Developing 21st century leaders, a complete new process: We call them Transpersonal Leaders

John Knights (LeaderShape Global Ltd, Oxford, UK)
Danielle Grant (LeaderShape Global Ltd, Oxford, UK)
Greg Young (LeaderShape Global Ltd, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Work-Applied Management

ISSN: 2205-2062

Article publication date: 25 February 2020

Issue publication date: 22 April 2020




It is becoming more generally accepted that there is a need to develop a new kind of leader to meet the needs of our 21st century VUCA world. The bookcases are full of volumes that describe “what” great leaders should do, but “how” to develop such leaders is usually limited to a macro or systemic solution rather than focusing on granular behavioural change of the individual. This paper describes the qualities and characteristics of Transpersonal Leaders, then focuses on developing these leaders through a new coaching process and finally explains how experienced coaches can be trained to coach these leaders.


Our research over the last 20 years of working with leaders individually and in teams has focused on this issue. We have been developing “21st century ready” leaders, referred to as Transpersonal Leaders, for over 10 years in teams, but only recently have we been developing such leaders through a new coaching process. We have also developed a methodology that codifies the development of Transpersonal Leaders which, in turn, allows us to replicate the programme by training other professionals, potentially in large numbers.


Graduates of the Transpersonal Coach Training Programme say that it has been a transformational personal experience, enabling them to take their leader clients to a new level. Leaders who have been coached say the programme has equipped them to learn a practical approach to becoming an authentic, ethical, caring and more effective leader.


This is a unique approach to coaching leaders but based on proven learning principles.



Knights, J., Grant, D. and Young, G. (2020), "Developing 21st century leaders, a complete new process: We call them Transpersonal Leaders", Journal of Work-Applied Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 6-21.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, John Knights, Danielle Grant and Greg Young


Published in Journal of Work-Applied Management. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at


As we complete the first 20 years of the 21st century, we have a VUCA[1] world where we are still in in the early stages of the post-industrial information age. And just like the industrial revolution before it needed different kinds of leaders, so does the information age. Hierarchical leadership does not work effectively any more in this increasingly complex world in which society is also changing rapidly. It requires collaboration, participation, delegation and distribution of leadership.

We need leaders who are more self-aware, emotionally intelligent and who can use a variety of leadership styles for different situations. They need all these attributes to be able to build a performance-enhancing culture in their organisations. But in addition to that in order to create a culture that is also ethical, caring and sustainable, they need to bring their values to a higher level of consciousness. They must think radically, be authentic, lead beyond their ego and work for all the stakeholders of the organisation – and that includes the planet. And no one can achieve that without continuous personal and professional development. We call them Transpersonal Leaders (Knights et al., 2018).

To attain these heights of leadership competence, a leader needs to reach an advanced level of adult development (Kegan, 1982; Garvey Berger, 2006). But if we allow this to happen by serendipity, it will at least take until late middle-age, and then only 5 percent or so of the population will attain it.

So our goal is to develop as many Transpersonal Leaders as possible and as young as possible. Then we might start to change the world. To achieve this, the approach we have used is to enable leaders to proactively rewire their own brains based on the knowledge we provide, the insights they create, regular practice (primarily in the workplace) and regular reflection (Rock and Schwartz, 2007; Rock, 2009; Patterson, 2017; Schön, 1983).

What we have developed over the last 20 years is a programme that uses state-of-the-art blended learning together with a process of learning that is in the most effective order to encourage embedding of the learning and the forming of new habits (Knights et al., 2018 – Ch22).

Most of our experience has been with developing Transpersonal Leaders in teams, and then codifying the content and methodology, so that we can train trainers. However, over the last three years, we have developed and implemented a methodology to develop Transpersonal Leaders through a new coaching process, and to then train independent coaches to develop their clients as Transpersonal Leaders (LeaderShape 1 and 2, 2019).

The journey of development

As we can see from Figure 1, the entire “Transpersonal leadership development journey to excellence” is made up of a programme to the intermediate level, followed by the one to the advanced level. To reach the intermediate level, leaders must understand what leadership is about in the 21st century, investigate how the brain actually works in the context of leadership, learn to increase self-awareness and understand how emotions impact our behaviour and leadership styles impact culture.

