Imperfect beauty: Hierarchy and fluidity in leadership development

Imperfect Beauty

Imperfect Beauty

In their new paper on vertical leadership development, Imperfect Beauty, Elaine Herdman-Barker and Nancy C. Wallis explore the complexities of development, in which the predictability and order we crave as practitioners is embedded in “an imperfect and fluid process, in which change is contextualized, dissonant and enigmatic.” This paper explores the polarity of development is which hierarchical order is in tension with fluidity.

Vertical development is often mis-understood as a completely linear and hierarchical series of stages in which higher is (usually) better. The reality is that development is also messy and mysterious and we lose much when we downplay this. The Transformations card deck is a good way to explore this tension, and allow people to reflect on the order in their lives while also making sense of their own unique journeys, full of zigs and zags, false starts, accidents, contradictions, and creative breakthroughs. In fact Transformations works quite well when participants are not instructed in advance about stages of development, and can instead pick any cards, in any order, that help them reflect on their lives and aspirations.

Download the paper here.

Cite as:
Elaine Herdman-Barker and Nancy Charlotte Wallis (2016).
Imperfect Beauty: Hierarchy and Fluidity in Leadership Development.
Challenging Organisations and Society. Reflective Hybrids, 5(1).

About the Authors
Elaine Herdman-Barker is Director of the Global Leadership Profile at Action Inquiry Associates where she furthers research into the development of leaders with Bill Torbert. She specializes in helping executives and consultants to become increasingly aware of their thoughts and behaviors in-action and is a leading authority on the assessment and practice of action-logics. A lecturer and facilitator at DeBaak Management Centrum in The Netherlands, Elaine leads Career Development, Adult Development Workshops across Europe, North Africa and America. Her coaching practice is worldwide and reaches across multiple sectors.

Nancy C. Wallis, PhD, MBA is a leadership scholar who specializes in leadership development that leverages the boundary between individual and organizational transformation. With 35 years’ experience as senior organizational leader, organizational leadership and culture consultant, executive coach, professor, and university administrator, Nancy specializes in leadership development globally that enlivens mindsets and reframes challenges as transformational opportunities. As a member of the Academy of Management she serves on the board of its Management Consulting Division where she chairs its Doctoral Consortium. Nancy is a Visiting Scholar in Organizational Leadership at Pitzer College and Danube University Krems.


About Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth

Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth are Senior Fellows at the Center for Creative Leadership. Many thanks to Steadman Harrison III, CEO of GO, and Senior Associate for the Center for Creative Leadership.
This entry was posted in Transformations™, Vertical leadership development. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *