Effective Leadership: 5 Competencies to Facilitate a Growth Culture

Business today operates in a VUCA world – a military term for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. To be successful, business leaders must be highly effective not only in delivering results, but also in creating growth cultures that will drive sustainable, high-performance organizations to perform well into the future.

So what makes for a highly effective, growth culture leader?

Adult Development theory provides a rich map for understanding how leaders who develop both socially and cognitively can achieve positive impacts as a result. Simply put, as leaders shift their identity from ego-driven to collaborative, they are better able to develop and maximize contributions at all levels.

Bob Kegan, a thought leader in Adult Development and leadership, puts forth that we all need to keep moving toward a higher level of consciousness, citing a new social contract at work – a growth culture. Growth cultures are incubators for talent. They foster creativity and innovation through an open-loop feedback culture for everyone, at all levels of the organization.

And how does a leader get there?

The Leadership Circle (TLC) founders Bob Anderson and Bill Adams have identified five core Creative Competencies that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. These competencies also align with Adult Development theory of driving growth cultures.

#1: Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the #1 factor in becoming a strong leader. It takes hard work that includes self-reflection, soliciting and actively listening to feedback, and knowing one’s strengths as well as one’s blind spots. Self-awareness gives leaders choices as they begin to understand the unconscious operating systems (beliefs, values, fears, hidden biases…) and how they show up in behavior. It’s often called moving from subject to object – the ability to see oneself as if looking through a camera and now seeing “you” from the outside. It enables effective leaders to go beyond the surface, facilitating problem solving for the future. When a challenge is faced, leaders can better explore not just the challenge itself, but what actually makes it a challenge.

#2: Authenticity

Authenticity involves presence and integrity. As leaders become more authentic, they begin to subordinate their own interests for the benefit of the group. With clarity on what’s important, leaders are less prone to needing outside approval, but rather trust their own wisdom and insight. This provides the courage and confidence to hold difficult conversations, to actively listen, and to be open to multiple perspectives and possibilities.

#3: Relating

Compassionate, collaborative leadership requires strong interpersonal skills that create warm, caring relationships. Effective leaders focus on developing their people, both in technical skills and in people skills, which surprisingly, are much harder to master. This leads to stronger collaboration and camaraderie across teams working toward common goals.

#4: Systems Awareness

Systems awareness gives leaders the advanced perspective to make decisions for long-term productivity and growth in service to global welfare and a sense of being in community with all human beings. This might sound like a stretch given the pressure for short-term results, but that’s the Adult Development differentiator – it’s what TLC calls “collective leadership.”

#5: Achieving

While delivering results is required for survival, it should not be at the cost of all that’s outlined above. To go beyond achieving results – to achieve high performance, it takes clarity of vision and purpose, and then clear communication to the entire team. It takes a keen focus on strategic thinking and developing the team to contribute and thrive. It takes sound decision-making despite uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity.

As Executive Coaches, we support our clients in becoming highly effective business leaders – to be their best; to lead and inspire organizations toward a common vision; and, to create a growth culture that fosters collaborative team play to achieve extraordinary and sustainable business results – all of which cultivates a thriving workplace in the process.


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