To progress through the advanced level of development, participants must learn to bring their values, beliefs and purpose to full consciousness and then act on them by using the new and improved behaviours they have already learned at the intermediate stage, and other behaviours they still need to learn, in order to manage their ego. During this part of the advanced journey, they will become better decision-makers, addressing ethical issues and developing other transpersonal characteristics of being caring, radical, authentic, sustainable as well as emotionally intelligent and performance-enhancing. This provides a deep level of consciousness, allowing leaders to make their own choices, work for the greater good and lead beyond their ego.

At the very start of the journey, using our “REAL” mnemonic, they function as a “Rational, Ego-based, As-usual Leader(REAL-1). What do we mean by this? Throughout our education (school, university, workplace and probably at home too), most of us are taught, told or persuaded to think logically and analytically; it is certainly what we are praised and measured on. And that our answers, responses and decisions should be thought out rationally and objectively. We are rarely (if ever) encouraged to think intuitively, emotionally or spiritually. By the time individuals are in a position of responsibility and take on a leadership role, most of us will have had any non-rational thinking “knocked” out of us.

When we start our role as leaders, we usually have relevant job skills, know how to use them and also understand about management processes and strategic planning (what we refer to as the “foundation” or “basic” level of leadership development). However, we often assume that other individuals think and act like us, although, in reality, we all have different preferences. Every individual will have varying levels of innate intuitive thinking and emotional awareness, but most often, we will not be fully aware of our capabilities, and therefore will not be managing these attributes to maximise levels of self-management, relationships and performance. That takes care of “Rational”.

In our early careers, both from a human maturity perspective and one of economics and sustainability, it is natural and usual to focus more on our personal needs. We want to get ahead with our careers, find the right partner, earn more money, get a nice car, buy a house, take care of our children and so forth. We want to establish ourselves and build our persona. It is primarily about “me”. Fundamentally we seek power, reward, prestige or recognition, or any combination of these. Usually, one or more of these needs will be the prime motivator for the leadership decisions we make. We are Ego-based. There is nothing wrong or immoral in any of this, and it is the nature of things, but as an employee and especially as we develop as a leader, we should instead be making decisions in the best interests of the organisation we work for and for the stakeholders of that organisation. Many of the corporate disasters during and since the financial crisis of 2008 were the result of the top leaders, unfortunately, never moving beyond being ego-driven.

Finally, let's explain what we mean by “As-Usual Leadership”. For the vast majority of us, our default leadership style, the “As-usual” style, is to know everything and tell people what to do. That is how most people who have not learned otherwise think leadership is, and is often counter-productive other than in specific circumstances. Many of those who have learned otherwise will nevertheless maintain this style as they feel it gives them power. Even those who, most of the time, make the effort not to lead like this will revert to it when stressed or hijacked by their emotions. Just think of any situation when you were “hijacked” in the last 24 hours. Was it not your tendency just to want to do it your way without discussion? That is how our brain works genetically, in an attempt to reduce uncertainty (since that is experienced as an evolutionary existential threat) (Davachi et al., 2010).

Step by step – intermediate stage

The intermediate stage of the journey (Knights et al., 2018, Ch2 – 11) brings leaders to a level where they are Robust, Emotionally Aware Leaders (REAL-2). At this level, they possess a high level of emotional intelligence, and understand that sustainable performance can only be achieved by having the right kind of organisational culture. To do this, leaders must fully comprehend what leadership is about in today's world. This is achieved through appreciating how the brain actually works in the context of leadership, learning to increase self-awareness, understanding how emotions impact our behaviour (Goleman et al., 2002) and the way leadership styles determine the climate and culture of the organisation (Ogbonna and Harris, 2000). This is the foundation of the Transpersonal Leadership development journey, the ultimate objective of which is, of course, to provide improved, sustainable organisational performance. The essence of this part of the journey is to build on the rational intelligence of the leader to enhance performance through adding emotional intelligence, as shown in Figure 2.

The first step (Figure 1) clarifies what leadership is, how it differs from management and how leadership needs to change to be successful in a VUCA world. We define what “we” mean by leadership and management and explain our default instincts about what “good” or “strong” leadership is (Covey, 1999; Landsberg, 2000). “As-usual” leadership was an acceptable and reasonably efficient style up to 25 years ago as it conformed to societal norms. However, it is no longer fit for purpose in this age of exponential social and technological changes.

