Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Are You Ready for Change

Are You Ready for Change?
by Stacy Hirsch, Associate

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about change. As Kris mentioned in the last newsletter, we are in the business of change. We partner with individuals and organizations to facilitate movement toward a goal or a broader vision. Our clients are often in the midst of change or ready to transform some aspect of their lives or business.

But what does change mean? How do organizations change? How do individuals change? How do we respond when change is inevitable and how do we stay present while change is occurring?

The New Year is a great time to talk about this topic because most people have something in their life they would like to transform or address with new awareness or action. But where do we begin? What does the moment before the moment we take action look and feel like?

My husband and I recently initiated one of the biggest changes two people can experience in life. We brought a child into this world. The impetus to consider a change of this magnitude was fairly clear and not too uncommon. I was of an age where I saw my fertility more as a window rather than an open landscape. Additionally, we had been married for two years so our thoughts naturally flowed toward the topic of children and whether we 'would' or 'would not.'

The decision to have a child was the result of many conversations that took place over time and began even before we were married. The requirement was that we each show up and communicate what was most important to us in life. Our responsibility to ourselves and each other was to listen to a deeper knowing and to allow it to surface and enter the conversation. The moment before the moment we decided to have a child was full of reflection, deep listening, honesty and authenticity. These principles ultimately guided us on our journey and led us into parenthood.

In working with individuals and organizations, the moment before the moment is often a point of friction. Individuals might feel a distance between themselves and a goal and come to us looking for assistance in achieving a vision they have for their lives. The same is true for organizations but with more people involved, more interpretations and perspectives, more relationships to foster, and a need to get people talking and sharing about how best to align with a mission or steer the organization in a given direction.

This friction is sometimes a result of timing or circumstance, as in our case with deciding to have a child. It might also be a moment where you realize you are no longer on the path you set out on and you would like to get back to your original vision. Sometimes it is the acknowledgement that with time and experience the original direction no longer suits you and you need assistance in determining what steps to take next as you navigate new territory.

Six months into our new role as parents, it seems that the decision to have a child was probably the easiest part of the change. Our days are now filled with a thousand small decisions that feel enormous in scale and impact. Each moment is an opportunity to reflect on who we are as parents, as partners and as human beings. The principles that guided my husband and me when we made the decision to have a child now guide us as we experience the many joys and challenges of conscious parenting.

The world is complex and constantly changing. At times this can be both exhilarating and overwhelming. Having a partner to assist in the change process can help facilitate growth, increase the likelihood of achieving a desired outcome and generate possibilities yet to be imagined. This is the business of Krama Consulting and Development.

Flow In Strategic Intuition: An Exploration of Polarities

Flow In Strategic Intuition: An Exploration of Polarities
By Evan Vandarwarka, Associate


Einstein once said you can't solve a problem at the same level of consciousness from which the problem originated. Today's business and societal challenges require a new way of being, allowing us access to new information and resolution to achieve breakthrough and change. In a previous article, we discussed the concept of strategic intuition, the creative spark found between the analysis and action of a strategy. It is strategic intuition that brings all previous analysis and experience into a clear plan of action. When immersed in strategic intuition, we often experience a state of deep concentration and focus, our mind and body in balance, our awareness heightened. We feel a state of optimal experience, or what is known as flow; a new way of being that may be one answer to today's challenges.

Flow most easily occurs when we become aware of certain polarities that are constantly occurring in our lives and are able to hold both at the same time. This balance allows for the expression of our most insightful and significant ideas and often results in the experience of seemingly opposed realities converging together to produce harmony where levels of chaos and uncertainty were previously present. As with everyone else, I have experienced varying degrees of flow in my life. When I am able to witness polarities and how they are informing me, a greater sense of clarity and trust in the process moves through me. It is a sample of these polarities we will explore in this article, those that seem to harbor significance in flow and in part provide for the experience of strategic intuition, purpose and clarity.

