Human Developmental Processes as Key to Creating Impactful Leadership

Copyright 2016 by Graham Boyd & Otto Laske

In this article, the authors put forth a new approach to distributed leadership based on research in adult development and the pedagogical thought of Vygotsky, originator of the notion of zones of proximal development. The article attempts to re-totalize the issues neglected, or fragmented, by theories of holacracy and other models of shared leadership, in order to arrive at a deeper understanding of contemporary attempts to redesign organizational work in the direction of “organizations without managerial hierarchies”. In so doing, the authors leave behind present notions of “individual coaching”, “team coaching”, “managerial hierarchy”, and “organizational behavior”, among others, focusing squarely on contributors’ frame of reference (FoR; world view) that determines how they put their capabilities to work collaboratively and what their needs for developmental support are. The article’s essential argument is summarized in Tables 2a and 2b, one for each dimension of adult development.

The authors come to the conclusion that for holacracy and similar models to succeed, much more attention must be paid to the fact that unconventional organization designs challenge contributors’ self-identity and psychological well-being. They also show that a one-sided focus on tasks and competences (Task House) is counter-productive in that it neglects the crucial dimensions of how contributors make sense of the organizational environment (Organization House) and how they work to safeguard their adult-developmental goals (Self House). The articles makes a first attempt to spell out what are the deliberately developmental processes (Kegan-Lahey 2016) that must be put to work to evolve contributors’ “size of person” along with their shifting “size of role” in holacratic circles.

The article here posted is in its original form before it was streamlined for readers unfamiliar with developmental research. Palmgrave Chapter on Shared Leadership

Author: Otto Laske

I am the founder and director of IDM, the Interdevelopmental Institute. My background is in philosophy, psychology, consulting, and coaching based on developmental theory to which I have mightily contributed myself. See the blogs at