We all have our instinctive views about inspirational leadership, but the reality is often surprising – such as “many are introverts” (Farrington, 2019). A real understanding will give more people the confidence to be inspirational themselves. We identify some aspects of neuroscience that have a direct impact on how we lead. In particular, we focus on how much of our default behaviour is, on the one hand, based on how our brain developed to survive the stone age and, on the other, the environment needed to improve performance and productivity as well as create superior learning. We also explain how neuroscience helps us understand emotional intelligence and why and how it is possible to improve our behaviours to better manage our emotions.

The second step helps leaders increase their self-awareness, a fundamental building block to enable our development as humans, especially as leaders. This self-awareness must be on several levels: our natural preferences, how we react to and deal with emotions, understanding our strengths and weaknesses, knowing how we use and react to our five senses, how we react in different situations and what our drivers are, how others react to us and why and how this is a life-long exercise.

The third step, managing emotions and emotional intelligence, is one of the real core areas of learning and development that we all need and is a key building block to increasing performance. We discuss in detail the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) as a part of leadership and how it can be developed. Having become aware of how our emotions impact our behaviour, we must now learn how to manage those emotions. We need to know which emotions and specific behaviours have the greatest impact, and so how to prioritise. This requires rewiring our brains and understanding exactly how we can do that. It is not just about managing our own emotions, but, as leaders, how we can impact more positively on the emotions of the people around us. We cover in detail how to improve our capability in the four competencies of EI: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management – following the Goleman and Boyatzis model (Goleman et al., 2002).

The fourth step in the journey is about how to use different leadership styles. It is a critical step because it is about how to apply emotional intelligence by using different styles in different circumstances and knowing when to adopt each style. Most of us have one preferred style, or at best two, which we tend to use all the time, but, to be effective in all circumstances, we need to become competent in six styles[2]. This means honing 4–5 new styles which, in turn, means developing specific granular behaviours, which are not necessarily natural to us. All our research and experience, and that of others, have confirmed that of the six styles, the coaching style is the least used by leaders, even though it is the second most impactful (after the visionary style). The good news though is that it is the easiest to learn because there are many simple, proven techniques that can be used to develop and implement this style. A key role of leaders, which is often missing, is to help develop the people they are responsible for. The coaching style is the best style to use to help people learn in the workplace and develop to fulfil their potential.

In the fifth and sixth steps, we learn how to create a performance-enhancing culture and establish a mutually beneficial contract between leader and follower. These aspects are necessary to convert good leadership skills and styles into organisational effectiveness. Leaders learn how to develop the right kind of culture by first creating the right environment (climate) through their own consistent behaviour and values. Changing culture is longer term and requires the engagement of most of the people in the organisation. We use a model that has four parameters of culture (power, structure, achievement and support), and each parameter is specifically related to one or two of the six leadership styles (Ogbonna and Harris, 2000; Harrison, 1972). So by identifying the “actual” and “ideal” cultures for an organisation using these parameters (we have a well-developed tool – LeaderShape Online Culture Shaper -LOCS - to do just that), we can identify both the leadership styles the leaders need to use and granular behaviours the organisation needs to focus on in order to move towards the ideal. An important aspect of developing the right culture is the explicit contract between individual leaders and each person reporting to them, which has a psychological dimension as well as a practical one.

The seventh and final step in the intermediate stage of the journey is about identifying strengths and improving development areas. We use a specific tool (LEIPA®)[3], developed by LeaderShape, that enables leaders to identify their habitual granular behaviours and leadership styles that form the inherent strengths of their leadership competence and how to build on that. It also identifies those styles and capabilities that need developing or improving, and explains how, usually, improving just two or three granular behaviours can have a major impact on a leader's competence and performance (Wall and Knights, 2013). This step also includes a detailed action plan.

Step by step – advanced stage

The advanced stage of the journey (Knights et al., 2018, Ch12-21) will take leaders towards becoming Radical, Ethically Authentic Leaders (REAL-3), that is Transpersonal Leaders. This advanced journey is primarily about bringing our values, beliefs and purpose to full consciousness, and then acting on them by using the new and improved behaviours we have already learned in during the intermediate stage, and other behaviours we still need to learn, in order to manage our ego.

