The Cleveland Consulting Group

JULY 2010


Hi Folks;

Spring has brought in an amazing summer. Lush emerald green lawns and forests surround northeast Ohio. With it, there are hints of the economy stirring. Several colleagues have noticed more calls for work, suggesting the possibility for work to return for many in OD as industry is starting to churn greater productivity and a trend towards growth.

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 “opportunist and diplomat” action logics. In this issue, we will explore the two common action-logics—the Expert and the Achiever. We will explore 2-3 of the action logics in subsequent issues until we have looked at all of them.

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 children learn to run they don'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 he or she may act. Although people draw their understanding from multiple Action Logics, we usually can describe one, and sometimes two that 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 that 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.

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

If you enjoyed the newsletter, please forward it to someone who would benefit from it. If not, thanks for reading it and kindly click on the Unsubscribe link below.


Herb Stevenson


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 Expert Action Logic

37% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Expert Action Logic.5

In moving from the Diplomat to the Expert Action Logic individuals trade conformity to group norms for a willingness to actively experiment and seek more independent, but rational ways of doing things. Still needy of approval and beholden to traditional values, they do so, however, looking back over their shoulders to their reference groups. Unlike Diplomats, Experts no longer identify with what makes them the same as others in a group, but rather with what makes them stand out and be unique. This quest may be the source of original contributions to their chosen field of knowledge or expertise.

Experts admire ‘craft logic’. They focus on the specific procedures and knowledge in their area of interest or expertise (i.e. ‘craft’). A belief in the superiority of their ‘craft’ and their know-how becomes central to their lives. Problems and dilemmas have one logical answer that can be gained from authoritative sources (manuals, laws, reference books and authorities in the field). Experts often seek perfectionist standards in their chosen area and are very critical of unfamiliar ways of handling a situation or approaching a problem. They rely on established explanations and procedures and defend against having their professional knowledge questioned.

Managers with Expert Action Logic may be excellent in their specialization, are sticklers for detail and take great pride in doing their jobs well. They would say ‘a job worth doing is a job worth doing properly’. They have a strong desire to seek incremental improvements and to find perfection. Thus, they play a vital role in the development of products, techniques and services. No modern society or organization could run without Experts, in the form of technicians, engineers, bureaucrats and specialists handling the day-to-day running of its affairs.

On the less positive side, Expert managers may be more impressed with efficiency, technical wizardry and perfection than with effectiveness. Typically, they will write a report extensively and well, but will not consider the relative value of doing the report at all; they will perfect a product from an engineering point of view, while the competition brings a less perfect, but functional model to market. Experts will operate within the framework as defined by their discipline and be drawn to perfection and details rather than goals and targets. A manager at this stage is likely to micro manage and be unable to prioritize among competing efforts or to grasp the bigger picture. However their contribution, built upon their depth of knowledge, may be outstanding and critical to the business. Few modern organizations thrive without Experts adding incremental competitive advantage.

Paradoxically, people at the Expert stage may be highly critical of their performance within their specialization, yet they resent feedback in general, especially from those not of a higher craft status than themselves. They are also hypercritical of others in their field of expertise. One-upmanship is common, as is the ‘yes-but’ syndrome, providing endless alternative solutions or arguments. Moreover, Experts tend to overstep the boundaries in giving unsolicited advice about what they know.

Characteristics of managers with Expert Action Logic


  • have a passion for continuous improvement and ‘getting it right’
  • give personal attention to details and seek perfection in their work
  • find it difficult to delegate to or trust others to do the job well, because only they can do it right
  • oppose the group norm when it doesn’t fit their own preference or knowledge
  • value correctness based on authority (technical knowledge, a famous professor etc.)
  • value decisions made on technical merit alone disregarding context and other contingencies
  • seek efficiency unaware of the wider implications of their actions within the whole system and unable to evaluate the effectiveness or long-term implications of their actions
  • dismisse feedback from those who are not their accepted craft masters or take it personally, not just as a criticism of a narrowly defined aspect of their behavior
  • give feedback in terms of telling others what they should or must do to improve or be respected
  • can be dogmatic, particularly in response to ideas outside their own mental framework
  • may enjoy doing a job as well as they can within established norms or may experiment with different ways of doing the job in order to do it better
  • take back delegated work as soon as it seems to be going badly
  • work in detail but somewhat impersonally or competitively with others
  • are not easily deflected from what they believe to be right

How Experts may regard the Leadership Development Framework

They may feel labeled and criticized, or resent that they are being ‘defined’ by someone else’s theory. However, some Experts become interested in the technical detail of the framework and concerned with its logical validity and reliability. If convinced on technical grounds, they may be open to acquire the system as another tool or skill set. If they are supported, they may become more open to experimenting. Research indicates that Experts in general express great distrust of a developmental perspective and strongly defend their own style.