Action and Reflection

In human activity (whether we are aware of it or not) there are repetitive cycles of action and reflection constantly occurring. We act, then reflect on our action; reflection that then informs subsequent actions, and the cycle continues. As we grow and develop, these action/reflection cycles become more complex, incorporating more of our surroundings as we take in more of our world and understand it more deeply. In the process, as we develop more complex cycles, the action/reflection process is quicker, more closely knit. When we are children, we often don't realize the consequences of our actions until much later when we are disciplined by our parents, then reflect on what we have done as a result. As adults, we are able to act, then reflect with greater ease and rapidity from our previous experience. It is this process of quicker action and reflection that helps us resolve problems with more fluidity and grace. Bill Torbert's book, Action Inquiry, discusses ways in which these action/reflection cycles occur through various levels of human development; stages of awareness in action and reflection as we mature. In business, we find successful leaders continually take time to reflect on their actions and re-orient themselves to a more congruent plan. When highly mature, this cycle is happening all the time, at the same time, contributing to a state of flow.

Suggestion: take time at the end of each day to reflect or journal on major actions you have taken. How did they manifest, what was the impact on others, what did you learn? Bringing awareness to these cycles breeds greater clarity and purpose for future activity.

Complexity and Unity

As mentioned in our cycles of action and reflection, the process of growth and development brings with it the ability to conceive of deeper and broader systems; we have access to abstract concepts and are able to view the world from a more complex viewpoint. Linear ways of viewing situations or problems give way to a systemic understanding, seeing the problem from many different perspectives. Sometimes this complexity can be overwhelming. There's a point where we can get lost in the various ways of looking at a problem, leading to stalemate where nothing ends up getting resolved. However, when one develops the creative power of flow, this complexity comes together to form a unitive structure, one in which complexity begins manifesting as a more complete, whole understanding of complex structures. In nature, we see unity in complexity, from the fractal formation of a leaf to the organization of human molecular systems. We can begin viewing our life and its challenges as we do with nature; seeing unity and clarity in a problem through deeper understanding of its complexity.
Flow happens when we experience this unity within the complexity. Taking another example from the business world, managers who are able to view unity in complexity see the overall vision and purpose of a project or department within the many processes and systems in place that support that vision. It may seem logical, yet still a challenge to actually hold both at the same time with demonstrative efficacy. In flow, this attunement to both becomes greatly enhanced; systems within systems emerge in one’s perspective and a fuller picture comes into being.

Suggestion: take an object in your immediate environment and examine it for a few minutes. Notice whether you are paying attention to the details of that object or the object as a whole. Try to alternate between seeing the details and the whole until you are holding both at the same time. This practice is beneficial in developing the capacity to bring each into awareness.

Agency and Communion
As humans develop, we alternate between cycles that are dominated by differentiation and accommodation; sometimes we go through periods of agency in the world through our individual expression. In others, we take in our collective environment, which then informs us as individuals. In reality, this polarity of agency and communion, individual and collective is constantly occurring. A pebble dropped in a pond makes ripples that reverberate through, informing the actions of its immediate surroundings. In flow, we are both aware of our individual "pebble" AND the ramifications of our actions in the collective. When we are conscious of this, our action/reflection cycles are quick and we act in accordance with what is most needed for ourselves and our environment. We become an agent of change within the larger environment we are informing. In business and life, this becomes a critical leadership quality. If we are to form something new or resolve a certain issue, holding agency and communion, ourselves and the collective is necessary to create an environment that meets the needs of both. We are in flow when both are happening simultaneously.

Suggestion: the next time you are speaking with someone, notice how you alternate between asserting your own interest in the conversation and taking in the other, through both your thoughts about the conversation and the actual words you are saying. Reflect on how much of your day is spent in either side of the polarity and witness how they may be forming each other.


In practice, holding these polarities at the same time can be challenging. We often find ourselves in one of two positions; acting or reflecting, immersed in details or examining the big picture, asserting ourselves or taking in our environment. Witnessing and becoming aware of both ends of these polarities in yourself provides the experience of holding when and how they either produce positive results and balance in your life or lead to a state of contraction in which you feel immobilized. This witnessing then offers new ways of understanding; we bring clarity to challenges we face and act in accordance with purpose; we flow with greater ease and acceptance. At Krama Consulting, we help to elicit these qualities in projects and leaders, pointing out polarities that are being managed and to what extent they are generating or halting flow, allowing transformative change to occur.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Media Updates

Kris was recently quoted in a leadership blog; check it out.

