Stages of Adult Development

The work of Robert Kegan proposes four stages of adult development, referred to by Jennifer Garvey Berger as Forms of Mind. These are Self-Sovereign, Socialising, Self-Authored, and Self-Transforming. The least developed is self-sovereign, while the most fully developed is self-transforming.

In relation to leadership, the logic of this model is that the best leaders are either self-authored or self-transforming. This is because as leadership roles become more complex (such as with larger and more diffuse organisations) the leader requires capacities for longer range strategic thinking, engagement with a more complex array of stakeholders, capacity to manage the reducing link between actions and outcomes, and the ability to take multiple perspectives that is not sufficiently developed in people with predominantly self-sovereign and socialising forms of mind.

To this end, professional development and coaching of leaders should be designed to respect the participant’s current form of mind, while also opening the door to development to the higher forms.

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