What should leaders focus on to develop themselves?

In my previous article, I mentioned that the closer you get to a leader’s position, the more the key to growth becomes from technical challenges to adaptive challenges. Technical challenges can be solved with so-called skills, while adaptive challenges can only be solved with a change in a person’s values and beliefs.

When does a person’s values and beliefs change? I believe that a person’s mental (inner) maturity and a change in values and beliefs come at the same time. In this article, I would like to talk about this “mental maturity”.

Mental maturity is the integration of the contradictions of self and surroundings

In the first article, I said that “Management is an integration of contradictions”. Contradictions occur all the time in the three domains of self management, business management and people management.

The starting point for the resolution of various contradictions is about self-management. And integrating the contradictions in the self-management area (“Aufheben”) is mental maturity.

The contradiction in the area of self-management is the contradiction between our inner self and our outer self, the reality of the people and businesses around us. It can be the gap between what we want to do and what the people around us want to do, or the gap between who we want to be and who we act against our true intentions.

We become adults while juggling the contradictions of the self-management area. For example, an elementary school student with a dream of becoming a professional baseball player or a professional soccer player. There are many children with these dreams, but only a small percentage of them actually achieve their dreams. In other words, many people face a gap between their dreams and the reality, which is influenced by their abilities, environment and luck.

In such a case, clinging to the dream and ignoring, and in some cases escaping, reality is the behavior of a person who is not mentally mature. It is also the behavior of a person who is not mentally mature to abandon the dream and live only in accordance with reality. A step toward maturity is that letting go of the dreams we have been sticking to, but finding new dreams and harmonizing them with what we are good at and what is required of us by those around us.

In this process, what started out as a dream that was closed to oneself will develop into a larger dream that will have a positive impact on the people around oneself, and sharing the dream or vision with the people around oneself is a essential part of mental maturity. A dream that is only for oneself is called “ambition (for me),” and a dream that benefits not only oneself but also the people around oneself is called “KOKOROZASHI (aspiration for us),” so what was initially an ambition is transformed into an KOKOROZASHI, which is an important element of mental maturity.

Ambition: A dream that is only for you

KOKOROZASHI: A dream that is not only for you but also for the people around you

How to view mental maturity in constructive developmental theory

In order to understand mental maturity more holistically, the constructive developmental theory is helpful. It is a psychological theory that focuses on the growth and development of humans after adulthood. It is characterized by the fact that human intelligence and consciousness grow in stages.

The following figure illustrates the stages of growth of consciousness in constructive developmental theory. Here is a general overview of the four stages of consciousness maturation.

1) Self-Sovereign Mind
A worldview in which the impulses and desires that bubble up are our own. We try to move people around us by expressing our desires in a straightforward manner.
For example, when children want a piece of candy, they try to make it come true by crying.

(2) Socialized Mind
A worldview that defines us in terms of our relationships with our surroundings and our achievements to those around us. Balancing ourselves (ego) with what is expected of us by those around us.
For example, by meeting parental expectations (e.g., doing their lessons well), children behave so that they get candy.

In (1) Self-Sovereign Mind, we will be faced with the reality that just putting our desires straightforwardly will not work (e.g., we will be scolded for holding back on sweets, we will not be able to form good relationships with our friends, etc.). Therefore, the strategy of “satisfying the expectations of the people around us” is used to balance reality.

3) Self-Authored Mind
A worldview that acts according to what is “really important” beyond ourselves. We achieve both by changing reality in accordance with the ideals we believe in.
For example, even if no one specifically expects us to do so, we take action to involve others around us in realizing the organization’s vision.

With (2)Socialized Mind, we will not be able to achieve what the people around us do not yet expect or realize. For example, if the people around us are too preoccupied with immediate tasks to help us do what we should really be doing, we will not be able to act. Therefore, we try to balance or integrate the two by relying on our ideals and changing the expectations of the people around us by communicating our ideals, even if the people around us are against them.

(4)Self-Transforming Mind
Even the ideals we hold up are not constant, and our worldview is that we are the receptacle for change. The boundary between the world and oneself becomes thin; one can say that one is “nothing”. We sense the future that is about to happen, and we try to integrate it with reality.

(3)The Self-Authored Mind is based on an ideal that should be there, but because it comes from within, it can be isolated when it is trying to influence others. Therefore, even one’s ideals are seen as variable and coexist with the world.

These are the four stages of consciousness that we consider in Constructive Developmental Theory. Earlier I mentioned that mental maturity is the integrating of contradictions in the self management area, but if we define it more precisely, we can say that mental maturity is a gradual transformation toward the integration of the contradictions of the true self and harmony with its surroundings and society.

As maturity increases, generosity and forgiveness increase

Each of the stages of consciousness is very profound, but this time I will not delve into each of them, but rather I would like to focus on an important aspect of the phenomenon of maturity itself. That is, when we try to integrate what is incompatible with that stage of consciousness, consciousness shifts to the next stage of mental maturity.

When this happens, the most fundamental change that results is the phenomenon of expanding the scope of self-awareness. One goes from being closed off to being only a literal self to being able to see oneself as one’s surroundings as well.

A mature person is aware that harmony with the outside world is his or her joy. And as one matures, the scope of this “outside” expands from one’s immediate surroundings (family, close friends, etc.) to one’s immediate community (neighborhood, etc.) to a larger community (company, school, etc.) to the entire global system.

In other words, as they mature, their ego weakens and their generosity expands. Leaders interact with a variety of people. When the scope of their involvement increases, if the leader’s ego is strong, the number of people they can engage with will be limited. Because leaders are in a position to involve many people, mental maturity is necessary.

The Constructive Developmental Theory doesn’t tell us the detail with regard to “how to mature.”

Now, I hope I have conveyed the significance of the staged development of consciousness towards maturity, but this is only a typology of the results of the stages of development of consciousness and does not refer to the process.

The transition of stages of consciousness cannot be solved by knowledge or skills, nor can it be solved by a “let’s behave in XX stages” attitude. The stages of consciousness are like a person’s way of looking at things/living in a “worldview”. In fact, it is often the case that we have shifted before we know it, in a way that we later realize that we were at stage XX.

Moreover, in fact, it is not uncommon for the stages of consciousness to take at least a few years, and in some cases even a decade, to shift from one stage to another.

Understanding the typology of stages of consciousness development does not give us a direct answer as to how to actually make the transition. That doesn’t mean it’s meaningless; I personally think it’s meaningful in terms of knowing the current position of one’s consciousness structure.

So how do we become mature? I will tell you about this specific process in the next article.

Here are the quests of the day. (If you’d like, please share your thoughts in the comments.)

・Looking at the figure of the four stages of mental maturity, which stage of consciousness are you most likely to be in? What does it show up often in your own behavior?

・At what point in your life did your stage of mental maturity change, if any?

Bunshiro Ochiai

Founder and CEO of a training company, Alue | MS in Particle Physics. | BCG | Questing “What is the paradigm for integrating contradictions in management?”