A leadership solution: Potential leverage within the changing world of work

By Maretha Prinsloo on September 2, 2019

©Dmitry Pichugin / adobe.stock.com


As discussed in the previous article, business disruptors all hold potential risks and benefits. However, to realise the possible advantages and optimise the impact of these factors on human psychology, organisations, societies, and the planet as a whole, a form of leadership is required which will foster:

  • human awareness and consciousness,
  • scientific innovation,
  • business model transformation, and
  • organisational culture conducive to collaboration and deep democracy.


But how can this be achieved?

Margaret Mead (1901 – 1978) is hopeful: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Her views are further informed from a systems-thinking perspective by Peter Senge in his book “The Fifth Discipline” in which he points out that: “Small changes can produce big results… but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious”.

For HR, the goal thus entails enabling the emergence of leadership at the appropriate levels of intelligence and consciousness, in every category and at every level of work, in order to trigger Lorenz’s famous butterfly effect.

But how do we identify, develop and position such talent? It starts with understanding the contextual requirements. Here a focus on the key functions, and thus roles, within organisations and society is important as it informs the leadership challenges involved.


Contextual awareness, which may involve a continuous process of calibration, should be paired with an understanding of potential role players. The identification of individuals whose worldviews, valuing systems or perceptual and decision-making frameworks, intra- and interpersonal awareness, and intellectual functioning all resonate with the contextual requirements, is thus critical. Such role players of course also need the necessary motivational drive to take responsibility for the practicalities involved, and to learn, while remaining loyal and compassionate towards others who are involved.

The term leadership as used in this article, refers to the required skill, confidence and insight to exert social influence to accomplish a common goal by providing guidance, direction, information, inspiration and by acting as a role model. Since the kind of leadership as proposed here is of a dynamic and contextual nature, critical prerequisites include passionate interest in the task and goal at hand and a cooperative interpersonal approach.  The leadership role may be temporary and can be taken by the person most suitable to do so. The process involved is well-described by the Jungian analyst Arnold Mindell in his work on Process Oriented Psychology and Deep Democracy. Mindell, A. (1992) The Leader as Martial Artist: An Introduction to Deep Democracy.

The most effective leadership behaviour, according to Claire Graves, author of the Spiral Dynamics (SD) model, is based on the characteristics of openness, confidence, and politeness, to which almost all people regardless of their inclinations, tend to respond collaboratively.


Besides these behavioural characteristics, the leader’s level of consciousness should resonate with, or to some extent exceed, the most complex requirements of their environment as well as that of the role players in that environment. Here Grave’s Spiral Dynamics (SD) model provides valuable guidelines to ensure transcendent and effective leadership in basically any environment.

The SD model indicates seven, ever-emerging levels of consciousness, which are holonically organised. Each of these levels of consciousness can also be regarded as a valuing system, a perceptual and decision- making framework, or a cultural meme. These valuing systems specify what is regarded as good, beautiful and true. It determines a person’s thinking and their behaviour. More on the SD model can be found in the following publications of this author:


Levels of consciousness development as depicted by the SD model encompasses other streams of psychological functioning such as cognition and emotion. The latter tend to emerge somewhat separately from consciousness, though. Therefore, besides consciousness, intellectual factors – more specifically information processing skill at appropriate levels of complexity, are critical for effective leadership in complex environments.

Since the nature of work complexity differs significantly across roles, role players should be matched to the intellectual requirements of their work. This will contribute to them experiencing a sense of being “in flow” and engaged, as opposed to being stressed or bored.  Cognitive skills in information processing, including judgement and decision-making, should thus best meet and/or somewhat exceed the requirements of the context in which he person, or potential leader, is functioning.

More than awareness and cognition may, however, be involved. Certain roles are particularly stressful and draining, thus requiring motivational drive and resilience. A holistic approach to the positioning of leadership is therefore advisable given the diverse nature of leadership challenges which tend to emerge. It currently is the responsibility of HR to clarify the leadership requirements of specific roles in terms of compatible levels of consciousness and awareness; cognitive functioning; and motivational drive. In the future, potential role players may be enabled to do so themselves, though.


The next brief article deals with the issue of how HR can contribute to facilitating effective leadership within the context of work, to create awareness and enable cultural transformation and organisational sustainability.

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