Personal Growth – the key to effective culture and business transformation

perspectives Apr 05, 2018

The personal growth of leaders and culture practitioners is one of the central themes of the Adaptive Cultures approach. We have found that as leaders and culture practitioners deepen their personal growth, they exponentially increase their capacity to influence the systems they work within. As Bill O’Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance once said –

The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener.

Personal growth and development of our consciousness (our interiors) has a direct correlation to:

  • What we are able to perceive and therefore have influence on
  • How we are able to bring ourselves to our work, for example with greater courage and adaptability
  • Why we do what we do and how our purpose can move us beyond survival needs to self-actualisation
  • Our ability to support the actualisation of the greater potential of organisations and systems and the people that influence them

What does it mean to develop our own interiors or consciousness?

It is nearly impossible to substantially influence something we are “subject to” or not fully aware of. As we develop more complex minds (Kegan, Garvey-Berger) and operate with more mature action logics (Torbert) we become more aware of and less beholden to:

  • Our own values, beliefs and worldviews
  • The systems we operate in
  • Our emotions, inner voices and thoughts
  • Our styles, types and tendencies
  • Social expectations and norms

These deeper insights and expanded ways of viewing and operating in the world enable us to better influence the growth and potential of the systems we are connected to.

Consequences for Leaders and Culture Practitioners

Many of the skills and qualities required to be effective leaders and culture practitioners are complex. For example, self-awareness and regulation, strategic agility and systems thinking. They also often contain paradoxical elements, for example, the ability to be both passionate and non-attached, navigate past, present and future and concurrently influence strategic and operational.

The ability to work with paradox, being the domain of a more complex mind, means that a focus on growing ourselves and others in order to grow our organisations is critical.

How to develop a more complex mind

An ongoing practice and set of habits for personal development becomes critical for leaders and culture practitioners committed to enabling their own and their organisation’s growth.

Ensure these practices help you to grapple with your current limitations as well as build on your strengths. You may like to imagine what the next stage of consciousness might be and then practise operating at more complex stages. When faced with a challenge in your organisation, reflect on how you can most effectively bring yourself to this challenge, rather than relying on your habitual ways of operating. As you work through challenges, observe how you respond and react and the impact of your actions and behaviours. Consider how to adapt your actions based on these ongoing reflections and observations.

The need to support the development of others

As leaders and culture practitioners develop greater mental complexity, they are better able to transform the beliefs, mindsets, ways of working systems, structures and processes created by more limited worldviews. This requires being a role model for personal growth and development, and creating space and opportunity for deeper developmental work across an organisation. In doing so, they enable more expansive worldviews and ways of working.

Magnify each moment

Each interaction and moment is an opportunity for a cultural intervention. Whilst having a roadmap for cultural evolution is useful, effective culture influencers pay careful attention to and use each interaction and moment to move the culture forward.

Consider in each intervention, how you can leverage it to develop greater capacity in the individual and collective worldviews and ways of working in the system.

A crucial 21st-century mindset is that if we are to truly be of service to the unfolding of sustainable, vibrant future systems of work, health, commerce or whatever field we play in, our own personal growth and development is pivotal. This is not an easy path, but it is possibly the most rewarding, worthwhile and vital path that we can embark upon.


If any of this article resonates with you and you can observe some of these challenges in your organisation, then you may be interested in the Adaptive Cultures community. The community of practitioners are actively exploring many of these themes within their sphere of organisations, and actively developing ways and means to respond and adapt.

Adaptive Cultures are holding our first European Practitioner Accreditation in August 2018. You can find out more here: Accreditation

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