Richard Barrett's Seven Levels of Leadership Consciousness serve as a framework for individual needs and development, allowing leaders to isolate their needs, shed their fears and restrictions, and become a true visionary.
The Seven Levels of Leadership Consciousness were developed by Richard Barrett, the founder of management consultancy firm The Barrett Values Centre, in 1997. The Seven Levels are a modern interpretation of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, adapted into two new pyramids (below) which have been geared towards achieving the specific goal of self-actualisation in leaders. By utilising Barrett's two-tiered hierarchy, leaders can establish just how they can develop themselves and adapt in order to have the greatest possible impact on their organisation or team.
Leaders can, using this system, establish the specific competency areas in which they are strong and those which need specific improvement. They can also be applied to individuals within their teams to understand the basic levels of competency which they are displaying. By undertaking specific and appropriate developmental activities, individuals can begin to move up the hierarchy to achieve the top level of competency.
Interpreting the Model
The model itself should be read from the bottom up - that being, that the lowest level (1: Crisis Manager) is the most lacking in the specific modern leadership competencies.
Managers operating in the bottom pyramid (the lowest three tiers) display both helpful and unhelpful behaviours. These individuals may be able to build up relationships with stakeholders, apply specific knowledge or operate to meet specific performance targets; but, they are specifically motivated by avoidances of failure, conflict or a loss of control over team members. These managers are inwardly focussed, rather than acting as visionaries.
The central level 4 marks a transformative stage in the hierarchy, where leaders have recovered from managing the conflicts within themselves and begin to focus on re-imagining themselves and looking to develop transformative visions for the future of the organisation. They still engage skills from the lower levels, but they are confident in their abilities and subsequently look forward towards those at higher levels.
The first level of the Seven Levels is the Crisis Manager (also known as the Financial or Functional Manager). These individuals are incredibly pragmatic, focussing on compliance, budget management, the health and safety of employees, and the recovery
from short-term issues and successful projects. This makes them the perfect leaders for handling unexpected crises, and returning the organisation to normal function as soon as possible. They are calm, decisive and authoritative - often taking
the position of an authoritarian.
Leaders who operate as authoritarians on a regular basis are often fast to lose the trust and commitment of individuals within their team. This dictatorial style is often the result of leaders being incapable of achieving the desired results by acting
in an open and understanding way with team members, or they find it difficult to trust others with responsibility for choices or important activities. These individuals are often also lacking in emotional intelligence, acting in an extremely objective
manner which can often create an unhealthy working environment for individuals under their authority. The excessive responsibility placed on themselves can also be damaging to the leader over the long term.
Individuals at the second level of the hierarchy are often known as "Relationship Managers" as they generally possess better emotional intelligence, communication and interpersonal skills than those below them. They sculpt relationships with individual
members of their team, and are therefore skilled at conflict resolution and tackling problems caused by emotional shortcomings. They communicate roles and responsibilities well and are adept at handing out both praise and areas for improvement
to team members. These skills are often applicable to building relationships with customers, higher managers, or any external stakeholders.
These individuals sometimes hold fears of "not belonging", often due to a shortcoming in functional skills or abilities to achieve concrete short-term objectives. This fear can manifest itself by causing the individual to avoid difficult situations,
such as conflict, emotional problem or passing on difficult information, and instead may resort to manipulation to achieve what they want. Instead of accepting responsibility for failures, they often unfairly pass the blame instead on to someone
else. They may also see themselves as the patriarch/matriarch of a working family (their team), demanding obedience and loyalty from those within, and being fearful of those outside of their immediate group (particularly applicable in family-run
businesses). This can make it difficult for them to recruit and integrate any new individuals into the team. This family environment is also often based upon ideas of tradition, sticking to tried and trusted methods, and crushing the entrepreneurial
tendencies of any team members by demanding they stick to these methods.
The Managers/Organisers (level 3) within the hierarchy have an extremely logical and methodical way in which they go about their work. They base any activities around well drawn-out systems and processes which facilitate high efficiency and productivity.
They utilise various metrics in order to measure performance in both individuals, the team, and the organisation. When they face challenges, they think rationally and strategically about the next step which they should take for long-term success. Inwardly-focussed managers
are strong at organisation information and monitoring results, whereas outwardly-focussed managers are confident in anticipating potential problems and getting work done. Level 3 managers are also very organised as individuals,
planning, prioritising and scheduling their work, and developing the individual skills necessary in order to further their career. This itself is based upon a deep-rooted pride in their work, so they will always seek new ways in order to achieve
a higher quality and standard of their productivity.