Stay connected to our growing conversation online:

Blog: Krama Consulting
Twitter: TofferNelson
LinkedIn: Profile

Solutions for The Current Economy

Times are very tough, and yet I am hopeful. I'm optimistic and even, dare I say, excited by the opportunities for change. Things may get a little worse before they begin to get a little better. However, they will get better. The most exciting thing about this opportunity is that we (each and every one of us) can, needs to, and will affect this change. There is already so much transition, reconsideration, visioning, creation, commitment, and energy.

Simply, we want to do better, and we know we can do better. I want to support you in this, and am offering four distinct services for both individuals and organizations to assist in this economy and transition.

"Kris is a natural teacher and coach, and an exceptional leader. He is extremely intelligent and grounded, and visionary and compassionate. I recommend him with out hesitation to those wanting to work at the leading edge of development and performance."
- Dana Carman, Principal Pacific Integral

Summary of Services

· Transition Coaching for Individuals

Perfect for someone that has recently lost a job or is currently re-visioning their lives.

· Executive Coaching for Struggling Organizations

Essential for an executive that is faced with layoff and restructuring decisions in the next month.

· 360° Organization/Business Assessment & Change Initiative

Ideal for organizations and businesses that are restructuring and cutting back.

· Process Driven Strategy Investigation for Organizations

Designed for businesses and organizations that need to rapidly adjust immediate strategy to current market and social conditions.

"Working with Kris Nelson brought clarity and precision. Kris's easy, natural and non-judgmental insight supported and encouraged me to go deep inside myself, to observe my actions, to notice where they were coming from without attachment and critical analysis. Kris is a pillar of strength; his wisdom coached me through situations that I would have previously thought were insurmountable."
- Lauri Ashworth, Owner and Founder The Hub

Detail of Services

· Transition Coaching for Individuals

This is a specific six week or three month course for individuals in transition. This personal course will include deep vision work, development of strategic intuition and forecasting, communication coaching, leadership empathy, value solidification, and effective life strategy. We will explore the things that are keeping you from being proactive and successful: fear, doubt, blame, and hopelessness, and ensure that they no longer keep you from your greatest success and purpose.

We will meet for an hour each week in person or on the phone. You will engage specific work and practices custom designed for you. And you will have full access to me, either by phone or email, in between sessions for support and guidance.

As the things that are keeping you from moving forward dissipate, and the capacities and skills you need to be a successful actor of the future are developed, you will step into greater success and freedom.

For pricing and further information, please email me at:

· Executive Coaching for Struggling Organizations

Executives are dealing with a lot - I am hearing about overload, impossible decisions, guilt, fear, frustration, and challenge like many have never faced before.

This support and coaching focuses on separating emotional and mental experience, the facts of circumstance, and forward moving strategy in a process I call M3. Each area is dealt with using further processes of discernment and discovery, so that every decision is made with absolute clarity and information.

This is a retainer package, which allows for 24 hour a day access to me.

For pricing and further information, please email me at:

· 360° Organization/Business Assessment & Change Initiative

A needed solution for businesses and organizations of all sizes. Please call or write for a free consultation to learn if this is right for you.

This process opens up the organization from the inside out and the outside in. The organization is reviewed in a systematic and comprehensive method, uncovering the invaluable, unclear, unrefined and underdeveloped areas allowing for a more fluid, more successful and higher achieving organization.

During a time when mistakes cannot be allowed to go unnoticed and persist, it is essential to know what is great, what needs work, and what no longer adds value. The sustainability of your organization may depend on this. The assessment is always followed with a path to change and the support to implement.

For pricing and further information, please email me at:

· Process Driven Strategy Investigation for Organizations

I hear about too many organizations making short-term, reactive decisions that do not align with overall vision, mission and values. In this process the vision, mission and values become clarified and act as the guiding light for all needed adjustments in strategy, tactics, and process.

