The Cleveland Consulting Group

JUNE 2010


Hi Folks,

Hope you enjoyed the Memorial Day weekend.

I had the pleasure of studying at the Tuck Executive Education program at Dartmouth College in May. It was my annual investment in myself. Had the pleasure of engaging Paul Argenti, Sydney Finkelstein, and Marshall Goldsmith in a variety of conversations on Leadership and Strategic Impact. Besides enriching my own learning, I found a highly professional resource to round out some of my client's flat sides. Working with C-level and the level directly below, I find such programs can support the executive development of my clients in ways complementary to my work.

In this issue, we continue to look at the developmental stages of leaders utilizing the Leadership Development Profile[1] created by Suzanne Cooke-Greuter[2] and Bill Torbert[3]. 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 laid the foundation of the theory via a brief description of the action logics. In this issue, we will explore the two basic action-logics--the Opportunist and the Diplomat. We will explore 2-3 of the action logics in subsequent issues until we have looked at all of them.

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.

I encourage readers to consider client situations and/or self and 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

Cleveland Consulting Group, Inc.

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

The Opportunist Action Logic

4% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Opportunist Action Logic.

The Opportunist treats the physical or outside world territory of experience as the primary reality and concentrates on gaining control of things there. This Action Logic views unilateral power as the only effectual type of power and works with very short time horizons, grasping opportunities and fire fighting emergencies.

The person acting from this frame of reference understands the world as a 'what-you-see-is-what-you-get' place, a view of the world which looks only at the surface of things. Thus when an opportunity arises to get the things one wants, it must be grasped.

Opportunist managers develop a nose for opportunities and grab them. They are not concerned with how things have been done in the past or with what unintended or long term effects their action might create. They have an entrepreneurial bent. At the same time, by jumping at every chance, they can make bad decisions. Opportunist mottoes are: 'Might makes right', 'the early bird catches the worm', 'he who hesitates loses', 'it's a jungle out there'. Opportunists see the world only from their own, 'me-first' perspective, what is good for me is also 'right'. They react upon their urgent needs and desires without reflection. They seek visible gratification in financial and status returns.

We have found few Opportunist managers in our work and research because their unilateral, dictatorial style does not fit well with complex, modern organizations. Opportunistic behavior can occur with people at later Action Logics as an occasional lapse in judgement or as a deliberate choice tailored to the circumstances or the people involved.

Characteristics of managers with an Opportunist Action Logic


  • regard whatever they can get away with as 'legal' and permissible
  • act quickly and without deliberation
  • experience rules as a loss of freedom
  • focus on concrete tasks, rather than ideas, plans or principles
  • have short time horizons, and are not guided by precedent
  • manipulate and deceive others to achieve their ends
  • are distrustful of others and assume that others do not trust them
  • experience feedback as an attack and go on the offensive
  • always find blame outside of themselves and negatively stereotype others
  • punish others according to 'an eye for an eye'
  • believe that success depends on cleverness and good or bad luck

How Opportunists may regard the Leadership Development Framework

A way to label others, rather than help them to develop, and a source of power. Revealing their own stage is a threat as others may use it against them. They will believe their profile or disbelieve it according to what will be helpful at the time. Will be seen as too theoretical to have any use in the real world.

More about the Leadership Development Framework

The Diplomat Action Logic

11% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Diplomat Action Logic.

Moving away from the 'anything-goes-that-serves-me' framework of the Opportunist, Diplomats are aware of group strength over individual power. Thus, they seek to belong to established groups which may be based on kinship, club, church or profession. Since power comes from affiliation with others, rules and social norms are followed to seek approval and safeguard status as a group member. Any tensions in relationship are experienced as a threat to survival. You are either in or out. Thus, Diplomats seek to keep relationships friendly and smooth, conform to group norms and seek to avoid 'bad' feelings and discord.

Diplomats provide group cohesion by creating a sense of shared community. They are willing team players and are loyal to their groups and organizations. They will advocate positive group relationships and attend to the sort of day-to-day activities (such as remembering birthdays) which create a pleasant and often productive work atmosphere.

As managers, Diplomats tend to be overly agreeable, unable to criticize or reprimand others. They protect the status quo, avoid rocking the boat and defend the group, as well as themselves, from any outside influences or attacks. They adhere to the rule of command, do not question authority, and tend to accept group norms and ideas without examination. They keep doing what they do well, but feel embarrassed and puzzled when they are found wanting in any way. A great deal of their energy is spent on 'saving face', and creating positive appearances. In return for their loyalty, Diplomats expect to be rewarded with visible signs of approval - status symbols, appreciation certificates, thanks and money.

As a subordinate, a Diplomat will tend to feel that organizational norms prescribe every possible action, and that there is no room for creative risk-taking. As a manager, a Diplomat will often subordinate himself to his own reports, and will not confront his own boss.

Diplomats are keenly aware of group differences and readily denigrate and dismiss those that do not belong to their group or believe in the same things they do. The split now is between 'them' and 'us' (in that order) while it was between 'me' and 'them' at the Opportunist Action Logic.

Because Diplomats do not feel empowered by themselves and need approval for their well-being, they preserve the group at all costs. Managers with later Action Logic understand team cohesion as one aspect of larger organizational concerns and will foster it where it is productive. Characteristics of managers with Diplomat Action Logic.


  • provide social glue for teams and groups
  • conform to protocol and rules, and try to do what is expected of them
  • do not voice disagreement to those more senior to them
  • are usually polite and often create a pleasant 'homey' work environment
  • avoid taking actions which may cause discontent or ruffle feathers
  • are not aware of inner conflict and avoid situations which call for independent action
  • work well to group standards and norms and hope to be noticed for being good 'guys' or 'girls'
  • prefer to speak in clichés and absorb group jargon to demonstrate their membership
  • are loyal to their immediate group(s), rather than the more distant organization or principles
  • are uncomfortable about feedback that is even slightly critical of them and may feel uneasy evaluating others, especially peers or superiors

How Diplomats may regard the Leadership Development Framework

Any type of evaluation that one is not familiar with is seen as a potential threat. Diplomats prefer not to be singled out and individual differences may be a cause of shame. They may agree with any assessment, but not really absorb it; instead they try to change the subject quickly. They may be content with being at the Diplomat stage, as the positive qualities are so self-evidently worthwhile.

Next Issue

In the Next Issue, we will examine the Expert and the Achiever.


[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.

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