What Colour is Your Leadership? Some thoughts from London Project Management Unconference


5th London Project Management Unconference held on 7th October 2016 is over. This year event focused on Enterprise and development. Again, thanks to my friend, mentor and the main organizer of the conference Ian Whittingham I have a pleasure to have attended all events since it started in 2012, leading the sessions for last three. More on the unconference idea and the last year event cab be found here.


I’m very glad to see that organisations moving to the next level of consciousness. I’ve really experienced the change from orange of achievements to green of community and collaboration. More on green and other levels of consciousness below from a summary of my session What Colour is Your Leadership?

There will always be projects but project management’s roles will be different. Nowadays all strategic changes happen through projects and programmes. Therefore to manage projects is not enough, we need to lead the change in the organization and projects and programmes become just a tool to do so. Creating lasting and effective change means recognising and working with values. But where do values come from? Values spring from worldviews. To effectively work with values means understanding worldviews. How people think, and why people adopt the values they do. During the session we had explored Spiral Dynamics, a psychological approach to understanding systems of thinking held by individuals, organisations and societies. Insight into the ways of thinking would help a Project Leader with a range of areas, including but not limited to leadership, conflict management, organisational change, communication, working with diverse communities and cultural transformation.

The theory of Spiral Dynamics originating with work of Clare Graves in the 1960s and developed and applied by Don Beck, Cristopher Cowan and others, charts the evolution of human consciousness and culture beginning 100 000 years ago, through eight colour-coded value level of development. More details on each level below.

BEIGE – starting 100 000 years ago

Automatic/Instinctive. Food, warmth, sex and safety have priority. Values: instinct. Leader: guardian. Sense of life: survival.

PURPULE –  starting 50 000 years ago

Autisctic/Magical/Animistic. Keep the tribe”s nest safe and warm. Values: safety, traditionalism, rituals, prejudice. Leader: father. Sense of life: past.

RED – starting 10 000 years ago

Egocentric/Impulsive. Avoid shame, get respect and do what you want. Values: power, heroes and victims. Leader: administrator. Sense of life: present.

BLUE –  starting 5 000 years ago

Absolutisctic/Purposeful/Authoritarian. Life has meaning, direction and purpose, enforce principles of rightful living, scarify for honour. Values: order, meaning, rules, morality, saints and sinners. Leader: authority. Sense of life: future.

ORANGEstarting 300 years ago

Multiplistic/Achievist/Scientific/Strategic. Play the game to win, cultivate optimistic, risk-taking self-reliance. A marketplace of full of possibilities and opportunities. Values: success, materialism, status, winners and losers. Leader: achiever. Sense of life: profits.

GREEN starting 150 years ago.

Relativistic/Egalitarian/Communitarian. Seek place in inner self and explore the caring dimensions of community. A human habitat in which we share life’s experiences, freedom from dogma. Values: people, community, feelings. Leader: mediator. Sense of life: matter.

YELLOW starting 50 years ago.

Systemic/Integrative/Autonomous. The world is chaotic organism forged by differences and change. Flexibility, functionality, responsibility and spontaneity have highest priority. Values: process, knowledge, alternative reality, own rules. Leader: group. Sense of life: synergy.

TURQUOISE starting 30 years ago.

Differential/Holistic/Collective individualism. Experience the wholeness of existence through mind and spirit. Values: synthesis, collective individualism, spirituality, collective consciousness. Leader: mentor. Sense of life: others.

Frederic Laloux in his book „Reinventing organisations has define five existing organisational stages of development as described below.organisational-stages-of-development

Impulsive – Red (Metaphor: Pack of Wolves)

Well adapted to chaotic environments, but ill-suited to achieve complex outcomes in stable environments.

  • Values: Command authority, division of labour
  • Leadership: command and control
  • Conflict resolution: power over
  • Fear : of arbitrary loss of power
  • Organisation structure: autocratic, division of labour
  • Organisations: mafia, street gangs

Conformist – Amber (Metaphor: Army). Blue in Spiral Dynamics

Can plan for long term, can create organisational structures that are stable and can scale.

  • Values: long term perspectives, size and stability, formal roles and processes
  • Leadership: gives proper instructions
  • Conflict resolution: being correct and compliant
  • Fear : of punishment
  • Organisation structure: industrial, divisions, formal roles
  • Organisations: catholic church, army, public schools

Achievement – Orange (Metaphor: Machine)

Effectiveness replaces morals. The better I understand the way operates, the more I can achieve.

  • Values: Innovation, accountability, meritocracy
  • Leadership: motivates by targets, accountability
  • Conflict resolution: struggle for most effective solution
  • Fear : of failure
  • Organisation structure: matrix
  • Organisations: most corporate organisations, private schools

Pluralistic – Green (Metaphor: Family)

Seeks fairness, equality, harmony, community, cooperation, and consensus. It insists that all perspectives deserve equal respect.

  • Values: Empowerment, values-driven culture, multiply stakeholder perspective
  • Leadership: inspires and involves everyone  empowerment
  • Conflict resolution:find solution that considers everyone’s needs
  • Fear : of rejection
  • Organisation structure: network
  • Organisations: organisations with values-driven culture

Evolutionary – Teal (Metaphor : Living System). Yellow in Spiral Dynamics.

Can accept, that there’s evolution in consciousness, that there’s a momentum in evolution towards ever more complex ways of dealing with the world.

  • Values: evolutionary purpose, wholeness, self management
  • Leadership: gives open space and participate situationally, self management
  • Fear: as an informative feeling
  • Organisation structure: fractual, holarchy
  • Conflict resolution: perceive and use conflict as opportunity
  • Organisations: teal organisations like Buurtzorg, Patagonia, Morning Star

I really enjoyed this one day learning and sharing experience.Thank you very much for inviting me and see you next year.




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