Live Your Best Life (Stages of Development)

Part 2 of 2

Last post, we examined the idea of stages of human development from three perspectives: Anderson and Adams’ “Leadership Circle Profile,” Rohr’s “two halves of life,” and Bergi and Achi’s four mindtraps and four “Forms of Mind.”  All this work is built on the pioneering work of Piaget, Maslow, Erickson, and Kegan/Lahey.  The main theme is we’re not operating from who we truly could be and that has tremendous impact on our working, leading, and living.

The Development Gap

As a leader, your stage of development matters.  The illustration from the Leadership Circle Group identifies the problem that most (all?) organizations face (I’ve revised it slightly, but want to credit the creators).

LCP Gap Betwee_Feb2020

The environment we’re operating in is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – and it’s not likely to move in the other direction any time soon.  When I showed this to one of my clients, he replied, “I’ve been trying to reduce VUCA.”

Of course, I asked (in my best Dr. Phil voice), “And how’s that been working for you?”

Rather than try to change the environment in front of us, or hope for things to magically get simpler and more predictable, the only realistic approach must be to work on moving the needle of the self.  Moving from Socialized/Reactive Mind to Self-Authoring/Creative Mind is the first step.  And since 70% of all leaders (according to Anderson and Adams’ research) are at the Reactive Stage, Leadership Development must begin by helping these leaders become self-aware of this phenomena and supporting them in becoming more self-correcting so that they may begin to become self-authoring (the steps many coaches use in describing their work).  As we become more self-authoring, we’re better able to articulate our purpose in life and our vision for the organization we’re leading.  We simply cannot effectively deal with VUCA when our mental framework is only equipped to deal with simple, predictable events.

In order to face the increasing VUCA of our organizational environments, we must work on developing the “inner game” capacities to be able to effectively confront this reality.

Right There, In Front of Me

As I’ve become more competent at understanding and using this work in my coaching, I’m seeing a common connection among several different authors and thinkers – and it’s been a series of “light bulb” moments.

“Why are you a leader?” ” What are you doing to lead?”  These are the two, main questions is Patrick Lencioni’s latest book, “The Motive.”  Lencioni tells the compelling story (his “fable”) of two, rival CEO’s, one of whom helps the other answer these two questions – questions he’s never thought about before.  Have you?

Lencioni defines two kinds of leadership:

  • Reward-centered leadership – the belief that being a leader is the reward for hard work; therefore, the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable, free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane, unpleasant, or uncomfortable (Chief Executive Officer)
  • Responsibility-centered leadership: the belief that being a leader is a responsibility; therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification) (Chief Executing Officer)

With these two types of leadership, we see the Socialized/Reactive Leader (I deserve a reward for my hard work) and the Self-Authoring/Creative Leader (we have work to accomplish, it will be difficult and challenging, but achieving the vision together is worth it).  Reactive Leaders engage controlling, protecting, or complying strategies.  Creative leaders establish competencies in relationship building, self-awareness, authenticity, systems awareness, and achieving.

Confessions of a Former English Teacher

Geoff Teaching

I began my career as a high school English teacher,  In college I fell in love with 19th century American Literature.  When I went into business, I frequently heard that what I had learned would no longer be relevant or serve me.

I loved it when people would say, “How can you know anything?  You were just a teacher!”  I would then tell them I had spent seven years at Wharton.  This statement would totally change the conversation.  Of course I never told them that it was Wharton Elementary School in the School District of Lancaster, behind the Adelphia Fish Market.

I believe those critics may have been wrong (or just operating at a Socialized/Reactive Mind level).  And eventually I did take some Executive Leadership Courses at Wharton.

Poets, philosophers, and Christianity have addressed this “stage of growth” phenomenon for centuries, but, until recently, I never saw it.  As I sorted through my collections, I began to see this idea of something more in life that we all are, at some level, longing for.

The Apostle Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Henry David Thoreau wrote:

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!  Live the life you’ve imagined.  As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

Robert Frost wrote What Fifty Said

When I was young my teachers were old.

I gave up fire for form till I was cold.

I suffered like a metal being cast.

I went to school to age to learn the past.

Now I am old my teachers are the young.

What can’t be molded must be cracked and sprung.

I strain at lessons fit to start a suture.

I go to school to youth to learn the future.


Derek Walcott wrote a deeply moving poem that shares a stark reality that suggests there is more to us than we acknowledge.

Live Your Best Life

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here.  Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

and all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit.  Feast on your life.

— Derek Walcott, from Collected Poems 1948-1984


Marianne Williamson writes in A Return to Love

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous –

Actually, who are you not to be?


You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people

Won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.

It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone,

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously

Give other people permission to do the same.


  • What’s the “persona” (the “fake mask”) you’ve built over time? What identity are you fiercely protecting?
  • How did you build this “identity?”  Who were you trying to gain acceptance from?
  • In what situations do you find yourself “protecting” your persona?
    • What emotions do you experience in those situations?
    • What do they begin to reveal about your true self?
  • What VUCA has you stumped?  What do you think you’re responsible for?
  • How do you “get things done?”
  • Who’s the “real” you?
  • What kind of leader do you want to be?
  • Who are you greeting at the door?
© Geoff Davis 3/6/20

4 thoughts on “Live Your Best Life (Stages of Development)

  1. Cathy Reichelderfer

    All I can say is WOW! Geoff, you have a beautiful and eloquent way with words and this segment deeply touched me. And love the picture!!

  2. microqemas

    Love the picture Geoff! And I’m sure I’ve received the Dr. Phil voice a few times over the years.

  3. Walcott’s poem reminds me of one of my favorite Rumi poem’s

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.
    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.
    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.
    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

    — Jellaludin Rumi,

  4. Pingback: Leading Through Covid-19 (What I’m Reading) –

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