The Seven Transformations of Leadership – A Study

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Leaders are aware of the fact that they should develop their leadership skills constantly. As a result, they learn to adapt to challenges at workplace. But, many a times it has been noticed that after reaching skill level, the development of leaders come to a standstill. In this article, we will discuss the importance of new leadership styles and skills that one can adopt. This article is thus, about the Seven Transformations of Leadership.

Origin of Seven Transformations of Leadership

In 2005, David Rooke and William Torbert published ‘Seven Transformations of Leadership’ in the Harvard Business Review. The two researchers asked executives to complete a set of thirty six sentences about leaderships. Accordingly, the two created seven stages of transformation that a leader undergoes.

Idea of Seven Transformations of Leadership

Rooke and Torbert suggested that leaders think in certain categories called ‘action logics.’ In fact, most psychologists believe that the difference in leaders is more about action logic and less about their personality, philosophy and management style. Action logic is the way leaders react when they find their power and position compromised plus challenged. There are few leaders who try to identify their action logic and change it.

Seven Transformations

Action logics differ from each other and each has its own advantages. However, some are more effective than others. The seven developmental action logics are as follows.

  • Opportunist
  • Diplomat
  • Expert
  • Achiever
  • Individualist
  • Strategist
  • Alchemist

Among the seven categories, the three categories at the top of the list (Opportunist, Diplomat and Expert) are leaders who show below average performance at workplace. Achievers who are in the middle of the list are also smart in applying organizational strategies. The last three (Individualist, Strategist and Alchemist) are most innovative and have the capability to transform their organizations and teams.

Types of Leadership Styles

Here are the details of what Rooke and Torbert found from their research.


The researchers found that only 5% of the executives they surveyed turned out to be manipulators, egotistic and untrusting. These leaders are opportunists who think solely about personal gains and consider people as opportunities that can be exploited. They think that their behaviour is apt in a world of cut-throat competition. They react rudely when given feedback.

Few leaders following this action logic can stay in their position for long. Unless they change their style into something more effective, subordinates will not be happy under them. However, a plus point of this style is that young professionals can take risks in an opportunist environment.


Diplomats are more kind and try to avoid tiffs while trying to please superiors. They are more interested in controlling their own behaviour, rather than other people’s.

Diplomats are effective when providing support to other group members. They ensure that proper attention is rendered to the requirements of others. Most diplomats work at the lower echelons of management such as customer service representative, frontline supervisor, etc.

Since, they try to avoid conflict; diplomats are problematic when they are in a high position. They are unnecessarily polite and do not provide negative feedback for fear of conflicts. Introducing changes with their help is almost impossible as they are not ready to face the conflicts that come with change.

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The survey revealed that the largest percentage of leaders follow this category, which is thirty eight percent. These leaders try to perfect their skill and that is why they are called experts. Most experts turn out to become investment analysts, software engineers and accountants. Being experts in whatever they do, they present accurate data to make their point.

They constantly strive for perfection. However, they have a tendency to consider themselves the best in their field. Therefore, they can be problematic. Experts consider collaboration as a means to waste precious time. They also have a tendency to treat people below their rank with contempt.


Achievers constitute around 30% of the total number of managers surveyed in the research. These managers are both supportive and challenging. Achievers have a tendency to think out of the box to implement strategies.

They are open to feedback and understand that most of the differences that arise in workplaces are due to the differences in interpretation. They are aware of the fact that resolving issues require the capability to influence people in a positive way. Achievers can balance short and long term objectives of a company, enabling them with the capacity to retain employees.


According to individualists, no action logic comes naturally. This mindset helps them to communicate properly with people of other action logic.

They are often disliked by colleagues as they do not heed rules that appear unnecessary. They are also aware of the fact that there can be differences between values of the organization and the way in which the leader implements them. This conflict is the reason behind more development.


They consider organizational restrictions as transformable aspects. They can create shared visions that help in transformation of both personality and organization. Strategists act as agents of changes in their workplaces. They like three levels of social interplay. They are organizational relations, personal relationships besides national and international developments. They believe in collaboration and their business ideas show how socially conscious they are.


Alchemists have the capability to renew themselves and the company in considerable ways. They can handle many situations at a time. They can get into discussion with the top notch boss and also with the lowest grade employee. They can deal with the most urgent need and also not forget about long term requirements. They are the rarest of professionals and only 1% of them made it to the survey. They are charismatic people who maintain high moral standards. Interestingly, neither do they rush with their work, nor do they spend hours on one project.


Thus, it can be said that a leader who practices any one of the last three action logics is the most efficient and innovative leader. But, that does not mean other action logics are not effective. While some are more useful, others have fewer implementations.

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