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Putting It All Together: The Anatomy of a Shift (continued)

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C. Summary of Findings

The table below places these collective findings together for comparison. In the next section we will take a big picture look at the collective worldview profiles (patterns) for participants before and after training and explore implications for these findings in terms of our initial hypothesis.

D. Putting It All Together: The Anatomy of a Shift

In the introduction we argued that the most important function of an effective transformational leadership education is that it must fundamentally change the way a leader makes sense of the world. Said more formally, we proposed that: 

An effective transformational leadership development program must cause a fundamental and stable shift of the participant’s worldview, fostering the spontaneous growth and expression of the specific thinking styles and attitudes that drive transformational levels of leadership effectiveness. 

We then introduced some research done with an innovative leadership education firm whose experience-based curriculum appeared uniquely suited towards accomplishing this ambitious learning objective.

Having now turned our broad hypothesis into a series of specific predictions — the majority of which were confirmed by the data gathered — we will take a step back and take a big picture look at the results. What overall worldview shift did participants really undergo through this educational process? What might this shift mean for their ability to drive real-world change moving forward?  We will start by analyzing the pre-training profile and then contrast this profile with the updated profile generated three months after program completion.

BEFORE: Participant Pre-Training Worldview Structure

The figure below shows the average worldview profile generated for participants before undergoing the training program. The most distinctive thing about this profile is its lack of distinction: Every single thinking style except Gold Systemic (66th percentile) falls in the 50th percentile range, with three thinking styles — Absolutistic, Individualistic and Holistic — falling at the exact the same level (55th percentile). In addition, this profile was characterized by a moderate-to-low level of Social Optimism and a roughly balanced tendency to filter based upon authenticity (vs. pragmatism).

AFTER: Participant Post-Training Worldview Structure (Three Months)

Compare the RWA profile from above with that from the figure below (three-month follow-up). What we find here may at first seem subtle to the untrained eye but is actually quite profound. In addition to showing greatly improved Social Optimism and an increased tendency to filter communications through the lens of authenticity, this post-training group demonstrates several distinct and critical changes in their thinking style distribution. Most noticeable are the pronounced Holistic (Indigo - 78th percentile) and Humanistic (Jade - 77th percentile) thinking styles. These two critical thinking systems are not only typically well-developed in effective change agents we’ve observed, but — perhaps more important — elevated levels of these thinking styles are positively associated with a person’s subjective sense of personal happiness and well-being.

In practice, when a leader has an RWA profile similar to that above they generally report being deeply engaged in their life and committed to purposes larger than themselves. Viewed in the context of pre-training RWA levels, this three-month follow-up profile graphically represents the worldview structure of someone who has opened up to a new way of being in the world, and who is willing to engage life on much deeper terms. And, in fact, when the participants in the present sample were interviewed three months after participating in this program, this is generally how they described their own subjective state. Does this worldview shift necessarily mean that these individuals have now suddenly become transformational world-changing leaders? Not quite. But given prior research, it suggests that individuals operating from this new worldview structure would be inspired to express a deeper, more transformational set of leadership behaviors due to increased social and cultural sensitivities.6

Future research will be helpful in exploring how such a dramatic shift in worldview structure translates into the day-to-day leadership effectiveness. For now, it is encouraging and compelling to have clear evidence that such worldview-shifting leadership training even exists.


We began this paper by discussing the urgent leadership deficit brought about by the changing cornerstones of global capitalism. We suggested that the true challenge of 21st-century leadership is fundamentally different than that of prior centuries. Whereas corporations of the past succeeded primarily by strengthening and fortifying the status quo, today’s pioneers are succeeding in transforming the status quo through disruptive vision and innovation. This gap between leadership supply and demand has driven the need for a new type of leadership training and education. And, although we can’t claim to have solved the immense growing pains of capitalism in one modest research paper, we would offer that the ideas within this paper contain the seeds of a potentially radical new vision for forward-thinking organizations.

The present research provides cause for optimism. Even though the minds of today’s leaders may still be filled with outdated notions from a prior era, their minds are not forever trapped in the confines of yesterday’s patterns of thought. People can learn. Minds are infinitely malleable. And, in the right hands, it seems that even the most cherished limiting assumptions of yesterday can be transformed into gateways for deeper vision and breakthrough innovation.

For those readers who remain unconvinced, we encourage you to dive more deeply into the resources listed in this article’s endnotes. There you will find a rich line of emerging thinking that supports the central ideas contained in this paper and helpful articulation of the solid principles that seem to be driving this unprecedented shift in business as usual that capitalism is now undergoing.

