From Achiever to Strategist


A highly accomplished executive completed his Action Logic Assessment (read this article on how to identify a Teal leader first). He was profiled as an Achiever. The first question he asked me was: “How do I become a Strategist?” I was curious: “Why Strategist? Why not Catalyst or Alchemist?” He replied: “Because I think my wife is a Catalyst. I just need to be one stage ahead of her.” I was amused but he was serious. “You want to be a Strategist because you want to be a better leader, right?” “Of course.” Then he added: “I’m willing to work really hard to get there. Just tell me how.”

Clearly, he was rejecting his newly acquired Achiever “identity”. I could sense his restlessness and anxiety, common from highly competitive Achievers who are accustomed to being the best. They are ready to pursue the next (stretch) goal in a heartbeat in order to stay ahead of the game. Those exact traits enforce their Achiever action logic and prevent them from moving forward to the next developmental stage.

Children often want to grow up fast, so they could do the “grown-up” things. That’s because they don’t realize what kind of challenges they are about to face once they “grow-up”. Besides, there is so much to enjoy and to learn at each developmental stage, from which we acquire necessary skills and wisdom that prepare us for the next stage. Without building a solid foundation at each stage, further development will be challenging.

Take the example of someone whose lifelong dream is to have his own car one day. If an activist tells him to consider the environmental impact and to take the bus instead, it would not resonate with him. But once he has experienced the joy of driving and begins to see the downside of maintaining a car, he would be more receptive to the environmentalist’s argument.

Achievers have an acute need for feeling significant (based on Maslow’s pyramid of human needs) and they focus on achieving in order to meet that need. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Every need is valid. Each stage has its own priority needs. Strategists have passed through the “significance” stage at one point in their lives. Nobody becomes 60 years old without being 20 or 40 years old once.

It is true that Strategists have more wisdom and more holistic understanding of the world around them. This doesn’t come from hard work, the way many Achievers accomplish their goals in life. This comes from maturity (not physical but spiritual) – the reflection of challenging life situations or the broad exposure to complexities. And of course, one can also speed up this development with the help of late-stage mentors or coaches. Strategist’s logic should be the result of development, not a goal to achieve.

Strategists’ wisdom is reflected in the fact that they are at ease with the ups and downs in life. They understand the complexity of human experience and are more accepting of other people’s limitations. They know they are responsible for their experiences in life (the earlier stage the person is, the more likely he will point fingers at others. This is most obvious with Opportunists).

For an Achiever to move forward, he needs to first recognize many of his great qualities and accept himself fully, while challenge and broaden his current frame of thinking. This is a paradox in itself.

Career advisors often say: if you want to get a promotion, don’t dress for your current position. Dress for the position you want to get. For the fun of it, I would borrow that logic by saying: if you want to become a Strategist, don’t think with an Achiever’s logic. Think from a Strategist’s perspectives. And here are a few to try on:

  • I am the only reason for my suffering and my challenges.
  • Superiority over another human being is an illusion.
  • There is no problem to solve, only choices to make.
  • Slow is fast and less is more.

Let me know how they resonate…… and Have Fun!

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