For pricing and further information, please email me at:

More than ever, during this time, support is needed for your success and the success of your organization. Allow Krama Consulting & Development a hand in growing you and your organization into the future.

Best wishes and great success!

Sincerely Yours,

Kristoffer Nelson
Kristoffer Nelson has been transforming individuals and systems for over 10 years.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Strategic Intuition

Strategic Intuition
Practicing Dynamic Innovation

An apple fell. It didn’t actually fall on his head, as modern myth would have us believe. It fell in front of him and hit the ground. In that moment, however, a man was hit in the head. He saw a potential and possibility that had not yet been available to modern humanity: gravity. This is strategic intuition. Spaciousness of mind, personal experience, historical examples and accomplishments, and an opportunity-not-yet-realized coalesces to create something novel, transformative and revolutionary.

Google is the result of strategic intuition*. Mac is the result of strategic intuition. Picasso’s unique artistic expression was the result of strategic intuition. Napoleon’s military success was the result of strategic intuition. The Buddha’s enlightenment, U.S. women’s suffrage, and civil rights was the result of strategic intuition. The Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution were the result of strategic intuition**.

Strategic intuition is the fulcrum of innovation and success. Strategic analysis and planning are great. Expert and ordinary intuition are great. Strategic intuition changes the world, and leads to great success and accomplishment. The great thing: you can cultivate strategic intuition.

Elements of Creation

Presence of Mind

Think for a moment: when do you get your best ideas? I ask people this all the time. You know what? No one has ever answered, “during a brainstorming session” or “in a strategy meeting.” Most answer with random activities: driving, showering, watching television, or arguing with a lover. Most responses fall into two categories: either thinking about nothing or thinking about nothing of consequence – something completely different.

Newton was not thinking about gravity when the apple fell. Newton did not drop an apple, create a hypothesis, and then drop 1,000 more apples to test it. An apple fell in front of him, and in his presence of mind he had a flash of insight. Presence of mind is one of the central elements that William Duggan reveals as an essential element of strategic intuition in his book by the same title (Strategic Intuition, William Duggan, Columbia Business School Publishing).

Through the work of Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and others, presence and spaciousness of mind is now becoming an essential capacity to cultivate in the business, leadership and management field. Today’s world is chaotic. Our financial and housing markets have recently turned for the worse – the worst in many years. Decisions are being made quicker than ever, and these decisions have huge impact and implications. The mind can be a busy place with lots of competing voices and choices. Presence of mind allows for a calm clarity that cuts through the chaotic confusion affording an environment where novelty and decisiveness can open.

Without presence of mind, we are trapped in the same decisions and patterns we have always followed. Strategic intuition creates new vistas and pathways. Something is realized that has never been realized before, and in order for this to happen there has to be the space for insight and creativity.

Strategic intuition almost always reveals something we were never looking for – Newton was not looking for gravity. It takes great presence and space of mind to recognize something of value that was not sought after.

Personal and Historical Experience

Newton said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on shoulders of giants.” Newton did not make up the mathematic and physic components he used to explain gravity. He didn’t even come up with the idea of gravity – gravity had been in human consciousness for over 2,000 years at that time. Newton’s novelty arose in bringing components of past insight together in a new way, creating a new potential and future – he explained gravity it a way that could be both mathematically and physically proven.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft all did the same thing: they brought together elements of the past to create a new potential, strategy and successful future. Strategic intuition relies heavily on past insight, success and knowledge. For strategic intuition to arise in your experience you have to have great historical knowledge in your field of application – you have to know what has worked and why it has worked.

I will not have strategic intuition about baseball. I know nothing about baseball beyond the basic rules and strategy. Strategic intuition relies on historical data. Strategic intuition brings together disparate pieces of experience, information and history creating novelty. Newton stood on the shoulders of Pythagoras, Aristotle, Bacon, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and many others. Without the insights of his predecessors and his understanding of their work, the Universal Law of Gravitation would have never fallen into Newton’s lap, so to speak.

It was not the first time an apple fell. It was not the first time someone saw an apple fall. However, Newton had the personal experience, historical data, and presence of mind to arrive at a new understanding of why apples fall – an understanding that affects all of modern life (modern engineering would not have happened without Newton).