For those inspired to take these big ideas and apply them immediately to your business, we offer the following five take-home suggestions:

1.  Focus on cause rather than effect. Change begins from the inside out. As you seek to develop latent leadership potential in your organization, beware of falling into the trap of focusing on observable leadership skills at the expense of looking at the deeper psychological roots that underlie them. New skills that are rooted in the same thinking of yesterday will produce the same ultimate outcomes. Use the six psychological outcomes listed in the introduction (Innovation, Big Picture Perspectives, Human Insight, Optimism, Courageousness, and Sustainability) as a checklist for determining whether or not a particular training program is worth the investment for yourself and/or your employees.

2.  Emphasize context rather than content. Information is abundant and cheap; insight is rare and priceless. As you seek to unleash the latent leadership potential in your organization, emphasize new ways of thinking over new types of learning content. Training that effectively changes learner’s habitual thinking patterns will provide infinitely more leverage for driving real world change than any approach that serves to fortify existing thinking patterns with additional information. Vista Caballo is a “first mover” — an innovative learning center that appears to understand and embrace this truth as part of its natural curriculum-design process. We feel confident that the coming decades will be filled with a variety of other such providers in keeping with the general social and economic trends.xix

3.  Never underestimate the power of habit. The systems and structures of the mainstream corporate world are based upon the Individualistic (Copper) worldview, which deeply values success, power and risk aversion. Leading genuine culture change to support higher-order thinking systems within this world can be extremely challenging because the system structure constantly pulls for validation of its own fundamental worldview assumptions. The generally accepted metrics used to determine system health — efficiency, productivity, revenue, etc — are invariably used as evidence to invalidate the importance of other important but less quantifiable bottom lines. Knowing that such systemic resistance is baked into the cake (so to speak), it may be wise to invest in leadership programs that not only cause transformational shifts in thinking, but which also prepare learners for resistance and push-back upon reentry into the ordinary world of corporate America.

4.  Focus on results rather than methods. Old-school thinking often focuses on processes and techniques over results. Because the outcomes we are seeking today are fundamentally different than those of prior eras, we might also expect that these outcomes will often be achieved by fundamentally different techniques. The firm we studied for this research, for example, often has clients interact real-time in a natural setting with horses as part of its curriculum. Although the validity and effectiveness technique can be explained through scientific rationale, it is certainly unorthodox from a traditional leadership development perspective. Could it be that this unorthodox approach is one of the main reasons this firm was able to create such profound results? What other interesting techniques might emerge in the future that provide equal or greater learning impact? One thing is certain: If we focus on techniques and processes over outcomes — as is so often our habit in the corporate world — we are likely to miss some potentially great opportunities to promote breakthrough growth, development and change.

5.  Invest in growth. In a predictable world, growth would always happen in a straight line. But such a world doesn’t exist. In the real world, complex systems grow and evolve through an often messy series of zigs and zags, punctuated by frustrating periods of stagnation, followed by quantum leaps to higher and higher levels of growth. People are complex systems — and human growth is messy. If you and your organization are truly committed to developing the transformational leaders of tomorrow, develop a cultural decision-making mind-set in which faith and patience trump command and control. Easier said than done, of course. But take heart: Copious case studies of new business success stories from Capitalism 2.0 demonstrate that this long-term, sustainable mind-set can actually yield better results more quickly than did the efficiency mind-set of yesterday. As a wise person once said, “Only infinite patience yields immediate results.”

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For more information on John Marshall Roberts and Worldview thinking, click here.

Other installments:

Week 1: The Call for Transformational Leadership

Week 2: Changing Worldviews: The True Challenge of Our Times

Week 3: Study Methods and Outcomes


Although the three-month follow-up RWA profile for this group matches much more closely the discovered prototypical RWA profile of transformational leaders (as compared with the pretraining RWA profile), we should note that it still differs in some key respects. The prototypical transformational leadership RWA profile usually has a higher level of Gold Systemic thinking relative to both Jade Humanistic and Indigo Holistic thinking. Such a prototype also tends to have a much lower level of Absolutistic Navy thinking (below 50th percentile) than the post-training RWA profile.

xix For the clearest and most prophetic articulation of this trend, please see The Experience Economy by Pine and Gilmore (1999)

John Marshall Roberts is an applied behavioral scientist, musician and leading expert on overcoming cynicism. An outspoken advocate for creative leadership, John has been busting heads for good causes since he released his first book, Igniting Inspiration: A Persuasion Manual… [Read more about John Marshall Roberts]