Logic


  • become increasingly focused on the experiences of the moment and themselves as experiencers. If this happens at a time in a person's career when they are already responsible for leading many people, they may withdraw from a pacesetting leadership style. Instead, they may explore the complexities of leading people and take a 'let live and see what happens' attitude towards them.
  • may be increasingly reflective and questioning of their own approaches and the approaches of others. This may be seen as hesitancy or lack of drive – although it may create a reputation for good judgement!
  • are increasingly aware of 'systems thinking' (the search for single causes is replaced by thinking about the system as a whole) and, as managers, can contribute to this broader view.
  • are aware that people may take on different roles in different circumstances and at different times. They themselves may experiment with different kinds of relationships and with using power differently in different contexts.
  • may be creative and flexible thinkers who relish thinking 'outside the box' as they free themselves to some extent from the results focus of Achievers. They are interested in development (particularly their own) as an innate human possibility and a goal in its own right, rather than as a means towards the end of greater achievement and success.
  • may experiment with significant aspects of work: extending their roles (or contracting more routine parts of it), experimenting with working in different ways and in new habitats, (or they may choose to 'follow their bliss!').
  • may increasingly seek uncertainty, difference and instability in their work and their life. Since Individualists acknowledge a fundamental uncertainty about what one can know, they tend to provide less certainty and firm leadership to others. From the point of view of the Achiever employee, Individualist superiors cannot be counted on to be consistent and to engage fully with them on their terms. 'I don't know where she's coming from' might be said of an Individualist manager or leader. Aware of layers upon layers of assumptions and interpretations, they feel people are better left to figure things out by themselves.

Paradoxically, all of this is potentially the groundwork for the development of a more strategic leadership style based on a deepening of relationships with others. Beginning with the Individualist stage, there is an increasing value placed on complexity, a growing appreciation for individual differences and an ability to think in terms of how complexities and paradox can be integrated into larger, coherent wholes or systems.

How Individualists may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Usually with interest! This framework may explain why some issues have moved lately from being clear cut to being rather more confusing and complex. They may embrace the theory as a deepening way to look at the world, particularly if it offers a revealing description of themselves as meaning makers. There is a danger that the framework may take on too central an interpretive position in their thinking, or that it may simply become another method for poking holes into others' mental models.

Section 3: More About the Leadership Development Framework

The Strategist Action Logic

5% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Strategist Action Logic6.

Moving from Achiever to Individualist and on to Strategist involves a major shift in frame of reference. The Diplomat's desire to stay in touch, the Expert's love of craft logic and the Achiever's focus on conventional results are replaced by self-generated and individual ways of viewing and interpreting the world.

The Individualist stage is the first postconventional stage because Individualists no longer automatically conform to the reality view and to the behaviour scripts offered by their culture.

With this comes a shift in perspective about the objective nature of reality. Having found no position to stand on as final truth and no way to prioritise among competing perspectives and positions, the Individualist takes a relativistic position. All views are equally acceptable or unacceptable. Strategists, in contrast, are able to adjudicate among rivalling opinions and beliefs based on the quality of the arguments and ideas given. They tend to value those perspectives that are constructive, people-oriented, inclusive, dynamic, and foster continuous learning over those perspectives that are critical or judgemental, single position, exclusive, static, and merely fact-oriented or 'objective.' Thus, Strategists want to know how the different systems they are engaged in (organisation, family, society) interact with each other. They assess the balance and adequacy between the larger organisational mission (social vision) and the strategies and actions used to pursue them. Increasingly, they will be concerned with what is happening at all levels of an organisation and point out potential long-term outcomes (intended and unintended) both for the organisation as well as for its members and wider circles of influence. That is, they have become capable of systems thinking.

Strategists are as interested in the processes of doing something as in the results achieved. Strategist leaders question the social, technological, productive and market-oriented facets of their businesses and the interplay among them. They have learned to examine alternative perspectives and to choose one that allows for optimal effectiveness and influence as well as system-wide transformation. Reportees and juniors at earlier Action Logics may feel disconcerted by them and their 'odd view of reality'. They may find them too complex and not practical enough, always looking beyond immediate concerns.

Strategists invite thoughtful feedback from all sources as a necessary means to overcome their blind spots and grow in self-knowledge and understanding of the world. Because they know their own view of reality to be partial, they value others' perspectives as part of a more complete picture or as a possible impetus to change their current strategy or actions. On the other hand, they are able to discern among different types of feedback, and seek out illustrations that will confirm or disconfirm the assumptions, attributions, or evaluations embedded in the feedback.

Because they are used to relying on their own assessment of complex situations, some Strategists may discount information that doesn't come from those they look up to.

The 'go-it-alone' tendency of the Individualist is replaced by a desire in Strategists to co-create and work in collaboration with others. Because they appreciate that different people see reality differently, they are dedicated to developing shared visions for projects and organizations that attract the commitment of members. They tend to be entrepreneurial, not just in an economic sense, but in a social, ecological, and /or developmental sense as well.