For the purposes of this journey and to understand how we use the words, we think of Awareness as fundamentally about “observation” (knowing about self and others), whereas Consciousness is about “experiencing” (connecting with self and others) in the moment (OLD, 2017).

This advanced journey takes leaders on a voyage beyond emotional intelligence, beyond our ego to the ultimate state of Transpersonal Leadership. It is about increasing our consciousness, and then learning and taking actions from that. In addition to bringing our values to full consciousness, we must gain a better understanding of our ego and how to manage it. Critically, we must also learn to improve our decision-making and judgement, so it takes into account the emotional, ethical and authentic aspects of any issue or challenge as well as the logic-analytical ones we are often more comfortable handling. Learning that this journey has direction but no end point or ultimate summit, and is life-long, is the final important lesson.

At the heart of the advanced part of the journey is the addition of spiritual intelligence to our rational and emotional Intelligence, as shown in Figure 3 below. This will enable us to better define what “performance” really means to a Transpersonal Leader. Unfortunately, the word “spiritual” in the Western world has negative connotations associated with the mystical and religious which sets up barriers. We like Cindy Wigglesworth's definition, “the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion, while maintaining inner and outer peace, regardless of the situation” (Wigglesworth, 2012). As you might expect, in much of Asia, the word “spiritual” is more commonly used and rarely seen as uncomfortable. The Dalai Lama explains spirituality as being “concerned with those qualities of the human spirit — such as love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, which brings happiness to both self and others” (Craig, 2002). In the end, the spiritual is grounded in our values (Fry, 2003), and that cannot be ignored. It is thought that our spiritual intelligence manifests itself in the brain through synchronous neural oscillations which wave across main parts of the brain (Zohar and Marshall, 2000; Gray et al. 1989).

The first step (referring to Figure 1) in this advanced journey is understanding the Eight Integrated Competencies of Leadership (8ICOL®) that take into account rational, emotional and spiritual intelligence and our innate personal preferences. We explain in detail the 8ICOL® model (see Figure 4 below) developed by LeaderShape to show how the different aspects of intelligence and competence provide a holistic template for leadership development that includes explaining how behaviours are the foundation for values and ethical behaviour (Gardner, 1983; Griffith, 2017; Goleman, 2004; Lynn and Vanhanen, 2002). Uniquely, it introduces two new competencies of personal conscience and self-determination, which help better appreciate the role and purpose in leadership of different kinds of values.

The second step brings the latest neuroscience research together with some relevant philosophy which focuses on consciousness and how the brain works to handle the spiritual, ethical and value-based aspects of leadership (Crick, 1995). Neurons connect in three different ways, but it's primarily the bonding through synchronous neural oscillations that we will address in this step (Zohar and Marshall, 2000).

The third step, “Managing the Ego” explains that we need to know what drives us in order to manage our ego. Whereas emotions can hijack our behaviours, drivers can hijack our ego (Black and Hughes, 2017). Moving beyond the ego as an organisational leader requires us to focus on the stakeholders we are serving and the order of priority of those stakeholders in different contexts. It identifies who really are the stakeholders that will determine the sustainable success of the organisation. And where is the ethical balance between a leader taking care of their own needs versus those of the organisation?

Steps 4 and 5 introduce the importance of the 3Is (intuition, instinct and insight) and ethical philosophy in decision-making and improving our judgement. We are taught throughout our education and most of our lives to make decisions rationally and logically. Yet, in actual fact, we tend to use logic for explaining our decisions rather than making them. The four other sub-, non-, un-, conscious decision-making processes each come with their biases and prejudices that we need to be aware of and understand so that we can unpick and overcome them in order to make better judgements (Sadler-Smith, 2009; Steare, 2006).

Steps 6 and 7 propose a new framework to understand the role of values in leadership. We divide values into the areas of personal conscience and self-determination. Personal conscience is about “who I am” whereas self-determination is “what I am going to do with who I am” and is very leadership-focused (Ryan and Deci, 2000). We discuss the more common values that employees want in their leaders, but also the softer values such as “forgiveness” and “humility”, and the difficult ones like “vulnerability” that need to be developed and implemented in order to become a Transpersonal Leader. Managing diversity and inclusion is another area that is critical for leaders to operate beyond their ego and in full consciousness, to establish creative, effective workplace cultures (Rosado, 2006; Plaister-Ten, 2017).

