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February 2016


Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Results

by Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams (Wiley, 2016)


What are the big take-aways?


A very dense but deep and passionate book, Mastering Leadership reflects the venerable experience and research of its authors, who are also the creators of The Leadership Circle assessment system.  The book attempts to offer – and indeed succeeds at delivering – a universal model of leadership mastery that brings together in one comprehensive set of tools what had been previously unwoven threads from the fields psychology, systems research and the social science of leadership.


To be sure, the book is a sales pitch for The Leadership Circle products, and it is an extremely compelling one.  As the book jacket says,


We need better leaders at all levels – men and women who create thriving futures, healthy cultures and [their emphasis] competitive companies; who balance short-term gains with long-term sustainability; who create a better world.  Mastering leadership is now a strategic priority, a competitive advantage and a global imperative.  By committing to this imperative, you can:

  • Develop through each stage in the journey of mastering leadership.
  • Turn your leadership capabilities into a distinct competitive advantage.
  • Cultivate leaders in your organization with a proven leadership development system.
  • Infuse every business conversation with leadership guidance.
  • And much more…


Why do I like it?


I like the elegance and practicality of this book, in large part because The Leadership Circle system is both simple and complex, infused as it is with the latest research from the field of adult consciousness development.  I wholeheartedly agree with the authors’ fundamental premise, which is that “the inner game runs the outer game,” and a leader’s inner individual capacity for learning, adaptation and transformation greatly affects her effectiveness; in turn, the collective leadership effectiveness of the folks driving an enterprise directly affects company results.


Anderson and Adams do a beautiful job of explaining the stages of consciousness development and why they matter to leadership and business outcomes.  However, their extreme thoroughness in explanation and detail is probably not for everyone.  The Leadership Circle is a sophisticated organizational development tool, and Mastering Leadership is clearly geared toward a specialized audience (particularly organizational development consultants, human resources professionals, and coaches).  Therefore, the book may not immediately speak to all leaders in every profession, or to all leaders in every level of an organization.  That said, Mastering Leadership is highly versatile and anyone who takes the personalized Leadership Circle self-assessment that comes with it has the potential to gain actionable, life-changing information.


I also like that this business book does not shy away – as so many others do, to their detriment – from the inherently spiritual dimensions of leadership growth and the role of love in human development.


In what situations would this be useful?


For any leader or leadership specialist considering applying The Leadership Circle to themselves and their organizations or clients, or for any professional considering certification in The Leadership Circle, Mastering Leadership is a must-read.


For leadership wonks of every stripe, the whole book could be very useful in general: e.g., to understand the business case for consciousness development theory, the information about the stages consciousness development, the comprehensive dissection of The Leadership Circle model, and the authors’ recommended Six Leadership Practices (“Spiritual Bootcamp for Leaders”), among other pieces.  Plus, many leaders and coaches and business development consultants will already recognize parts of this universal framework (such as the inner and outer game analogy, the emphasis on heroic narrative, reactive and creative structures of mind, Robert Kegan’s “immunity to change” theory, or Peter Senge’s systems theory, etc.), and to have them brought together in one integrated model with proven self-assessment and 360-degree evaluation tools is exciting and ground-breaking.


What other resources might “pair” well with it?


Limitless resources in books and online, learning experiences, body work, and contemplative practices, etc. would pair well with this book (on top of the ones set forth by Anderson and Adams in their “Spiritual Boot Camp”).  As for more information specifically about leadership and consciousness development, here are my current favorite readings in this area – some of which have been previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library – listed in chronological order by publication date:


Simple Habits for Complex Times: Powerful Exercises for Leaders by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston (Stanford University, 2015).  Hear Jennifer talk about these ideas in a recent interview on the “Inside Transformational Leadership” radio show on VoiceAmerica, at:


Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness by Frederic Laloux (Nelson Parker, 2014).


Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World by Jennifer Garvey Berger (Stanford University, 2012).


Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business Press, 2009).


Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change by Bill Joiner and Stephen Josephs (John Wiley & Sons, 2007).


• “Seven Transformations of Leadership” by David Rooke & William Torbert (Harvard Business Review, 2005).


• “Making the Case for a Developmental Perspective” by Suzanne Cook-Greuter (Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 36, Number 7, 2004).


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