Action Logic

The concept of Action Logic has its roots in ancient Greek, Hebrew, Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Early in the 20th century human development aroused interest as people sought to understand the consequences for humans of Darwin"s work. Freud, Adler, Jung and others have all contributed enormously to our understanding of the development of the "ego" in mature humans. Drawing on these sources and on original research in the 1960s and 1970s, Jane Loevinger created a developmental framework which gave rise to the "Washington University Sentence Completion Test." This instrument is one of the most widely used and best validated in the field of human development, with thousands of research projects worldwide.

Torbert and Cook-Greuter adapted the instrument for professionals and explored it in managerial populations in the 1980s and 1990s. Harthill has continued with improvements and created the Leadership Development Profile so that it now provides a unique and highly validated tool for understanding personal and organizational development, and is being used with leading organizations across the world.[1]

The ability to inquire into your actions can increase your effectiveness. It makes you more self-aware, creative and your decisions more sustainable. It's about living more consciously to alert you to both the dangers and opportunities in the present moment. It enables you to perform in more effective and transformational ways because you are thinking before acting.

Individuals and organizations can progress through development stages which Rooke & Torbert call " action logics". They draw on Human Development Theory which describes the unfolding of human potential towards a deeper understanding, wisdom and effectiveness in the world. There are parallels in the thinking of Claire Grave's that lies behind Spiral Dynamics.

Action Logics provides a way of understanding how people tend to interpret events and how they are likely to act in different situations. Development occurs through the interplay between a person (inside-out) and their environment or context (outside-in), not just by one or the other. Growth occurs in a logical sequence of stages or expanding worldviews, paradigms or mental models - all of which are complex meaning-making systems. The preferred logic can be referred to as the 'system in focus' or 'centre of gravity' which takes you into the realms of Complexity Theory.[2]

The seven action-logics present are:

  • Opportunist: A leader who wants to win in any way possible, is self-oriented and manipulative, believes that “might makes right,” and views emergencies and competitive opportunities; 4 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Diplomat: A leader who needs to belong, avoids overt conflict, follows group norms, enjoys routine work, enforces standards, and helps bring people together; 11 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Expert: A leader who values logic, expertise and problem-solving, seeks rational efficiency, feels unique, is a perfectionist, and improves efficiencies; 37 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Achiever: A leader who focuses on accomplishing long-term goals, delegates effectively, balances managerial duties and external demands, works on day-to-day improvements, and stresses action and goal achievement; 30 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Individualist: A leader who adopts a relativistic perspective, is aware of emotions and self-expressions, is non-judgmental, enjoys working independently, and drives change; 11 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Strategist: A leader who engages value action inquiry, fosters mutuality and autonomy, interweaves short- and long-term goals, is aware of paradoxes, can handle multiple roles, and supports transformational change; 5 percent profiling at action logic.
  • Alchemist: A leader who integrates material, spiritual, and societal transformation; 2 percent profiling at action logic.

Action Logic
source: Herb Stevenson

The first four stages — opportunist, diplomat, expert and achiever — correspond to the conventional action-logics. The majority of leaders — about 85 percent — operate from one of these conventional stages. Conventional leaders are focused on objective reality and their leadership actions are aimed at execution with minimal reflection; they modify behavior and not the action-logics themselves.

By contrast, post-conventional leaders are more likely to reframe problems and constraints and to recognize different action-logics in others. Their aim is to create shared visions founded in diversity. Collaborative inquire is a hallmark of post-conventional action-logics, which is used to develop solutions. These latter-stage leaders can identify incongruities in their own thinking and experience and modify them to serve the global good.[3]

See Also


  1. What is Action Logic? CLC Group
  2. Explaining Action Logics Ontological Coach
  3. What kind of Leader are you? Saybrook

Further Reading