Developing Transpersonal Leadership characteristics or qualities (caring, radical, ethical, authentic, sustainable, emotionally intelligent, performance-enhancing), Step 8 in the advanced journey, is underpinned by an inner journey, which includes a mindfulness/meditation practice (Reitz and Chaskalson). Such practice supports the leader in being fully present and being aware of what is required in each moment from a leadership perspective. It also requires a growth mind-set and congruency of identity, values and beliefs. In addition, the leader needs to ensure that they are thriving as an individual so that they are able to create the conditions for their people to thrive. All of this promotes sustainable high performance and success.

Steps 9 and 10, “Choice” and “For the Greater Good” are interconnected. Choice is much more important than our abilities, and ultimately, to be a Transpersonal Leader, one has to make choices about what is right for all stakeholders, including the planet (Santos and Roseti, 2015; Suddendorf, 2014). To make those choices, it is important to understand one's own purpose and spiritual belief system, and how that manifests into ethical behaviour. In the end, how will I, YOU, WE leave the world a better place?

Beyond the final step in the journey is continuous self-development. There are six levels of self-awareness, the highest level being “No longer a struggle between Ego (what I want for myself) and the greater good” – developed from (Wigglesworth, 2006). Reaching this level of self-awareness plus continually working to improve and develop those behaviours that are barriers to leadership competence, as well as raising one's consciousness to live one's values, is a life-long journey of development. The process in itself requires many emotional intelligence capabilities (e.g. initiative, achievement orientation and emotional self-awareness) and values (e.g. resilience, humility, motivation) to achieve. Continuous development can be aided by following transpersonal practices, which themselves are based on the complex-adaptive system of nature (Miller and Page, 2007; Zohar, 2016), by connecting with the various stages of human development (Kegan, 1982; Garvey Berger, 2006) and by using the evolution of intelligences as a guide (Knights et al., 2018 – Figure 21.2).

With commitment and determination, leaders can reach the advanced level of the REAL journey to become radical, ethically, authentic leaders. In our experience, few leaders reach this level naturally. Not because it is not possible for anyone with a slightly above-normal IQ, but because very few will chance upon the experiences, learning opportunities and support that are required to get there. Our goal is to remove the “chance” element and make it a proactive choice for anyone who has the will.

Finally, let us review what the phrase “Radical, Ethically, Authentic Leader” means.

To be Radical is critical because we need a new kind of leadership. We need to have the courage, fearlessness, conviction and ideas to move to unorthodox approaches, realise we might need alternatives to continuous growth and gauge societal success in measures other than GDP. There may also be times when we need disruptive thinking for survival.

Acting Ethically means not only integrity but a social conscience and a willingness to follow the rules (or get them changed if that is what is needed). It means working for the greater good. And it is not only about “me” as an individual leader being ethical. We have a responsibility to create ethical cultures in organisations. Ethical leadership is defined in How to Develop Ethical Leaders (Knights, 2016) as “the process of influencing people to act through principles and values and beliefs that embrace ethical behaviour. Ethical Behaviour is about acting in a way that is consistent with one's own principles and values which are characterized by honesty, fairness and equity in all interpersonal activities, be they personal or professional, and by respecting the dignity, diversity and rights of individuals and groups of people”.

A Transpersonal Leader must also be Authentic because a leader must act as they truly are. They must be honest with themselves and others. Excellent leadership is not a game; it is not something we can pretend to do and get right. The human being is very good at seeing through the falseness of others, although often not in a conscious way. “Authentic” also implies that the leader is the same person (though may behave appropriately differently) in all circumstances – their values are operating at full consciousness and they don't leave them at the door to the office (Knights, 2011).

To become this kind of Leader, an individual needs to be emotionally intelligent in order to have sufficient inner self-confidence, awareness and empathy to be able to take this advanced journey. To become a Transpersonal Leader, we must bring our values, beliefs and purpose to full consciousness and act on them.

