The Cleveland Consulting Group



Hi Folks;

The end of summer is approaching and we suddenly have unseasonably cooler weather, after a hot, scorching summer. It has been reported steadily that though the economy in general seems stalled, there is a boat-load of cash being accumulated by many corporations. Many are preparing to make acquisition bids like the recent bidding war between Dell and HP for 3Par. As coaches and consultants, the opportunity for work will be happening quickly. I anticipate executive integration and acquisition integration will be a thriving business again. For executives, successful acquisition integration must include cultural integration.

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 "individualist and strategists" action logics. In this issue, we will explore the alchemist action logic and include a sample report.

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 Alchemist Action Logic

Less than 2% of people in a mixed sample of 4510 people profile at the Alchemist Action Logic.

The next post-conventional Action Logic is labeled Alchemist. In organizations, as well as in society at large, people who score at this level are very rare. In one sample of nearly 500 managers in the USA only three were at the Alchemist stage. It is possible that you do not personally know someone whose Action Logic can be described as Alchemist--although there may be elements or glimpses of Alchemist behaviors in yourself or people who you know and admire. We have not found a title for this stage that does justice to its quality and complexity. Other terms considered for this stage, such as haman, Jester, Crone, Witch and Magician, also have connotations that are useful and misleading.

Alchemists are individuals who embody a deep wisdom coupled with the humility, ordinariness and the lightness of a jester. They are likely to personify seemingly opposite attributes such as complexity and simplicity, joyfulness and sadness, intensity and tranquillity. In other words, they live in paradox, and at times appear to transcend it in a 'marriage of opposites'.

At the Alchemist stage, people are committed to transforming themselves and others as well as changing the society and institutions in which they participate. They are able to hold many perspectives at once, seeing their multiple, interconnecting pros and cons. They are less likely than Strategists to initiate well-meaning interventions based on principled, but personal theories of what is good for the world.

In pursuit of potential transformation, Alchemists seek timely action on a moment-to-moment basis founded upon exquisite awareness of what is happening and who the potential stake holders are in the widest sense. They base decisions on all available sources, from dreams to intuition to data and experience. Alchemists seemingly have a knack for doing the right things (often unexpected or unorthodox) at the right time.

They handle many things at once as they often hold more than one significant post in organizations and society, yet have adequate time available. The following is a description of a vice-president of Motorola, who measured at the Alchemist stage by a consultant who worked with him: ". . . he is visionary yet practical, effervescent yet confronting, playful yet at work by 6.00 a.m. most mornings. . . (he) generates spontaneity, laughter, long-term focus and attention to execution and follow through (from his team)."

Alchemists are capable of friendly contact with adversaries. They may create more enlightened social rules as Gandhi did for non-violent protest and in overturning the caste principles within his own household. Like many charismatic leaders at this stage, he was abhorred by more conventional people for his actions and beliefs.

Unlike Achievers in organizations, Alchemists may not be the persons who dedicate themselves to immediate goals and outcomes if the moment or long-term considerations require a different approach. The Alchemist's ability to simultaneously attend to multiple practical, ethical, ecological, immediate and long-term concerns, as well as to emotional, rational and spiritual realities, may disturb others or arouse suspicion in them. Historically, Alchemists have been the kind of social catalysts and visionaries who have been rejected, locked up, assassinated or simply ignored as being mad or out of touch with common sense "reality". High profile examples include Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Anwar Sadat and Nelson Mandela.

What allows the move from the Strategist to Alchemist stage is as yet not well known. Near-death experiences (both physical and psychological) have been reported as key turning points. Alchemists have also mentioned outstanding mentors, an ongoing spiritual quest or discipline as a crucial dimension of development into this stage.

Characteristics of managers with Alchemist Action Logic

We cannot describe Alchemists as 'typically' doing anything. The sample is small and by definition Alchemists are highly postconventional. However some of the following might be observed about leaders at this stage.


  • serve the development and growth, and even purification of themselves and other people. They will thus often take the role of mentor or "guru" as well as leader.
  • seek transformation of organizations not according to conventional goals or principles but according to a higher order of behavior and being. As leaders they will be seen as visionaries--either inspired or deluded.
  • may appear to most people as other-worldly, speaking a different language or seeing different realities. Thus, others may see them as inscrutable enigmas. They may be seen as overly abstract, spiritual, apparently unrealistic or even "crazy"!
  • either attract others or intimidate and alienate them given their unselfconsciousness, personal inner strength, vision and charisma.
  • are aware of, bemused and saddened by the inevitability of paradox in human affairs, yet address contradictions and complexity wholeheartedly.
  • can have a transforming ability to draw together opposites and initiate new directions from creative tension.
  • they can often turn around a hopeless situation by the strength of their insight and personal courage (which may indeed seem magical!)
  • they will have multiple and diverse responsibilities which will spread well beyond the confines of one organization.

How Alchemists May Regard the Leadership Development Framework

Alchemists will likely see both its strengths and its limits! They may find it too categorical, linear and hierarchical. While they may recognize and appreciate its transformational potential, they will not overvalue or overestimate it. Thus they may use the Framework as a powerful support in helping people and organizations to conceive of and foster transformation by making them more aware of natural developmental patterns, whilst holding that it is just another construction.

Next Issue

In the Next Issue, we will examine a sample report.


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.

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

November 1-3, 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