One of Newton’s biographies shares that after he saw the apple fall he went into deep contemplation. Strategic intuition may arrive in a flash, but it will often take time to understand and relate the insights realized. Newton worked on his theories based around the Universal Law of Gravitation for the rest of his life. Einstein worked on the theories and applications of E = MC2 (another product of strategic intuition) for the rest of his life. It took Google almost ten years to make it what it is today. It took Microsoft many years to bring all its their components, insights, and discoveries together into the brand that Microsoft is now.

Resolve & Determination

Strategic intuition is not just a good idea, but is also a plan of action. Anyone can come up with a good idea. I have great ideas everyday, but very little interest in seeing them forward. That is not strategic intuition. Strategic intuition carries with it a plan of action, and the resolve and determination to see it through.

Given that strategic intuition creates a novel understanding, the insight and plan for action will not always be agreed with. There will most likely be opposition. At the time of Google’s inception, the dotcom boom had turned towards bust and the web portal was considered to be the only viable way of creating new capital on the net. Against initial opposition, the Google guys pushed forward and in a very short amount of time created the most successful internet business of all time.

In the circumstance of authentic strategic intuition, there is also great resolve – the resolve it takes to carry the insight and strategy of implementation to the end.

Big & Small

In thinking about strategic intuition and its implications in my life, I have decided upon the Big & Small Factor. The examples of strategic intuition Duggan offers are grand global situations of great human impact. These are wonderful and inspiring, but not fully relatable to me. In reviewing my life, I began to realize that strategic intuition has been at play often in my experience in very small-scale situations.

Through presence of mind, personal experience, and an understanding of historical situations and applications a flash of insight arose in me creating a new future; a future I have the resolve to realize. Most of these circumstances were so small I didn’t even notice they happened; that is, until I began to review my experience from the perspective of strategic intuition. Strategic intuition is not limited to global scale, human scale situations, but also shares itself in creating potent moment-to-moment situations. In cultivating strategic intuition, do not limit yourself to only humanity changing “ahas,” but also allow room for small insights and shifts that will have huge impact down the line. It was a lot of big and small moments that created the founding of our country, but it was really a lot more small than big.



Strategic intuition is not something that can be forced. Again, when do you have your best ideas? Generally, not when you force it. However, strategic intuition can be cultivated.

Two of the most important components of strategic intuition are presence of mind and historical understanding. Meditation is one of the most efficient ways of cultivating presence of mind. There are plenty of resources now in mainstream culture to learn meditation. Even if you live in a small town, chances are there will be at least one meditation teacher in your area. If you google “meditation practices,” 467,000 pages come up, along with advertisements for meditation cushions (good job Google guys! – now it’s your turn). If you google “meditation,” 54,700,000 pages come up. Like I said, there are plenty of resources. Like they say in Zen: sit down, shut up, and just do it.

You have to study. You have to spend time understanding your field and work. You can read, ask questions, research online, listen to cds and digital files, and watch films. Whatever you decide to do, whatever tools you choose for study, you simply have to do it. You have to be present to the texture of your industry. With an understanding of the texture, new fabric will unfold.

That’s a Wrap

Strategic intuition is a transformative moment. It allows for great things. By drawing together presence and space of mind, personal and historical experience, time, and determination: novel situations, paths, and perspectives will emerge from you. Like all intuition, strategic intuition can be cultivated, and through strategic intuition you will have a profound and novel impact on the world.

* These examples come directly from Duggan’s Strategic Intuition, which is highly recommended.

** I came up with this one on my own – the founding and formation of the United States is a great case study for continuous strategic intuition, not limited to an individual, but group

Social Capital

A few months ago, I walked into the dry cleaners I have been using for over ten years and found a small Korean couple wearing identical glasses standing behind the counter. They both waved and in unison said, “Welcome to Beverly Plus Cleaners.” I wondered what happened to the owner, Willie, and asked where he was. They let me know that they had bought the business from him last week and that they would be serving me now.