Transpersonal Leadership Coaching (TLC)

The programme is based on the Transpersonal Leadership development journey described above, and delivered by fully trained and accredited TLC (LeaderShape 1, 2019). The programme provides 72 CPD hours with accreditation by The CPD Standards Office.

It is specifically tailored for individuals who want to develop their skills and behaviours as leaders and bring their values to full consciousness, but for one reason or another, a team or group programme is not appropriate or feasible:

  1. The intermediate journey is suitable for any executive wishing to improve their leadership competence and is completed in seven, two-hour sessions, usually about one month apart to allow for sufficient reflection, practice in the work-place and self-learning in preparation for the next session.

  2. The follow-on advanced journey is completed in six further two-hour sessions. This stage is particularly suitable for CEOs, executives who have been newly promoted to senior positions and for other high-potential executives being groomed for senior roles.

The schedule of sessions and pre-session activity is shown in Table I. Between TLC coaching sessions, individuals will read the two appropriate chapters of Leading Beyond the Ego (Knights et al., 2018) and complete bite-sized online learning (ALIVE© Prep)[4], confidential self-assessments, performance accelerator tools and questionnaires. This is truly state-of-the-art blended learning supported by internationally recognised evidence-based research that is grounded in neuroscience that links emotional intelligence, culture theory, decision-making, ethics, values and purpose (as described above in the Transpersonal Leadership journey).

Coaching sessions are organised in two parts. One part is to review the most recent learning from the various exercises and to identify how it applies to the individual, especially in the workplace, and what actions need to be taken. The other part of the session adopts an executive coaching format where the individual is looking to explore solutions to issues and challenges, but with the added advantage they can be considered in light of new learning. The balance between the two parts is kept flexible and tends to merge more as the programme progresses.

Transpersonal leadership coach training programme

Previous work implemented over the last ten years to design and deliver a programme to train our global faculty to deliver Transpersonal Leadership programmes to teams provided the template to deliver remote learning to coaches. The following have been the other main sources of reference used in creating and further developing the delivery and training programmes: (Medina, 2008; Goleman et al., 2002; Cherniss and Goleman, 1998; Race, 2001; Atherton, 2011; Davinci et al., 2010; Wall and Knights, 2013 – Ch7; Knights et al., 2018 – Ch22; Kytle, 2004 and Raelin, 2008).

Many coaches have self-selectively embarked upon elements of the Transpersonal journey, including developing self-awareness and emotional intelligence as well as having a sense of purpose and a set of clear ethics and values. These are codified in the practices and charters of all the main professional coaching bodies. This makes coaches a ready and engaged group as influencers and direct enablers of a transpersonal approach.

Creating a journey for coaches requires three objectives to be achieved:

  1. Enable coaches to support their clients to develop as Transpersonal Leaders. The programme provides coaches with the tools and techniques as well as the theory and practical exercises to work with clients to develop as Transpersonal Leaders. The materials and processes offered to coaches are practical, varied, flexible and accessible. The whole programme has to be replicable, so that coaches are confident in their ability to deliver proven, brain-friendly learning to their clients.

  2. Provide their own transpersonal journey that can be mirrored against client experience. Coaches in our cohorts have described the profound changes in their own perceptions and approach from the insights gained and an ability to apply these to both their coaching and personal contexts. This offers them an invaluable insight into how the journey is likely to impact their clients. The material used, combined with the coaching discussions, offers a template of best practice for the coaches to follow.

  3. Respect and harness their capability as coaches. The process engages them in coaching other cohort members through their insights from both online learning and the journey described in the core reference text, Leading Beyond the Ego (Knights et al., 2018). They are provided with the experience of sharing learning and deepening shifts by applying principles and new thinking to the situations that colleagues bring along to the group sessions. Whilst the Transpersonal Leadership Coaching (TLC) process has a flow and proven template model, it is not intended to be a prescriptive methodology. These sessions enable each coach in the cohort to showcase their own unique coaching identity, and apply it to the TLC journey. This means they are able to integrate this approach into who they are and what their unique signature presence is, so that it becomes a fundamental part of “them” and not an add-on.

