Monday, October 19th, 2020

Stage Development Psychology

February 5, 2007 by
Filed under Roots of Leadership Agility

Earlier this evening, about a dozen brave souls showed up, in spite of freezing winds, at the Harvard Coop bookstore for a talk and conversation about Leadership Agility. The Q&A went on for a full hour. A very bright, fun and interested group.

It was a pleasure to be back in Harvard Square, my old stopping ground from my days at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (late 1970s and early 1980s), where many of the roots of Leadership Agility lie. One part of the school was (and to an extent still is) a hotbed of research on stage development psychology. William Perry had already published his book tracing the development of college students from what we call the Conformer stage, through the Expert stage, and into the Achiever stage. Bob Kegan published The Evolving Self, a wonderful book that, among other things, showed how stage development psychology is relevant to psychotherapy.

Harry Lasker was also teaching at the Ed School back then. Lasker was the first researcher to examine the relationship between leadership and what Jane Loevinger (another leading stage development psychologist) called stages of ego development. Russ Volckmann, editor of the Integral Leadership Review (see my Nov. 17 post), recently did a great interview with Lasker, taking him back through this period and its influence on his current work.


The framework of developmental stages upon which the Leadership Agility is based draws on the sources mentioned above, other leading stage development psychologists, and our own research.

What’s the connection between stage development psychology and agility? As people grow through these developmental stages, their mental and emotional capacities for responding effectively to change and complexity evolve accordingly. Through our research for the book, we were able to discover and document how these capacities translate into effective leadership practices.

For more on the roots of Leadership Agility at HGSE, see my Nov. 10 post on Chris Argyris and my Nov. 6 post on Bill Torbert).

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