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The Leadership Circle: a model for growth and change

Leadership is central to what we do at The Training practice. Many of the conversations we have come back to leadership—of projects, teams, and organisations. And that leadership comes back to the individuals who are able to attract and retain followers: the essence of being a leader.

What does it take to attract and retain followers? We look at that question from a few angles, and apply different models.

One of the models we use is The Leadership Circle. At first glance this looks like another 360 assessment, with questionnaires going to managers, reports, and peers, but it's more than that. The model draws on theories from several disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, business, psychotherapy, and spirituality.

For me, the appeal of The Leadership Circle is in the emphasis on personal development, and the possibility of growth and change. The model does not help you learn the mechanics of leadership; it is designed to help you be, rather than do.

Yes, the people who complete the questionnaires about you answer based on what they see you do, across relationships, tasks, and in terms of self and systems awareness. These are crucial observations that inform assessment of what the model calls the creative competencies.

The creative competencies are the things we expect from leaders in terms of their ability to to build relationships, to prioritise and execute tasks, and to understand themselves and systems. These are the things leaders do, and they have measurable impact on leadership effectiveness and business performance.

The Leadership Circle gives a picture of where your creative competencies are. The implicit challenge is to

go as far as you can with what you’ve got.
Woman with face half in shadow
What stops you stepping in to the light? Image: mike-palmowski-iyuY06EfBXI-unsplash

What sets The Leadership Circle apart is the next bit. The profile sets the commentary on what you do alongside what you believe about your world and the assumptions that you carry with you. These underlying patterns of thought may inhibit leadership potential. These beliefs and assumptions are the basis of the reactive tendencies: complying, protecting, and controlling. Complying inhibits achievement; protecting inhibits awareness; controlling inhibits relationships. People who rely on their reactive tendencies limit their action because they

play not to lose.

The Leadership Circle’s emphasis on growth and change offers a way to turn these tendencies into strengths. In the reactive state, they are about avoiding loss (of community, safety, and control) and inhibit effectiveness. If these strategies can be matured, they will emerge as gifts that support the creative competencies and take the leader further. Complying offers the gifts of loyalty and service; protecting offers the gifts of strength and discernment; controlling offers the gifts of drive and persistence.

The profile this model creates can be confronting, but it offers much to those whose leadership goal is to be rather than to do.


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