Working in cohorts of six individuals, the process for coaches (See Tables II and III) is a slightly condensed version of the client journey (see section on TLC described above), whereby an increased number of chapters of the Leading Beyond the Ego and associated online exercises (ALIVE© Prep) are dealt with in a single remote ALIVE© workshop. This works because some aspects of the journey will already be a part of most coaches' repertoires. Although many topics will be new or approached differently in the TLC journey, our experience is that coaches will have already gained a level of familiarity with some of the content, allowing for more rapid progress.

Using best practice in leadership development and principles of adult learning, the programme provides a range of blended learning (Knights et al., 2018 – Ch. 22; Grant, 2013). Reflecting the principle of enabling the majority (80 percent) of learning to be applied in work-related and reflective practice, with the remaining 20 percent comprising social learning/feedback and more theoretical input, each element of the learning builds together to address all learning styles and preferences. This is achieved by providing self-directed online learning that incorporates a variety of stimuli, video, audio, reading, quizzes, questionnaires and, most importantly of all, reflective questions applying the concepts to the learner's own context and experience. The application of the learning into the workplace is explicitly encouraged, and end-of-module final reflections inform the course leader of progress that can be taken forward into group sessions and combined with the learning of the whole cohort.

To maximise the value and recognise individual responses, the course tutor receives the output of the final reflections from the cohort members. Reviewing these allows the tutor to match cohort members to explore common challenges or needs, through coaching one another in the group ALIVE© workshops, and these consolidate and extend the self-directed learning.

In creating these cohort workshops, it has been important to be flexible to allow the group to co-create the learning experience. These workshops are two-hour “ALIVE©” video conferences. It is a prerequisite for the tutor to maintain high energy levels in managing the group, so as to create a warm supportive environment. This is fostered by providing the space in each session for a personal anecdote from each participant, and thereby creating a sense of mutual understanding and community. The heart of the session is the open coaching around topics that arise from both the learning and how these may be used to work with real workplace issues. Again, this is a parallel to how qualified TLC coaches will work with their clients.

We have learned from experience that richer learning is gained in a plenary format, as they gain broader insights from those in different countries, with varied circumstances, backgrounds and perspectives.

A sample of feedback from coaches completing training includes:

As a seasoned coach with a variety of credentials, I found the TLC training fresh and innovative. The coaching cohort gave me a chance to take my new tools and insights to a new level and put the theory into practice with international colleagues. As coaches, we must keep our skills fresh and the TLC training was a transformative boost that I am benefitting from personally, as well as my coaching clients.

The excitement and energy of those we have trained is palpable, and we feel enthused at the potential for these Transpersonal Leadership coaches to go out and start to change the organisational world, one leader at a time.

To ensure each cohort is fully equipped to start to build their practice as TLC, the final ALIVE© call with each cohort is focused on the support package to be provided to each TL Coach.

This TL Coach Training programme is ICF (International Coach Federation) accredited with 40 hours, and the programme that accredited TL coaches deliver to their clients has been awarded up to 72 CPD hours by CPDSO (Continuing Professional Development Standards Office).

Implications for research, practice and society

The Transpersonal Leadership development and training programmes described in this paper have been developed over the last 20 years using a combination of best practice, sourced research, in situ evidence-based research and personal experiences. The result is a series of fully codified programmes that are easily modularised and replicable. As a result, experienced coaches, facilitators, lecturers and trainers can be trained and taught to deliver these programmes including integrating into degree programmes (Transpersonal Leadership programme has already been accredited to master's degree level).

Ongoing research includes continuing to collect data from the various programmes and tools used, develop new tools to measure performance connected to improved decision-making and conscious use of values, and further investigations into the connection between mind and body and the implications for leadership.

This is not the only approach to developing increased awareness, using emotional intelligence and bringing values to full consciousness. There are many theories, hypotheses, processes and systems as well as individual experts that broadly have the same intent as the TL journey to improve leadership and, in turn, society. We believe our approach is a useful contributor to the goal as it enables others to learn and replicate the essence of our process. Ultimately, this can have a significant impact on leadership and education in the still dawning information age.