I am not sure about you, but it’s hard for me to find a good dry cleaner. I started using Willie when I moved from the East Los Angeles, where I grew up, to the central convenience of West Hollywood, more than ten years ago. Willie has had been my dry cleaner for more than ten years. When I moved from Melrose and Fairfax to Hollywood and Fairfax a while ago, I looked for a dry cleaner on a closer corner, but eventually returned to Willie – he was so great.
After learning that Willie had left, I was a bit sad that he didn’t let me know and he didn’t say goodbye, and I realized a few things about business and life. I took my clothes to Willie because he did a good job, and because I liked him. He was a nice guy, and it felt good to give him my money in exchange for his services. I recognized how important the relationship was to me.

I know this isn’t groundbreaking business insight, but I think it’s something, in the complexity of our world and the complexity of current business solutions, that can be easily overlooked. As I explored the idea and importance of relationships more fully, I realized that I had huge value in relationship. My entire business plan and model is based on relationship and partnership. I spend a good portion of my time every day cultivating relationship, referring people, connecting people, passing along relevant information, and investing in the happiness and success of other’s lives. Interestingly, a good portion of these relationships are with so called competitors.

I recognize that I do this because it makes me feel good – it makes me really happy to see others succeed and do well. However, over time, I have realized that because of this I have cultivated a highly valuable resource in my network. Whenever something is needed, whether it is information, connections, clients, capital, or advice I have lists of willing providers and experts that are ready to assist me because I have invested in them.

All of this has me wondering, how’s your network these days? Are you investing in your network? Are you leveraging the resources of your network? Think of your network like stock or an account, you can only pull out what you put in.

When I founded Krama Consulting & Development, I was stepping forward into a dream and vision. I believe that successful business can be created based on partnership and relationship with everyone, including competitors. I have a dream that through partnership everyone everywhere becomes more successful and the world becomes a more abundant place.

As you consider your business and marketing strategy for this next year, please consider your network: there is a storehouse of value there waiting to be resourced. And, perhaps, it might make you feel really good too.

Relationships with Reality: Developing World Views for Dynamic Leadership

We're all leaders. The way you perceive the world affects the way you are in the world. Truly, your perceptions will define your leadership. Leadership, in my perspective, is the ability to shift space. We all do this in each moment. We're all leaders. Whether you are the president of an international corporation or a Barista, you're a leader, because you affect. In assisting others in developing leadership capacities, the fundamental thing I look at is the way someone is framing their experience.

Humanity's greatest leaders are those that were able to manifest great, intentional, and inspirational impact. Becoming aware of our perceptions and understanding the influence they have on our choices is paramount to becoming a person of significant impact: whether you are what is traditionally considered a leader or simply someone living.

Reality, in this article, is considered to be what someone experiences in their moment-to-moment living. Reality in this perspective is highly subjective and personal. I am not denying the validity of objective, shared realities, which are agreements we all make about what is real. (Such realities and agreements are generally a part of one's personal experience.) However, since we all respond to the way we individually experience circumstances, this will focus on our individual experiences.

There are infinite methods and perspectives to define and create structure around the mass quantity of individual experience. There are a vast number of systems, some simple and some complex, to generalize and make the infinite amount of personal perspectives graspable and understandable (sort of). I am trying to keep this short, so I will use the simple distinctions first popularized by Lawrence Kohlberg when he studied how people develop morally: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional.

I recognize that people and the world are much more complex than three distinctive stages. Please forgive the generalization. However, generalization allows access to something otherwise impossible to discuss: the complexity of people and reality. There are many different lenses we can apply to each of these levels. I am going to apply just one, and that is the relationship that each level will have with what is going on in their experience; their relationship with reality.

It is important to briefly note that these stages always grow from the ground up in a sequential order. No one has warped from pre to post, without first going through conventional. Just as plants grow and just as the complexity of information grows through school grades, so too do these ways of experiencing and being grow. Late is not better than early. However, it is the perspective of this article that the more one can perceive and respond from higher levels the more effective they will be in intentionally shifting space and time.