The Achiever Action Logic

30% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Achiever Action Logic.6

In most organizations, Experts and Achievers are responsible for delivering day-to-day business success. While Experts focus on the exacting detail of getting a job done well, Achievers are concerned with successful plans and outcomes. They focus on output measured in terms of profit, turnover, volume, market share and personal career satisfaction.

Achievers share the Experts’ interest in experimenting. Unlike Experts, however, who work on improving given procedures, Achievers design whole new methods and approaches to solving a problem and to streamlining processes.

The greatest strength of Achievers is also their greatest weakness: a singularity of purpose, focus and drive. In pursuit of their personal favorite goals, Achievers will disregard other important areas of business and/or personal life. For example, an Achiever coordinator of an international aid charity was so dedicated to raising funds for the needy that he did not see how hard he pushed himself and his own staff and at what costs to himself, his home life and the organization.

Achievers apply energy in a consistent direction to solve problems and use the tools of science and/or their trade creatively. They initiate change and seek to move mountains. Their determination and energy is often inspiring to others.

Achievers are open to learning and discovering - they welcome behavioral and tactical feedback, especially if it can bring them closer to their envisioned goals. However they may well resist feedback that questions the very framework within which they operate.

Achievers believe deeply in linear cause and effect and objective rationality. From their point of view, the natural world, including the behavior of people, is governed by predictable patterns and laws. These can be researched, made explicit and applied to influence and control outcomes. Thus, results are secured by relying on an objective ‘scientific’ approach and by applying one’s personal conviction and energy to refining the knowledge base.

As managers they tend to be matter of fact, concerned with getting things done, but also fair and perceptive in engaging others. They will listen to others’ reasons. Achievers seek to prioritize among competing projects and tasks, cooperate around mutual goals and delegate work in a way that Experts cannot. Sometimes, they anticipate unintended outcomes or side effects. They may enjoy teaching or coaching others to greater performance. They realize that there are multiple causes for human behavior.

Characteristics of managers with Achiever Action Logic


  • Like to feel the power of being in control of their destiny
  • decide upon a future and what needs to be done to get there
  • define specific medium and long term goals and strive for maximum impact and/or benefit
  • drive themselves hard, and this often has a pacesetting impact on others
  • may value different opinions and perspectives as useful data even though individual differences may be irritating
  • welcome feedback, especially if it helps them to develop capability or achieve their goals
  • believe passionately that rationality and objectivity are vital aspects of good management
  • seek to be fair and consistent in their treatment of reportees
  • tend to believe that they know themselves and others well, and that they are in control of their emotions
  • prioritize and initiate actions as well as delegate tasks if necessary
  • distinguish between ethics (an inner sense of right and wrong) and manners (social conventions of what is right or wrong)
  • have high performance standards and may be their own harshest critics when they do not measure up to these standards

How Achievers may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Achievers will scrutinize the framework for a rational logic and seek to understand how they can learn to be more productive from it. If they find that its perspectives offer personal insight, greater influence or effectiveness, they may embrace it with enthusiasm.

On the other hand, if they interpret the framework as challenging their Achiever world view and values, and if they are not themselves in transition to the next Action Logic, they may be irritated by its complexity and defend their position by rational means and logic.

Beginning with the Achiever stage, behavioral and interpretive feedback is acknowledged as useful data and welcomed more than at earlier stages. Consistent with their often competitive nature Achievers may experience mild to keen disappointment that they have not achieved a profile they had anticipated or believed they deserved.

Next Issue

In the Next Issue, we will examine the Individualist and Strategist.


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 Tobert, 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 37% of leaders in organizations are experts.

6 It is helpful to realize that these statistics correlate well with typical organization leadership; ergo 30% of leaders in organizations are achievers.

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.

Learn more...


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