Transpersonal leadership development journey

Figure 1

Transpersonal leadership development journey

Creating performance enhancement

Figure 2

Creating performance enhancement

Transpersonal leadership integrates three intelligences

Figure 3

Transpersonal leadership integrates three intelligences

8 Integrates competencies of leadership

Figure 4

8 Integrates competencies of leadership

Transpersonal leadership coaching framework

Coaching sessionTranspersonal leadership moduleChapter focus from LBTEA
1First session – Introduction
Intermediate journey
2Introduction to Transpersonal LeadershipChapters 1–3
3Neuroscience and self-awarenessChapters 4–5
4Understanding and managing emotions (emotional intelligence)Chapters 6–7
5Using different leadership stylesChapters 8–9
6LEIPA[3] feedbackRead LEIPA[3] report
7Creating a performance-enhancing cultureChapters 10–11
Advanced journey
8The eight integral competencies of leadershipChapters 12–13
9Beyond the egoChapters 14–15
10Improving judgement and decision-makingChapter 16
11Personal conscience and self-determinationChapter 17
12Diversity and inner developmentChapters 18–19
13Choices and life-long developmentChapters 20–21

Note(s): A: LBTE = Leading Beyond The Ego; How to Become a Transpersonal Leader (Knights et al., 2018)

Stage 1: LEIPA® facilitator accreditation programme

ALIVE© Prep emotional intelligence and leadership styles1 course of ALIVE© interactive learning with reflective exercises and feedbackWeek 1
ALIVE© Workshop 1Reflective group video call to embed and consolidate El PrepWeek 3
LEIPA Facilitator training
1 course of ALIVE© theory and stimulus materials on LEIPA®Week 4
ALIVE© Workshop 2Reflective ALIVE© call to ensure learning from Prep is deepened and extendedWeek 5
Triad workEach cohort to be split into triads with candidate/coach/observer - each feeding back their own LEIPA® to one another with the observer listening in and providing reflective feedback on the process - tutor observing and leading final reflectionsWeek 6–10
ALIVE© Workshop 3Bringing reflections on triad work togetherWeek 11
Own client LEIPA®Facilitating LEIPA® process and providing client feedback - observed or prepped with tutor depending on client contract

Stage 2: TLC coaching accreditation programme

Cohort intro session1 h whole cohort introduction to programmeWeek 0
Leadership in rapidly changing times
1 course of ALIVE© interactive learning with reflective exercises and feedbackWeek 1
LBTE Chapters 1–3Prepare reflective exercises for Session 1Week 2
ALIVE© Workshop Leadership in rapidly changing timesSession 1
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 3
LBTE Chapters 4, 6, 7Prepare reflective exercises for Session 2Week 4
ALIVE© Workshop
Emotional intelligence
Session 2
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice).
1 × 20 min session on each chapter
and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 5
Climate and culture
1 course of ALIVE© interactive learning with reflective exercises and feedbackWeek 6
LBTE Chapters 8, 10, 11Prepare reflective exercises for Session 3Week 7
ALIVE© Workshop
Climate and culture
Session 3
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter
and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 8
ALIVE Prep transpersonal1 course of ALIVE interactive learning with reflective exercises and feedbackWeek 9
LBTE Chapters 12–14Prepare reflective exercises for Session 4Week 10
ALIVE© Workshop transpersonalSession 4
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 11
LBTE Chapters 15–16Prepare reflective exercises for Session 5Week 12
ALIVE© WorkshopSession 5
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 13
LBTE Chapters 17–19Prepare reflective exercises for Session 6Week 14
ALIVE© WorkshopSession 6
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 15
LBTE Chapters 20–21Prepare reflective exercises for Session 7Week 16
ALIVE© WorkshopSession 7
2 h (45 min reflection + 1 h
Transpersonal Leadership coaching practice)
1 × 20 min session on each chapter and feedback. Taking turns observed by tutor each as coach-coachee-observer
Week 17
Creating your practiceFollow-up call to apply the course to your practiceWeek 20



“Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous”. Originally used by the American military to describe extreme conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but more recently as the state of the world in general.


We use Goleman's six styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting and commanding as they correlate best with EI competencies and behaviours (Goleman et al., 2002).


Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Performance Accelerator. Using best practice in a 360º format, LEIPA® identifies and compares the individual's habitual leadership styles to those which will have the greatest positive impact.


ALIVE© = Accelerated Learning In Virtual Environment. Online content including videos, exercises, questionnaires and some reading.


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Corresponding author

John Knights can be contacted at:

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