It’s almost midnight here. My friend, Dominic, just left. We had a terrific conversation about many things. One of them related to our conversation on leadership. Dominic mentioned how he had grown so much in his understanding of and behavior within relationships that sometimes he feels he was a “different person” than he is today. I mentioned a novel I read last year titled Half a Life. I bought it because the title spoke deeply to me of my own experience both as an immigrant to this country and as an adult convert to the Christ following movement. I’ve been three people already in my life and I’m not done yet. It’s past midnight now. Thursday has started out really well.

Welcome back.

The Seven Ways [“Action Logics”] of Leadership

  • The Opportunist –wins any way possible
  • The Diplomat –avoids overt conflict
  • The Expert –rules by logic and experience
  • The Achiever–meets strategic goals
  • The Individualist–Interweaves competing personal and company action logics
  • The Strategist— generates organizational and personal transformations
  • The Alchemist–generates social transformation

The article in the HBR builds on the premise that leaders are made not born. Their research led them to this conclusion: “leaders can transform from one action logic to another.” Four (4) factors can support or lead to leadership transformation.

  • personal changes– ex: boredom, burnout, existential angst
  • external changes–ex: a promotion, getting fired
  • work practices or environments–ex: organizational and/or process change
  • development interventions–ex: team training or coaching, participating in an online blog on leadership, going to a conference

The most common transformation is from the Expert to Achiever. Experts basically need to focus less on a narrow my way is the right way orientation and move towards more flexibility. While getting leaders to the Achiever level is the forte of business schools, they have a “dismal record in recognizing, supporting, and actively developing leaders to the Individualist and Strategist action logic, let alone the Alchemist logic.”

The way achievers use communication –to determine if goals are being met–needs to incorporate inquiry regarding the worthiness of the goals themselves. This is difficult in the bottom line environment of industry, but is the necessary step to evolve into an Individualist and/or Strategist logic. How to create projects, teams, networks, strategic alliances, and whole organizations based on collaboration…these are the focus of the Strategist. They are no longer asking: how do I get the skills I need? They are asking, who do I need to interact and connect with? Where is that community where my assumptions can be challenged and refined? The writers of this article tell of programs designed to stimulate action and reflection, “intense experiences that nurture the moment-to-moment awareness of participants, always providing the shock of dissonance that stimulates them to reexamine their world views.” The article concludes: “Interestingly, many people who attend these programs report that these experiences have had the tranformative power of a life-altering event, such as a career or existential crisis or a new marriage.”

What do you think?

  • Can you look back and see a moment so decisive that you experience yourself as a “different person”? Describe how this transformation happened?
  • What was the substance of that change and how did it manifest itself?


  • My wife, Niza (left in blue) and Melvin Rivera (center) of Hollywood based world music band, doSul, and Dominic Massaro (aka ambient electronic soundscape artist, grafitt61) at a “house concert” in Southern California.
  • My youngest son, Lucas (10)

Into the Mystic…

Alex McManus
Los Angeles, Ca
© 2005


One response to “The Alchemist Part II”

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