The 5 Stages of Transformation

Building Your Brand as an Inclusive Leader

Transformation is dramatic growth in an individual or an organization’s performance and character. The Five Stages define a process for cultivating inclusion as a source for transformative growth, to build your leadership brand – how others see you and to choose to work with you. Each Stage offers a new level of learning about how to lead with measurable influence and with dimensions of diversity in view. 

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Defining the 5 Stages

As inclusive leaders, we progress through these Stages in order—we can’t skip one. Our learning curve is different for each dimension of diversity, and is influenced by our identity, experience, values, and role. Specific knowledge and skills align with each Stage. Here’s an introduction to the Five Stages in order.


I am not yet aware of inclusion and diversity’s significance for my influence as a leader.

Asks: “Why does this matter?”


Interest & Necessity

I am motivated to learn and am beginning to see the value and need (both business case & to my personal brand) for inclusion as it relates to my colleagues and other stakeholders.  

Asks: “Tell me a little more?”


Careful Practice 

I experiment cautiously, with a mix of awkwardness and confidence in my skills, humbly learning to contribute inclusively across the many aspects of identity.

Asks: “How can I do this?”



I am hungry for change and growing in confidence with the way I engage with inclusion and diversity at work. I effectively recognize opportunities for greater inclusion, build belonging with my team and peers, and problem-solve with sensitivity to multiple aspects of identity.

Asks: “How do we do this together?”



I am seen as a valuable resource in making our culture more inclusive. I am aware of my limits, and honor others’ experience by seeking their contribution and learning from them. I am seen as an accountable ally, a colleague with humility, and a leader with a clear point of view who is committed to systemic change.

Asks: “Where can I share my power and use my influence?”


Formula Driven Growth

Within each of the 5 Stages, there is a natural order for learning. There’s a dynamism to this process, as we build relationships and achieve results by increasing knowledge and skill. The formula looks like this:



When you focus on inclusion with specific colleagues and customers (of diverse and shared identity), with trust and accountability

You are motivated to learn what you need to know, and…

Then you apply your knowledge to achieve results through your relationships.  


Here’s the Point

Your connection to real people drives your transformation. Knowing the 5 Stages process is a good start. And it’s not enough. Leading inclusively requires that you build your skills in actual relationships of trust (making and keeping promises over time) and accountability (tracking and rewarding kept promises and fixing broken promises). When the people in your sphere of influence testify to your knowledge and skills, you build your brand as an inclusive leader.