Business today operates in a VUCA world – a military term for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. To be successful, business leaders must be highly effective not only in delivering results, but also in creating growth cultures that will drive sustainable, high-performance organizations to perform well into the future. 

So what makes for a highly effective, growth culture leader?
Adult Development theory provides a rich map to understand how leaders develop both socially and cognitively in a business sense, and the resulting positive impacts on leading an organization. Simply put, as a leader begins to shift their identity from ego-driven to collaborative, they are better able to develop others to be brilliant, thus maximizing contributions at all levels.

Bob Kegan, a thought leader in Adult Development and leadership, puts forth that we all need to keep moving toward a higher level of consciousness, citing a new social contract at work – a growth culture. Growth cultures are incubators for talent. They foster creativity and innovation through an open-loop feedback culture for everyone, at all levels of the organization.

And how does a leader get there?
The Leadership Circle (TLC) founders Bob Anderson and Bill Adams have identified five core Creative Competencies that contribute to a leader’s effectiveness. These competencies also align with Adult Development theory of driving growth cultures.


#1: Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is the #1 factor in becoming a strong leader. It takes hard work that includes self-reflection, soliciting and actively listening to feedback, and knowing one’s strengths as well as one’s blind spots. Self-awareness gives leaders’ choices as they begin to understand the unconscious operating systems (beliefs, values, fears, hidden biases…) and how they show up in behavior. It’s often called moving from subject to object – the ability to see one’s self as if looking through a camera and now seeing “you” from the outside. It enables effective leaders to go beyond the surface, facilitating problem solving for the future. When a challenge is faced, leaders can better explore not just the challenge itself, but what actually makes it a challenge.


#2: Authenticity
Also called presence or integrity, effective leaders begin to subordinate their own interests for the benefit of the group. With clarity on what’s important, leaders are less prone to needing outside approval, but rather trust their own wisdom and insight. This provides the courage and confidence to hold difficult conversations, to actively listen, and to be open to multiple perspectives and possibilities.


#3: Relating
Compassionate, collaborative leadership requires strong interpersonal skills that create warm, caring relationships. Effective leaders focus on developing their people, both in technical skills and in people skills, which surprisingly, are much harder to master. This leads to stronger collaboration and camaraderie across teams working toward common goals.


#4: Systems Awareness
Systems awareness gives leaders the advanced perspective to make decisions for long-term productivity and growth in service to global welfare and a sense of being in community with all human beings. This might sound like a stretch given the pressure for short-term results, but that’s the Adult Development differentiator – it’s what TLC calls “collective leadership.”


#5: Achieving
While delivering results is required for survival, it should not be at the cost of all outlined above. To go beyond achieving results – to achieve high performance, it takes clarity of vision and purpose, and then clear communication, communication, communication to the entire team. It takes a keen focus on strategic thinking and developing the team to contribute and thrive. It takes sound decision-making despite uncertainty, ambiguity, and complexity.

As Executive Coaches, we support our clients to be highly effective business leaders – to be their best; to lead and inspire organizations toward a common vision; and, to create a growth culture that fosters collaborative team play to achieve extraordinary and sustainable business results – all of which cultivates a thriving workplace in the process.


For over 15 years, ECC has supported organizations in developing highly effective leaders. If you or your organization are looking to foster a growth culture through effective leadership, ECC can help. Give us a call at +1.847.920.0190.


Libby Graves, MBA, PCC, is an ECC Executive Coach based in Washington D.C. She has over 25 years’ experience in leadership positions at Fortune 100 companies and has worked in the U.S. and with distributors and affiliates in Africa & the Middle East, based in London. Libby holds a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; a Bachelor of Science from the Kelly School of Business, Indiana University; and the Professional Certified Coach designation from the International Coach Federation. Libby holds over 10 additional coaching-based certifications. Her expertise and focus in executive coaching is on leadership development and career transitions.