In the first post of this series, I explained that there is plenty of cutting-edge thinking about our frameworks, tools, and methodologies, but little thought leadership related to the who we are side of our craft.

For Thought Leaders to be fully appreciated, they must be seen in context. Think of them as representing the high end of a benefit continuum that reflects the value change agents provide those they serve. Because of their depth of experience, Thought Leaders offer a rare grasp of the complexities and nuances associated with practicing our craft. At the other extreme are Eager Apprentices who are early in their development and not yet in a position to contribute much to the benefit continuum. In between are Solid Performers, Adept Adventurers, and Periodic Contributors. Consider these as five maturation archetypes, each playing a critical role in both the success of organizational change and the advancement of our profession.

It is easy to see how these archetypes play out in regards to what we do:

  • Eager Apprentices are consumed with learning the basics of our profession (skills, models, frameworks, etc.)
  • Solid Performers approach change execution by adhering to the rules. They apply the validated concepts, established processes, and dependable techniques they have come to rely on. They are highly effective in their role with their own clients but spend little time or energy helping other practitioners (outside their own colleagues) access their lessons learned or replicate their successes.
  • Adept Adventurers stretch a bit beyond their comfort zone. They refine existing frameworks or tools in ways that add value to the situation at hand but seldom pass on these modifications to other practitioners outside their organization or small circle of direct contacts.
  • Periodic Contributors provide excellent client work and, on occasion, break new ground that contributes to advancing the profession, which they occasionally share with practitioners throughout the professional community.
  • Finally, there are Thought Leaders who generate exceptional value for their clients, are the fountainheads for inventive new thinking and applications in our field, and are influential beyond the people they directly affect.

There are plenty of examples of how each of the archetypes relate to the concepts, frameworks, processes, and techniques we use when engaged with clients. Most people in our field, however, have no role models or guidance on how these five exemplars relate to “showing up” in our work. I contend that we should apply the same distinctions to the who we are aspects of practicing our craft:

  • Eager Apprentices are early in their journey and still focused on seeing how character and presence can be key assets in providing value to their clients. They are only beginning to discover how their true nature can play out in their work. They are just starting to explore how to more boldly express and better leverage the uniqueness they have within them to the benefit of their clients. 
  • Solid Performers approach their practitioner duties with a sound foundation for bringing their full selves to their work. They consider how they show up as an essential part of what they have to offer. They are comfortable: 1) embracing their true nature, 2) aligning their character and presence for authentic expression, and 3) securing clients who value their character/presence package. Their own commitment to integrating who they are with what they do is well established, but they don’t spend much time or energy encouraging other practitioners within the broader professional community to do the same.
  • Adept Adventurers are comfortable enough in their ability to stay true to their core nature that they are able to engage in some experimentation. They are ready to risk pushing past what they are confident in thinking, doing, and feeling in order to explore new possibilities. What they seek is to deepen their facility for and/or commitment to operating as de-victimized, sovereign change practitioners. Though they are secure enough in living their own truth to investigate new avenues to pursue for themselves, they don’t often openly encourage other practitioners to value who they are as much as what they do
  • Periodic Contributors take enough risk and explore enough unfamiliar ground to be able to occasionally offer unique perspectives to other change facilitators regarding how “showing up” can be incorporated into increasing practitioner effectiveness.
  • Thought Leaders are practitioners who contribute often to helping individuals understand the importance of who we are and also broadly share their views so the entire profession can benefit. 

As practitioners develop professionally and progress further on the benefit continuum, each level attained incorporates and expands on the prior levels. This means all five archetypes play an important part in the value chain of our profession. They are clearly differentiated, but not in a way that suggests one is better than another. Whatever archetype one occupies at a given time, there is value to be dispensed. For some, the benefits are rationed only to clients and associates. For others, the insights and lessons learned are made available on a broader scale.     

The bottom line is we need the full complement of archetypes applied to both what we do and who we are if we are to serve our clients and continue to evolve as a professional discipline. The field of change execution has done a relatively good job of utilizing the archetypes toward learning, using, and teaching others the methodologies associated with our craft, but we are lagging far behind when it comes to doing the same for the who we are side of our work.

In the next post, I’ll show how the five levels can and should be applied to fostering a greater emphasis on the practitioner’s character and presence. In posts 4 and 5, I’ll pay particular attention to the role of Thought Leader.