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. 

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.


Ignorance and naiveté operate freely here; “I don’t know what I don’t know.” In this phase, you are not yet aware of how diversity and inclusion can transform your leadership work. 


Interest and Necessity

Here’s where engagement kicks in. Your values and circumstances compel you to deploy awareness to counteract bias, to recognize and understand individual and cultural differences and similarities among colleagues and customers. In this Stage, you want to learn and you need to learn.  


Careful Skill Progress 

At this Stage, you experiment cautiously. Your expanding relationships, knowledge, and skills can get you into trouble, and can also get new things done. You evolve your leadership skills through a non-linear mix of awkward attempts and confident skill building


Adventurous Competence

This is the phase where your investment in leading inclusively starts to show real results. You effectively recognize inclusion opportunities at work, problem solve with sensitivity to diverse needs, and proactively manage multiple dimensions of diversity.

Relative Expertise

You are recognized by people in our sphere of influence as a source for information and help, as you mentor others through the previous Stages. Relative means you hold your expertise with humility; you lead across differences from your side, always remembering your limits so that you honor others’ experience and evoke their contribution. 

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.