Leadership – Circles within Circles, or a Voyage of Discovery?

As a leadership development professional and self-confessed leadership geek, I am always on the lookout for new tools, techniques, books, ideas and perspectives.  So you can imagine my excitement when a colleague told me in December 2015 that he had come across a leadership effectiveness diagnostic we hadn’t seen before.  As a leadership team at Primeast, we were keen to know more – not only because we like to offer our clients the very best in theories, tools and diagnostics, but also because as leaders of our own business, we know we need to stretch ourselves and constantly look to grow our own skills and improve our behaviours.

The Leadership Circle is the brainchild of Bob Adams. Bob’s story is like many of us in the learning business – he started off doing one thing, realised it wasn’t for him and then went back to the drawing board to reinvent his career. In Bob’s case, this meant taking a Masters in Organisational Development and then becoming an OD director. He had the pleasure in his early career of working with the leading names in leadership development theory – people like Peter Block, Peter Senge, Robert Fritz, Marv Weisbord, Clay Laugherty, David Whyte, Robert Kegan, and a host of others.  Bob Adams said:

“What I noticed … as I got deeper into the thinking of each of these thought leaders was that the field of leadership and organisation development is a random collection of really great stuff. The field is littered with useful theories, frameworks, models and research that is largely unconnected and unintegrated.”

 

This insight is what led Bob to create first the Unified Theory of Leadership and later the Leadership Circle diagnostic, which pulls together the best in leadership development thinking into one diagnostic and output tool.

How the Leadership Circle works

The Leadership Circle Profile assessment reveals the relationship between patterns of action and the internal assumptions that drive them. It presents a breakthrough 360-degree framework for both individual and collective leadership development that is simple, elegant and comprehensive, thereby helping to create the leadership culture required to achieve improved business performance.

The Profile, as its name suggests, is presented as a circle – or really, three circles within each other. At the centre is identity – who you really are – while the other circles are split horizontally, with the upper halves representing the creative leadership competencies that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. They measure key leadership behaviours and internal assumptions that lead to high-fulfilment, high-achievement leadership. They are:

  • Relating (caring connection, fostering team play, collaboration, mentoring and development, interpersonal intelligence)
  • Self-Awareness (selfless leadership, balance, composure, personal learning)
  • Authenticity (integrity, courageous authenticity)
  • Systems Awareness (community concern, sustainable productivity, systemic thinking)
  • Achieving (strategic focus, purpose and vision, achievement of results, decisiveness)

The lower half of the circle maps self-limiting reactive tendencies and leadership behaviours. The reactive dimensions reflect inner beliefs and assumptions that limit effectiveness, authentic expression and empowering leadership. They are:

  • Complying (conservative, eagerness to please, a need to belong, passivity)
  • Protecting (arrogance, critical mindset, distance)
  • Controlling (perfectionism, drive, ambition, autocratic mentality)
The Learning Circle

Sample profile

A personal development discovery

Having learned more about the background to this tool, we were excited to try it ourselves. In December 2015, we asked our small team to respond to 360 questionnaires on each member of the leadership team – which was a substantial undertaking for quite a small company. In February 2016, we held a two-day workshop during which we received our feedback.

I think we were all surprised by the directness of the reports we received. It’s fair to say the feedback did not hold anything back, and we quickly learned that these results needed to be accompanied by top-quality coaching by a Leadership Circle-accredited coach, taking the leader through the development points revealed by the profile. I am not ashamed to admit that I had a lot to work on to move towards becoming the leader I want to be.

During 2016-17, I was able to take some time out to really think about the impact my behaviours have on those around me, and understand how to adjust these to better reflect my intentions. I realised that my enthusiasm to get a job done can come across as arrogant and bossy; my desire to do the best possible job for my clients can be interpreted as perfectionism or criticism; my tendency to have an “if you want something done, do it yourself” approach can come across as autocratic. None of these tendencies are my intention, but that’s not the point – the truth is in the eye of the beholder, whatever my intentions are.

By using the profile and coaching, I learned how to reduce my reactive tendencies and increase my creative competencies as a leader. I am happy to say that earlier this year I got to retake the 360, and the results second time around were markedly different; my reactive tendencies have decreased, and while there is still plenty of work to do, my ability to operate from the top half of the circle and to recognise when I “go south” and stop myself has improved greatly.

What does this mean for leadership development?

The biggest plus I can see from the 360 is the way its output gives the receiver a very well-defined development plan. In other words, it is crystal-clear from the report where their development needs are, and the Leadership Circle coach who delivers the report can support the leader to become the best they can be. It’s the first time I have seen a report point to such a clear development journey, and as such it’s something I will be using with my clients as a core tool.

My colleague Gary Edwards and I are now accredited to use the Leadership Circle Profile and Primeast is delighted to be able to offer the profile and extended coaching to our clients. So, if improving leadership effectiveness is on your agenda, and you want to find out more about the Leadership Circle Profile, then get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you on your journey of discovery and growth.

  • Sarah Cave – Head of Leadership, Primeast
  • To start a conversation with Sarah about the topic covered here – or any other development challenges your organisation faces – send us an email here.