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  • Writer's pictureKim Hafjall


Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Meet Peter, now your Achiever manager in Action

After Peter finally accepted the feedback from Claire, Peter took the offer to get a coach and grew considerably as a leader in a reasonably short time. He still appreciated the details within his field but now saw it all in a broader context. All notes and analyses performed by his team were of high quality, so the return of spending more time on marginally improving them compared to investing more in supporting other functions as business partners was poor.

Peter now enjoyed the weekly finance top-team meetings. He found great interest in the vision for finance. They were to become business partners for the group – not just dull number crackers. The company was implementing a new ERP system, and he believed that finance was the correct function to help the organisation with this. A more significant part of the ERP system related to his area, but finance was also known as a function where things are delivered on time!

The CFO, Claire, noticed his new behaviour and assigned him as the finance representative in the cross-functional steering board who worked on the overall implementation strategy. Peter loved it and felt how he now drove more tangible and essential results. He appreciated his colleagues from other functions. Especially the marketing and operations guys were strong, and Peter could certainly see how their support and buy-in to the process were vital for its success.

On the leadership front, Peter had developed a lot. Mary, whom he had seen as his weakest link in the past, was now his favourite. After Peter's focus on tasks changed to achieving results, he began to coach his direct reports instead of refining their technical details. During these sessions, he got to know Mary more as a person. Peter realised that what Mary burned for was the people element in leadership. Mary did not feel she needed to be better than her team members – she knew some of them were technically stronger than her.

On the other hand, Mary had strengths they did not have. By appreciating each person's force in the team, Mary managed to create great results. That was why they were so satisfied; each felt valued and learned from the other. On that leadership point, Peter admitted that Mary seemed to have been way ahead of Peter (but again, she was also ten years older). Peter was catching up fast and had given Mary broader responsibility daily to co-support the two other managers in Peter's function who were less robust in people leadership. That gave Peter more time to attend to the important steering board work.

Peter, at the Achiever level, may make up to 35% of the executive population. However, the percentage will be considerably higher in organisations with a high focus on people development.

Leadership Agility Compass

The Leadership Agility Compass, as defined by Joseph and Joiners, 2007, operates with four areas of competencies or focus areas for the agile leader. These are:

  1. Context-Setting Agility: The larger systemic context surrounding your initiative.

  2. Stakeholder Agility: Your initiative’s key stakeholders.

  3. Creative Agility: The specific problems and opportunities your initiative must address for it to be successful.

  4. Self-leadership Agility: Yourself as a leader.

Below is a more in-depth description of an Achiever leader's capacities and limitations, seen through the lens of the four angles. Each leadership stage builds on the previous vertical development stages. Below, therefore, makes the best sense if you have read the blog post about the Expert stage.

Achievers evaluated through the Leadership Agility Compass

Context setting agility

- Situational awareness: More like an adjustable lens – can zoom in on issues but also zoom out and see a broader perspective.

- Sense of purpose: Expands from tactical to strategic. The higher reflective capacity enables the Achiever to look at the past in greater context and imagine possibilities in the future (3-5 years ahead). The understanding that organisations need to respond to changes in the environment surrounding them, along with the capacity for envisioning future possibilities, provides the foundation for strategic foresight that cater for significant trends and scenarios in the environment, customer needs, competitors and so on. Achievers focus on "doing the right thing" as they realise that success can only indeed be achieved if the outputs needed by its central stakeholders (owners, stockholders, customers) are produced. Have a greater appreciation of multiple functions (finance, marketing, HR, operations, legal, IT) and how each contributes to the overall success of an organisation.

Stakeholder agility

- Stakeholder Understanding: Achieves are more self-reflective and aware of themselves. This helps them also to understand their stakeholders better. This connection between understanding self and others better makes them more empathetic. They also know they will not get the proper support without the right stakeholder motivation and engagement,

- Power style: Achievers understand that organisation authority is rarely sufficient to accomplish anything outstanding. Organisations are like political arenas where most seek their interests for the greater good. Most Achievers can balance power styles and use the right depending on the situation and stakeholders. Few will remain too assertive or accommodative. The too accommodative typically become very good at building teams, coaching people, listening and seeking stakeholder input. They gain respect for this but get criticised for fence-sitting and inability to make final decisions.

Creative agility

- Connective Awareness: Can hold opposing ideas and experiences in mind, compare them, and when needed, work out how to take both into account. The solution field expands from “win/lose” to also include compromise. Achievers can connect more dots and derive more general truths through their experience and learning. Still, they acknowledge that "truths" are only probabilistic but not absolute.

- Reflective Judgement: Understanding complexity deepens, and Achievers begin to understand how easily bias or error can enter into the solution. They, therefore, seek more input and evidence for solutions. They are still not aware of how much their own beliefs and biases impact how they do this. When a solution or conclusion is made, it can be challenging for an Achiever to consider alternative interpretations of the same evidence.

Self-leadership agility

- Self-awareness: Deepens and now include more extended time frames. Achievers are more likely to think about earlier periods in their lives and how the future decades ahead can look. Questions like "How did I contribute to that particular outcome?", "What were my motivations?", "What was I thinking and feeling at that time?" becomes more regular for them. All this combined makes the Achiever more aware of their traits, and they now begin to see their strengths and limitations clearer - giving them a strong sense of identity.

- Developmental Motivation: Achievers can have long-term career objectives and clear leadership philosophy. Their professional self-esteem and satisfaction come primarily from their belief that they contributed to achieving significant outcomes. They are more likely to actively seek feedback – mainly when their behaviour works against their ideals or self-interest- and seek alternatives or a new way of being.

Reflections points

  • Which of the strong capacities at the Achiever stage can you recognise in yourself?

  • Which of the limitations at the Achiever stage can you recognise in yourself?

  • Can you think of someone operating solidly at the Achiever stage?

  • Are you operating at the Achiever stage?

Next Week's Blog Post

Peter continues his vertical development, and in the next blog post, he now operates solidly at the Catalyst stage - the first post-conventional stage. This becomes very visible in the way Peter now seeks a vision and more profound meaning in everything he does. And how his leadership capabilities expand to include new ways of leading and motivating people around him. Remember to sign-up; hence you get a notification when the blog is released.


* Joiner, B & Josephs, S. 2007. Leadership Agility – Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


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