The Stages of Leadership Maturity

Susanne Cook-GreuterCognitive, Editor's Picks, Integrative Metatheory, Leadership, Perspectives, Presentations, Self-Identity, Values, Video, What is human development? Leave a Comment

Susanne Cook-Greuter and Beena Sharma offer a stunning overview of their Leadership Maturity Framework, which offers leaders, coaches, and change agents of all stripes a far more thorough understanding of human development and human potential, as well as a far more robust toolset to help others thrive at whatever stage of life they find themselves at.

For anyone looking for an approach to growth and development that emphasizes intellectual rigor, ethical hygiene, and everlasting wisdom, you will not want to miss this incredible presentation by two of our most beloved integral pioneers.

What Is Vertical Development?

When we talk about human development, we distinguish between lateral/horizontal and vertical development. Horizontal growth and expansion happens through many channels, such as schooling, training, self-directed and lifelong learning as well as simply through exposure to life. Vertical development in adults is much rarer. It refers to how we learn to see the world through new eyes, how we change our interpretations of experience and how we transform our views of reality. It describes increases in what we are aware of, or what we can pay attention to, and therefore what we can influence and integrate. In general, transformations of human consciousness or changes in our view of reality are more powerful than any amount of horizontal growth and learning.

The Leadership Maturity Framework is based on Jane Loevinger’s ego development theory and incorporates more recent research by Dr. Susanne Cook-Greuter. It describes nine ways of adult meaning-making, and shows how adults mature throughout the lifespan, making meaning in evermore meaningful and flexible ways.

One’s stage of development significantly affects how individuals understand their role and function in the workplace, how they interact with others, and how they deal with adversity and complex issues. Indeed it predicts what one defines as a problem to be solved or simply as an unavoidable polarity to be managed. Studies show that the stage of meaning making is often more powerful in explaining individual differences in behavior than personality traits and intelligence combined. We consider each stage to be a constellation of developmental tasks that individuals need to master on their journey towards maturity. The stages are idealizations – no one masters all aspects of the stage before moving on to the next stage. Each meaning making system, world view, or stage is more comprehensive, more differentiated and more effective in dealing with the complexities of life than its predecessors.

From the Vertical Development Academy

Additional Resources

Here are graphics of the maturity framework for your reference and use, shared by Vertical Development Academy.

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For more information about the MAP instrument: The Maturity Profile by VeDA

To register for our upcoming Intensives, which offers an immersion into our maturity framework:

Developing Leadership Maturity Intensive – 1 (Online)
Developing Leadership Maturity Intensive – (In person)

To discuss implementing a vertical development program in your organization, please email

Susanne Cook-Greuter

About Susanne Cook-Greuter

Dr. Susanne Cook-Greuter, born in Switzerland, is an internationally known authority on mature adult development, continuing the work of developmental pioneer Jane Loevinger. Her thesis, Postautonomous Ego Development (1999), is a landmark study in the characteristics and assessment of highly developed and influential individuals and leaders. She holds a doctorate in education from Harvard University, and is also a founding member of Integral Institute.

Beena Sharma

About Beena Sharma

Beena Sharma is President of the Vertical Development Academy, and an international consultant committed to serving leaders and organizations in their growth endeavors. . Beena is a Certified MAP Scorer, Certified Leadership Maturity Coach and certifying Master Coach. Beena is a lead facilitator of the VeDA Coach Certification Program and consults with organizations interested in implementing vertical development. Beena is trained in Polarity Thinking at the Mastery level and integrates that expertise in her coaching and consulting practice.