Mike Munro Turner works with clients to help them become more effective leaders, exploring their identity as leaders

This is not about their organisational position but about their world view and their level of leadership consciousness.

The purpose of this article is to help you get an initial idea of what your level of leadership consciousness is. Are you: a diplomat, expert, achiever, individualist, collaborator or servant?


For a person at the Diplomat stage it is others who define what is valuable, not oneself. The Diplomat will behave so as to fit in to work and social groups, meet others’ standards,behave correctly,and maintain face and status. Diplomats can therefore be tactful, loyal and respectful, but may also find it difficult to deal with conflict, give or receive criticism or take unpopular decisions.

The Diplomat focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘Do I belong?’
  • Motivation: to avoid conflict and to be accepted.
  • Ethical choices: will be strongly influenced by the views of family and people who are significant figures at work.
  • Developing high levels of self-control and a chameleon-like ability to take on the norms and standards of whichever groups they belong to.
  • Providing a supportive work environment, where conflict is avoided.


Experts see other people’s views as one factor affecting their own actions rather than virtually the only thing. What is important is finding the one ‘right’ answer to the problem at hand. Whereas Diplomats identify with what makes them the same as others in the group, Experts are more interested in what unique skills they have that enable them to stand out from the group – but they still define themselves in terms of the group.

The Expert focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘Who am I?’
  • Motivation: to identify my unique skills and abilities, and to stand out.
  • Ethical choices: Absolutist – only one view is possible on a given ethical issue.
  • Developing the instrumental skills necessary to be able to come up with the ‘right answer’ – there is little interest in using interpersonal skills.
  • Seeking to lead by controlling the world around them through the quality of their knowledge, intellect and expert ability.


The Achiever’s interest extends beyond their unique skills towards using these skills to achieve goals that will help the organisation succeed. Achievers are interested in other people’s views, in working effectively with them, and in achieving results. Their overall goals and ethical framework, like those of the Diplomat and Expert, are determined by the organisations to which they belong. That is, the authority that guides them is largely external.

The Achiever focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘Am I successful?’
  • Motivation: to develop the skills necessary to be successful.
  • Ethical choices: based on what the law and authority say is right. They develop high-end instrumental skills and core interpersonal skills, particularly around eliciting cooperation rather than isolation.
  • Managing people efficiently and effectively to achieve work goals.


The Individualist phase is the first stage of post-conventional leadership development. People at this stage are less interested in being a highly effective and productive component of the organisation, and more in interested in discovering what particular contribution they may be able to make. This stage involves an exploration of who they are, what their special and unique gifts are and also a recognition of their limitations. The key personal transition they make is in moving the source of authority in their lives from being external to internal – it is this key shift that makes this the start of a new phase of the leadership journey.

The Individualist focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘Who am I really?’
  • Motivation: to self-actualise and express themself.
  • Ethical choices: Relativistic: many views are possible on a given ethical issue – and all are equally important.
  • Developing high-end interpersonal skills, including the ability to show and share emotion appropriately, identify their own and others’ feelings accurately, state anger objectively, affirm the worth of others, project their imagination into another’s world, cope with conflict and remain calm in times of stress and anxiety.
  • A democratic, facilitative, team-oriented, empathetic and people-focused style of leadership.


As the Individualist becomes clearer about who they are and what their unique qualities and skills are, they will tend to become somewhat bored with further personal exploration and their interest will begin to turn towards what they can do with the new levels of self-knowledge they have gained. And so, just as the Expert turned their attention out into the world to find ways to use their skills and stepped into the Achiever phase, so the Individualist looks out into the world to find ways of using their gifts and uniqueness and steps into the Collaborator phase.

The Collaborator focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘What can we contribute together to make a difference?’
  • Motivation: to find meaning
  • Ethical choices: based on personal conscience and a set of values to which we are clearly committed and which we can articulate
  • Developing imaginal skills including the ability make our values conscious, make sense out of increasingly complex data and synthesise it into new patterns, envision new possibilities where none existed before, integrate our personalities, express our emotions productively and without fear
  • Being aware of our gifts and seeking to discover how to integrate them with the needs of our organisation and of society.


As the Collaborator’s imaginal skills develop and broaden, and become increasingly integrated with their interpersonal skills, a consciousness shift takes place and a systems perspective emerges. At this Servant stage, leaders act to promote quality of life internationally by influencing positive change relative to equality, conflict resolution, creative technology, and ecology. They form mutually beneficial relationships with employees, customers, suppliers, community, and wider society. Leaders at this level ensure that they balance the time they give to service with time set aside for intimacy and solitude. They are often involved with multiple organisations, both to maximise their effectiveness and to enrich their global perspective.

The Servant focuses on:

  • Answering the question, ‘What does the planet need?’
  • Motivation: to be of service.
  • Ethical choices: informed by an awareness of the rights of all human beings.
  • Developing systems skills including the ability to see all the parts of the system as they relate to the whole, plan and design change in systems (institutions, societies and bodies of knowledge), to maximise the growth of the individual parts and to differentiate between personal interpersonal and system needs.
  • Set priorities creatively in the face of internal and external pressures.
  • Speak with clarity and be understood by people of differing educational levels, cultures and walks of life.
  • Recognising their role, and that of their organisation, in creating a sustainable future for humanity and the planet.

The stages presented here, and the labels used to identify them, are based in particular on the work of Hall (1994) Fisher, Rooke & Torbert (2003), and Beck & Cowan (1998). TEX


Brian Hall, Values Shift, Twin Lights, 1994.
Don Beck and Chris Cowan, “Spiral Dynamics“, Blackwell, 1996.
Dalmar Fisher, David Rooke & Bill Torbert, Personal and Organisational Transformations though Action Enquiry EdgeWork Press, 2003

Mentoring for Change: www.mentoringforchange.co.uk.

Mike is a leadership coach and mentor. He works with leaders and senior executives to increase their leadership effectiveness, improve their personal and business performance and accelerate the achievement of the corporate vision. He works with the Centre for Creative Leadership in Brussels on their leadership development programmes and is on the faculty of The School of Coaching where he delivers coach training programmes.