Knowing your own action logic can be the first step toward developing a more effective leadership style.
In the HBR article on 7 Transformations of Leadership, the authors described their research on the dominant way leaders think in terms of their internal ‘Action Logic’—how they interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged.
The 7 Action Logics can be categorised as:
Rooke and Torbert start by explaining the initial Action Logics – Opportunist and Diplomat.
Like all styles, these levels have their strengths and weaknesses.
The Opportunist wins any way possible. The thinking tends to be self-oriented and to a degree manipulative… “this way is the right way”. Their approach to the outside world is largely determined by their perception of control – and whether or not they can direct the outcome. Interestingly, opportunists tend to reject feedback and externalise fault and blame. Some of the leaders that have progressed from this level admit that they were just having open and honest debate. A lot of ‘fire-fighting’ and risk-taking happens at this level. This may be good in emergencies and in securing sales opportunities. In the research conducted by Rooke and Torbert at the time 5% of managers fell in this category.
Next the Diplomat. The mindset of this manager tends to avoid overt conflict. There is a desire to belong and follow group norms – rarely challenging status quo or rocking the boat. They seek to please higher-status colleagues and look to gain control of their own behaviour, rather than others or external events. Great as supportive role within the office or team environment – useful to really bring people together. However, being conflict averse, as well as overly polite and friendly, it can be difficult for these Diplomats to give challenging feedback to others and also to manage effectively through change and stress. (About 12% of all managers – 80% of junior managers.)
Have you ever worked for a manager or leader who’s thinking action logic matched either of these two? What was the impact in their team or organisation? How effective were the results?
What caused them to transform, or not?
Watch out for the next posts on the other action logics and how transformation can occur.