It is also important to note these stages do not only consider what is happening on the thinking level of the mind, but also includes emotions, values, sensations, and deeply held beliefs and patterns. One might, for example, have ideas that appear to be very "late" on the pre-con-post continuum, but in actuality they experience and respond at much "earlier" levels. For example, I've heard many people say that they believe they are in a dynamic relationship of co-creation with the world, but generally act and respond in a way that reveals a victimized experience of life.

Pre-conventional: The World is Happening to Me

Last week I stubbed my toe. Honestly, I do this almost every week. I'm a bit klutzy. Whenever I do this, I don't have evolved and complex thoughts about the systemic nature of what just happened. I normally think, "Oh shit," which is then followed by, "damn rock." In this moment, I have perceived and acted based on a pre-conventional understanding of reality. In this moment, reality is happening to me.

It is continuously interesting to me that I observe often well educated, matured, and experienced individuals and leaders fall into the pre-conventional line of thinking. Reality is happening to them and they are simply responding as best they can. In life and leadership, this does not get anyone very far. At best, this leaves one feeling lucky when things go well and feeling discouraged when things go poorly. In its most drastic appearances, one becomes the victim and life isn't fair. "I'm completely helpless," this person might feel.

This isn't bad, and there isn't a value judgment. However, when considering impacting leadership, a pre-conventional response lacks the ease, insight, skill, and vision of a well-developed leader. Again, no one is just one thing. In times of stress, when leadership is normally most needed, people will tend to default to conventional or pre-conventional relationships with the experience they're having. One becomes a victim, and decisions are based on fear and survival instincts. Leaders will resort to and get caught in blaming others and circumstance, losing all ability to inspire a team and move forward with a clear vision and intention. The leadership shuts down, and the group falls apart. In the worst case, the project completely fails, and "Someone is going to pay for it," because in this perspective, reality and life is happening to you.

Pre-conventional awareness isn't only a liability. A lot of really beautiful things arise from this mind structure: big ideas, big risks, and intuition uncluttered by more formal and conventional modes of thinking. A healthy expression pre-conventional perspective can be a great asset within an individual and a team. We access these ways of thinking all the time, and in developing as a leader, it's important to develop and honor the healthy components of each stage.

Conventional: I can Affect the World

The limitations of one stage, always lead to the development of a new methods of perceiving and acting. The limitations of the pre-conventional experience open up the new vista of conventional thinking. When a new stage is realized, the previous stage is not isolated and removed, but still relied on to support the new stage of growth. As mentioned earlier, most when put under stress will step back a stage or two. During times of great inspiration, a stage or two may be realized. All this considered, people generally have a resting place, and the majority of people in the United States rest a conventional level of interpretation and action.

The conventional level is one of my personal favorites. Conventional consciousness wrote the United States Constitution. Conventional consciousness gets stuff done, very well, because it recognizes that it can affect the world it lives in. Conventional consciousness sees the world as malleable and pliable. Conventional consciousness recognizes that each person has great affect, and so it seeks to affect. Conventional consciousness, after stubbing its toe, doesn't think, "Oh shit." It takes some responsibility for itself. It wonders how it can walk better, how to pay more attention, and what to pay attention to. The conventional way of thinking, with its understanding of impact, explores the world in a way that seeks to create change towards its values and ideals.

There is a wide movement of growth in the conventional domain. In early conventional consciousness, a great deal of emphasis is placed on the group of association. Stepping from pre-conventional to conventional, there is the recognition that groups provide stability and expertise, and inspire with value and identity to something larger. The group becomes an asset and group membership becomes vital. In early conventional leadership, the group and greater experience will be overly deferred to. In its healthy expressions, the value of group and circumstantial experience is recognized and for the first time honored. In unhealthy expressions, it can create stagnation, and will lack direction.

Mid-level conventional consciousness will begin to recognize the importance and strength of their own individual power and perspective. Greater responsibility is owned here. Because it's a level of great responsibility, the strength of deference and the recognition that life is big and inspirational is lost, and one becomes limited by their own responsibility. In mid-conventional leadership, the individual will be overly considered. This person has now recognized the impact they have on the world, and has begun to take responsibility for it. They become strong actors wherever they are showing up. In unhealthy expressions, leaders become siloed and can loose touch with the group and the greater experience, missing circumstantial and individual feedback. This leader can no longer effectively create and deliver the intended results, as they are completely self-dependant, without a greater regard.

