There are three modern business leaders I have studied that:

  • Are great examples of being Mind 3.0 (i.e., highly vertically developed) leaders that…
  • Have actualized transformational change in the organizations they led.

These leaders are:

All three of these leaders took their organizations from deeply in the dumps to wildly successful.

  • Mulally took Ford from an annual loss of $12.7 billion to being one of the most respected brands in the world.
  • Catmull resuscitated Disney Animation from being stale to breaking box office records.
  • Nadella has led a 10x growth in market cap and stock price in the eight years he has been CEO.

As I have studied these three leaders, I have asked myself two primary questions:

  • What is it about them, as opposed to other leaders, that have allowed them to actualize transformational change in their organization?
  • What have they done that has been pivotal in the process of actualizing the transformational change?

In this article, I want to try to answer the first question.  Next week, I will answer the second question. (I hope to develop this out into longer article for Harvard Business Review.)

What Makes Transformational Change-Makers Unique?

A simple, but deep, answer to this question is: They are all vertically developed.

They all operate with a Mind 3.0 operating system. This means a few different things:

1. Vertically Developed Leaders are Programmed to Contribute, Add Value, & Lift Others

Developmental psychologists have found that everyone possesses an internal operating system (i.e., their body’s sensemaking system that involves their mind, nervous system, stress response system, goal regulation system, and perceptions) that is programmed to obtain different needs.

  • Mind 1.0 internal operating systems are programmed to help the individual feel safe, comfortable, and like they belong.
  • Mind 2.0 internal operating systems are programmed to help the individual standout, advance, and get ahead.
  • Mind 3.0 internal operating systems are programmed to help the individual contribute, add value, and lift others.

Developmental psychologists have also found that most adults operate with a Mind 1.0 internal operating system, while most executives operate with a Mind 2.0 internal operating system:

Mind Level Percentages

Transformational change-makers possess a Mind 3.0 internal operating system. They are willing to put their Mind 1.0 needs of safety, comfort, and belonging on the back burner in order to contribute, add value, and lift others. They are also willing to put their Mind 2.0 needs of standing out, advancing, and getting ahead in order to contribute, add value, and lift others.

A key differentiator of those with a Mind 3.0 internal operating system is that they are outward-focused, while those with Mind 1.0 or Mind 2.0 internal operating systems are inward-focused.

If you want to watch a great video clip to give you a sense of the quality of your operating system, watch this: Locating Yourself – A Key to Conscious Leadership.

Mulally, Catmull, and Nadella all have internal operating systems that are less focused on their internal self-protection or self-advancement, and more focused on external contribution.

2. Vertically Developed Leaders Have a Wide Window of Tolerance

Vertically developed leaders are centered and balanced. It is really difficult to throw them out of whack. It is not easy for them to become self-protective or defensive.

Mind 1.0 and Mind 2.0 leaders have narrow windows of tolerance for things like failure, being wrong, having problems, and getting passed up. This is because all of these things but their Mind 1.0 and Mind 2.0 needs in danger.

Mind 3.0 leaders have wide windows of tolerance for things like failure, being wrong, having problems, and getting passed up. In fact, they often see these things as evidence that they are contributing, lifting, and elevating. Specifically:

  • When something fails, they seek to learn from it.
  • They aren’t ashamed to admit when they are wrong.
  • They anticipate problems as they continue to push the envelope.
  • They care more about others’ successes than their own successes.

Since having a wide window of tolerance for these things is rare, this is a reason why we see so few people with a Mind 3.0 internal operating system.

If you read the three books identified at the top of this article, you will see ample evidence of Mulally’s, Nadella’s, and Catmull’s centeredness and balance. Let me highlight a few:

  • Mulally: Encouraged executives and leaders to be transparent about their issues and problems so that they could quickly address them with the team’s help as needed.
  • Catmull: Created braintrust meetings to critically analyze the progress of their films in a safe and productive manner.
  • Nadella: Supported leaders when things didn’t go as planned. He recognized that problems happen when you are being innovative, and he encouraged them to keep pushing when they did occur.

3. Vertically Developed Leaders are Infinite-Minded

Leaders who are finite-minded are focused on winning in the short term. They are performance-centered and primarily concerned about hitting the goals or metrics expected of them. They are the type of leaders who hold really tightly to hitting quarterly and/or annual shareholder expectations. This does not describe Mulally, Catmull, or Nadella.

woman infinite

Infinite-minded leaders are focused on continual and future success. They are purpose-centered and primarily concerned about adding value to all their stakeholders. They are the type of leaders who don’t get hung up on short-term expectations, but are deeply devoted to long-term growth and success.

Here are some examples:

  • Mulally: Was willing to take a multi-billion-dollar hit to Ford’s bottom line to convert their trucks from a steel frame to an aluminum frame because he believed customers would appreciate the performance and value, allowing both the customers and Ford to grow together into the future.
  • Catmull: Didn’t let Steve Jobs (the principal funder of Pixar) into braintrust meetings because he felt it would be disruptive to the group’s safety and creativeness.
  • Nadella: Changed Microsoft’s approach of trying to produce what they think their customers would need or want to asking their customers what they need or want and then creating that for them. This was the impetus for being less Windows- and Office-centric and more cloud-first.

Good News: We Can Help Leaders Vertically Develop

The first prerequisite for transformational and sustainable growth is to have a leader that operates with a Mind 3.0 internal operating system.

While it is unfortunate such leaders are rare, the great news is that we can help leaders vertically develop. There is rigorous science stemming from both psychology and neuroscience that informs how we can do this.

If you would like to focus on vertically developing your leaders, please reach out to me and/or download my Vertical Leadership Development white paper.

And, keep an eye out for my article next week, where I will focus on specific things that Mulally, Catmull, and Nadella did/have done that were critical and foundational to the transformational and sustainable change they were able to actualize.