Characteristics of Managers with Strategist Action Logic


  • will lead with a paradoxical mixture of 'fierce resolve and humility' in acting as strong agents for constructive change at whatever level of the organisation they occupy, testing assumptions and seeking to transform thinking and actions towards a more positive perspective.
  • do recognize the importance of ethical principles and mindful judgement for making defensible decisions. Integrity is an important personal value. Strategists tend to choose what seems reasonable or just for many people in the long run rather than going for short-term gain or victory. They may defend principles they value even at personal risk to themselves.
  • are aware that what one sees depends upon one's frame of reference or perspective. 'Reality' is relative and what is considered 'common sense' may be based on conformist and unexamined beliefs. They can consciously tailor their management style to the needs of diverse people. They may therefore come across to different people as having quite different personalities.
  • are flexible about how tasks should be performed, trust people to find their own solutions. When they offer help, they are conscious of others' need for dignity and independence. They play a variety of roles in their work life and life beyond work, which can confuse less flexible people.
  • use humor and wit to defuse tense situations. While the humour of Strategists is lighthearted, existential and spontaneous, that of Opportunists and Experts is often hostile and cutting, and that of Individualists sometimes sarcastic or 'off-the-wall'.
  • will be concerned with extended time periods – looking forward 20 years to the continued success of the organisation and their work.
  • enjoy 'reframing' (rather than breaking) the rules where the rules are seen as unnecessarily limiting, unproductive or stifling of creativity.
  • appreciate and engage with the complexities of individuals and dynamic situations.
  • are creative in conflict resolution because they see conflict (i.e. differences in values and perspectives) as an inevitable part of viable relationships.
  • may bring an enlightened spirit into their organisations as part of their own firm belief that there can be no separation of being and doing.

How a Strategist may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Strategists will likely be fascinated by the framework and their own stage of development. They may experience disappointment that they are not yet 'Alchemists' and relief that they have crossed the boundary beyond 'conventionality'. They are open to examine feedback about their shadow side or blind spots and attempt to integrate these as part of themselves. As self actualisation is one of their main values, a developmental outlook can explain better than other theories just where one's potential for growth may lie and from where one's greatest challenges are likely to come.

The framework will be seen as what it is – another way of looking at the complexity which is the human being – useful and limited...but how it is used will raise curiosity.

Next Issue

In the Next Issue, we will examine the Alchemist and Ironist.


1 I am indebted to Bill Torbert, David Rooke, Elaine Barker, and Jackie Keeley at Harthill for their gracious permission to reprint the descriptions of their leadership development framework, including the leadership action-logics that depicts the stages of executive development. Information in how to become certified in the LDF can be found on their website.


3 See David Rooke and Bill Torbert, Seven Transformation of Leadership, in the Harvard Business Review for an abbreviated description of the action-logics of leader development.

4 See Fisher, Dalmar, Rooke, David, and Torbert, Bill, 2003 Personal and Organisational Transformations through Action Inquiry. Edge/Work Press.

5 It is helpful to realize that these statistics correlate well with typical organization leadership; ergo 11% of leaders in organizations are individualists.

6 It is helpful to realize that these statistics correlate well with typical organization leadership; ergo 5% of leaders in organizations are strategists.

Training Programs

For those seeking more information on the Tuck Executive Education At Dartmouth Leadership and Strategic Impact Program:


The Power of Choice

Date to be Announced
Nosara, Costa Rica

Join Executive Coach Herb Stevenson for an exclusive three-day exploration to re-connect with your life purpose in order to live with greater passion and fulfillment.

Herb Stevenson is President/CEO of the Cleveland Consulting Group, Inc. and bridges the worlds of business and spiritual healing. He is a nationally recognized author, trainer, executive coach and management consultant. He has published 26 books on various aspects of banking and business. Herb’s expertise in facilitating group discussion and individual goal setting will assure attendees achieve optimum take-home value, leaving the workshop ready to live a more fulfilling life with purpose and passion.

Tierra Magnifica is the premier retreat resort on Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific coast. Resort owners Steve and Maggie Jacobus will be your weekend hosts, providing an experience guaranteed to induce inspiration and transformation.

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Introduction to Gestalt Organizational Development Workshop

August 18-20, 2010
Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, Inc.

This introductory workshop is a prerequisite for attending the program, Becoming An Effective Organizational Intervener (BEI). This three-day workshop is an opportunity to experience the "Gestalt" approach through learning basic concepts and applying them through structured exercises. The workshop is a balance of direct teaching with immediate application of the learning. This orientation to the "Gestalt" approach will include introduction to concepts such as the cycle of experience, unit of work, use of self as instrument of change and levels of system as choice points for intervention. Each day of the workshop will include a two-hour learning lab for participants to apply their learning in "real time."

Registration available at


Becoming an Effective Organizational Intervener
Program (BEI)

Becoming an Effective Organizational Intervener is a dynamic program for people involved in leadership within organizations whether it be via day-to-day management or organizational change and development. It provides an introduction to the body of knowledge developed in the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland's Executive and Organization Development programs. In five exciting sessions, participants will explore our overall model and theory base as applied to individual, group, and organizational levels of system. The program offers participants a powerful and integrative opportunity to increase their awareness, knowledge, and skills in order to become more effective interveners in organizations.

Learn more and register at