These individuals' self-esteem is often based upon a fear of failure and subsequently may develop a desire for authority, power, or particularly, recognition. They may find themselves developing small empires within the organisation
to demonstrate their ability, and develop a number of bureaucratic systems to demonstrate their authority to members of their team. Their desire to succeed may often pit them against others, and this will lead to them playing office politics,
as well as seeking results that demonstrate their ability. On top of this, their desire to be recognised may also lead to them seeking the most ostentatious clothes or cars (etc.), concerning themselves more with how things look than how things
actually are. Their drive for success may also manifest itself in them having an unhealthy work-life balance, spending long hours in the office, consumed by work, instead of with their families and friends.
Level 4, the Facilitator/Influencer role, is the transformative stage at the centre of the hierarchy, marking the moment where leaders become less inward-looking and instead are more focussed on developing their own future for the organisation. These individuals look to focus on growing the healthy aspects of themselves, by learning to manage, master or release the fears which are present in the lower levels of the consciousness, and are restricting them as a leader. Facilitators seek the advice and counsel of others, build consensus amongst the team with regards to decisions, and therefore empower other individuals through the provision of individual responsibility and accountability.
They are aware of the risks with any choice, and instead of micro-managing, and relying on leadership hierarchies, they instead act with flexibility, simply overseeing the general activity of the group. They seek to develop both themselves and members of their team through learning opportunities. Facilitators search for a balance, between work and home life, and between responsibility and freedom. This balance allows them to be objective in assessing their own personal strengths and weaknesses - addressing them, rather than caving to their fears of failure, or the pressure of recognition and judgement. Innovation and ideas are welcomed, and a good team atmosphere develops, which reduces the fear of any challenges which may appear.
These individuals are in the process of self-actualisation and are subsequently on the path to develop from a manager to a leader.
The first stage in the upper triangle of the consciousness hierarchy, Integrators/Inspirers are self-actualised individuals who can build a vision for their organisation which is capable of inspiring team members, customers, or even society. They display a set of values which are congruent with those of the organisation and are the basis for all of their decision-making. This is helpful in building cohesion and focus by aligning activities of the team with those of the organisation - individuals can understand their position within the bigger picture. They put the needs and priorities of the team and its individuals above their own, including personal development.
Integrators act with integrity, creating an open and fair environment, gaining the trust of their team. This environment facilitates the appearance of creativity, innovation and passion for their role. This also allows solutions to be found through creative problem-solving and co-operation, bringing the best out of everybody. They are generally intelligent; both socially, emotionally and intellectually, which allows them to act with confidence in any number of scenarios. Their confidence in tackling any issues means that they can reframe any difficulties as opportunities for innovation and development.
Mentors or Partners (level 6 in the hierarchy) are inspired personally by a desire to make a genuine change to the world. They are associated with servant leadership in that they understand the necessary environment for individuals to find their personal passion and fulfil their potential. This is grounded on strong emotional and social intelligence skills, with a true understanding of what particular employees need to feel confident and inspired by their role. They are comfortable acting as a coach, mentor, or work partner, in order to facilitate the development of their team members' personal skills.
They are capable of creating strategic alliances with other groups or individuals who share the same values and visions. Mentors are extremely capable of collaborating with customers and suppliers to develop a mutually-beneficial outcome. They are often also environmentally-aware, sculpting a workplace which is also consciously acting in the best interests of the world. Mentors seek to actively involve themselves in the community, creating projects which are genuinely beneficial to people outside of the business. They recruit and integrate members incredibly efficiently, involving everyone in the decision-making process. Their decision-making is sculpted by knowledge, experience and understanding, and answers appear almost intuitively to them.
Wisdoms or Visionaries - the top level of the hierarchy - act generally as servants of the world around them. Their vision is truly global, and they possess a holistic view on life. They are a servant to their team members, asking questions such as How can I help? or What can I do? Though they work for the goals of their team, their true concerns are for the state of the world, seeking to use their position to leave it in a better position for future generations. Therefore, they are never prepared to compromise on short-term gains at the expense of their long-term plans. Visionaries view theirs, and the organisation's position and mission from a broad, societal perspective. They encourage social responsibility within their team and ensure that others understand the interconnectivity of their position with all of the outside world.
They act with humility and compassion - to team members, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. They are quick to forgive mistakes, and are patient during any interactions. They are confident and comfortable in any position of uncertainty or ambiguity. Though they are visionary and inspiring leaders, they often enjoy solitude and privacy, taking much time to reflect. These leaders are admired for their vision and wisdom.