In later conventional perspectives, there is a balancing between the group, individual, and a deeper intuition arises. An understanding that unfolds from this "late" area of conventional consciousness is "co-creation." One is working in harmony with self, a larger group, and the depth of passion within. One is co-creating: affecting reality with a wide consideration of what is present with a vision for the future, while allowing themselves to also be affected. With late conventional thinking, there is not only responsibility, but there is also sensitivity. In many systems of development and leadership development, this is considered the last stage, and for good reason, it's really effective. Most successful managers and leaders worldwide operate at this level.

Post-conventional: The World is Unfolding

The huge majority of the world's population spends the majority of their time in conventional modes of being, but the post-conventional container is big and vast. It covers a greater span of human territory than the previous two combined. There are many significant nuances, as post-conventional consciousness continues to evolve, that cannot be contained in the frame of this article. There is one specific aspect of the reality relationship I would like to discuss: the world is unfolding.

The post-conventional mind experiences the world in a very complex, layered, and interactive way, but the hallmark of this perception is that the world is very simply and very profoundly unfolding. Individuals can and will affect the way things unfold, but they do so as a part of the entirety of reality, all co-creating. There is indeed a deeper intuition of co-creation as post-conventional awareness grows.

In post-conventional awareness, there is a freer spontaneity than the earlier two stages, and yet this spontaneity holds a great vision and an understanding of layered and rippling impact. A butterfly flapping its wings in Africa will affect the weather in Kansas, and everything has to do with the price of tea in China.

Post-conventional leaders are the world's great leaders; leaders of massive impact. Some of these leaders are very public and some of these leaders we will never know. But the level of impact these people create is intentional and systemic. These leaders have the space and capacity to manage multiple streams of information and many levels and layers of feedback. They understand that the process is just as important as the product, and yet they can deliver and create with ease, because they can manage complex situations, events, and people.

There is a great ease in the post-conventional relationship with reality, because things are seen and understood in the simultaneity of complexity and simplicity. Life is unfolding, and this is a very simply and very complex thing. Intentional affect is an aspect of unfolding, and allowing is an aspect of unfolding. The post-conventional leader knows when to affect and knows when to allow, and as a result these leaders carry great impact.

Like the previous two levels of development, there are growth opportunities at this stage as well. The post-conventional domain can sometimes become very visionary, and can lose its foundation and grounding. Earlier levels, especially conventional, can perceive the post-conventional leader as ambiguous and slow to deliver. In working through these stresses, post conventional leaders learn to ground vision in practical methods, use ambiguity to develop other leadership within the organization, and work towards creating quick and effective results with the complexity of interaction.

The post-conventional leader sees all challenges as an opportunity for growth, and they recognize that growth is always in process. Post-conventional leadership isn't the ending of the developing leader story. It's simply another beginning.


No one is ever one thing. I find myself up and down the pre, con, and post line all day. Certain circumstances evoke different perceptions and responses. In refining intentional impact, the most important cultivation is the availability of choices and the clarity to choose the most intentional impact. Pre-conventional consciousness has a very limited range of choices, whereas post-conventional consciousness has great access to many different ways of showing up allowing for future potentials.

In developing as a leader, one of the most essential things you can do is to notice your default settings. What are the various ways you respond to the variety of circumstances you encounter? Is there space for you to see things a bit differently? Do you ever play a victim, completely limited by circumstance? Do you ever default to the wishes of a group lacking clear direction and leadership? Are you too individually minded? Are you responding from a place of deeper intuition and passion, almost effortlessly? Do you respond with trust knowing that whatever you do and whatever unfolds - not a victim, not solely responsible, but fully and effortlessly participating in leadership - is simply reality and the world doing its thing?

By simply beginning to notice your tendencies, you are already cultivating greater leadership capacities. Practicing leadership is an expression of leadership. You are already a leader, as you strive towards greater leadership.