In our previous Mentoring Minute, we discussed behavioral preferences and drivers that influence workplace behaviors. This time, Scott Knutson, a valued partner of KMP Consultants, talks about the five stages of consciousness relating to leadership, providing clarity on how our cognitive maturity impacts our leadership.

As a student of leadership development, I find the correlation of a leader’s level of consciousness to that leader’s leadership effectiveness intriguing. This article focuses on the five stages of consciousness: Egocentric, Reactive, Creative, Integral, and Unitive and their relevance to leadership. 

It is important to note here, though, that the path to higher levels of adult development or consciousness is a path of choice. It is not something that happens automatically.

Stage 1: Egocentric 

The first stage of development is Egocentric. This stage comprises approximately 5% of leaders today. As the name implies, leaders in this stage of development are focused solely on themselves. There is no concept of others’ needs—only their own.

As humans, we enter this stage of development around the age of eight. Most move out of this stage normally as the transition into adulthood occurs. However, if the transition does not happen and one becomes a leader, then this focus on oneself at the exclusion of employees, peers, and customers makes for a very ineffective leader. 

Stage 2: Reactive 

The Reactive stage comprises the vast majority of leaders today at approximately 70%. While moving on from the Egocentric stage is good, leaders in this stage tend to focus on and identify with certain strengths. They tend to focus on developing these strengths at the cost of not developing others.

Leaders in this stage emphasize caution instead of creating results for the organization, self-protection instead of engagement with others, and aggressiveness instead of collaboration and alignment. 

Stage 3: Creative 

At this level, a leader has begun to overcome their ego.

The focus shifts from what is best for themselves to what is best for the organization and their team.

At this consciousness level, the leader has developed strong people skills. Coaching team members becomes standard practice at this stage. They work to build high-performing teams and focus most of their efforts on developing the capabilities of others. It is vision and purpose that drives them. 

Leaders function as global visionaries and work to serve the universal good.

Stage 4: Integral 

The Integral stage is the fourth level of consciousness. Leaders at this level are Creative leaders on steroids. Their vision and purpose focus not just on people but on the whole system. And not just the organization’s but beyond what it is a part of. It is worth noting that at this level, leaders are known as servant leaders. 

Stage 5: Unitive 

The final stage, and the highest level a leader can aspire to, is the Unitive level. This level of leadership is rare, with only 1% of leaders today reaching this level. It is a challenging level to reach but typically is done through targeted and long-term spiritual practice. At this level, leaders function as global visionaries and work to serve the universal good. 

Remember, there is no safe way to be a great leader. 

Which level do you bring to work each day? Are you a leader who builds or destroys? Do you contribute or take away? The only way to master leadership is with conscious development and hard work. 

Take the first step to master your leadership by taking the Predictive Index personal assessment here. By taking our assessment, a consultant will give you a free 30-minute productivity improvement session and debrief your results.

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