A “Stage/Strategy” Model for Leaders1

based on Jean McLendon’s “Seven-A” model for change2

Explanation: “Readiness Indicators” provide cues to the leader (teacher, parent, etc.) when the follower may be ready to make the transition to the next stage. The “strategy” column suggests leader strategies for promoting effective growth and change in followers and advancement to the next stage.












Follower Stage

Readiness Indicators

Leader Strategy




noticing or paying attention to discrepancies between current and desired states

intermittent ability to focus on cost(s) incurred due to status quo or possible benefit(s) of change

To move from unawareness to awareness:





provide information; expose to new ideas and experiences3

show (model desired behavior)




decrease in denial, avoidance, resistance or self-judgment

balanced view of weaknesses relative to strengths

To move from awareness to acceptance:






unconditional acceptance

active listening




decrease in active and passive blame of others or circumstances for status quo

To move from acceptance to authorship:



Authorship (ownership)


invite meaningful participation

tell / persuade

hold accountable; allow to experience consequences of one’s actions




increased clarity about etiology of unwanted behavior(s) / trigger events

To move from authorship to articulation:





inquire about needed support

engage in dialogue

validate their lived experience; share one’s own experience

help to envision desired future




  approach behaviors; initial attempts at change

To move from articulation to application:





model desired behaviors

identify “small steps”

affirm attempts at positive change

accept failures

coach / give constructive feedback

acknowledge successes




demonstration of concern for others’ need of change

To move from application to activism:





appreciate; learn from

encourage progress

encourage critical reflection on their practice of helping others change; assist in theory building




increased awareness of one’s own motives for helping

To move from activism to altruism:





model altruism by helping from the heart





© 2008 Jim Wolford-Ulrich









1 Draft for discussion. Inclusion of a leader strategy at a given stage does not preclude its usefulness at a different stage; what is hypothesized here are those leader behaviors that will have greater leverage relative to follower context. Certain leader behaviors effective at one stage - e.g., “telling” (Quinn, 2000) - may possibly be counter-productive at another stage. Send comments and feedback to ulrich@duq.edu.


2 McLendon originally formulated the model, based on the writings of Virginia Satir, using the six stages listed from awareness to activism. See McLendon, J. (1996). The tao of communication and the constancy of change. Journal of Couples Therapy, 6(3/4), 35-49. Reprinted at  http://www.ayeconference.com/Articles/Taocommunicationchange.html. McLendon discusses the addition of a seventh “A” (altruism), in Brothers, B. J. (2000), The nature of personhood: Interview with Jean McLendon. In The Personhood of the Therapist, B. J. Brothers, Ed., pp 15-28. Hazleton, PA: Haworth. An “unawareness” stage is presumed to precede awareness. 


3 “Films, documentaries, novels, short stories, and poems often portray unusual perspectives in dramatic and interesting ways.” Cranton, P. (2002). Teaching for transformation. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 93, p. 66.


4 A term used by Virginia Satir for congruent communication. Satir, V. (1988). The New Peoplemaking. Mountain View, CA: Science and Behavior. “Being a leveler enables you to have integrity, commitment, honesty, intimacy, competence, creativity, and the ability to work with real problems in a real way” (p. 98).

back to model







Additional Notes


Other “theories of change” for which a stage / strategy model could be (or have been) developed include:


Prochaska, J. M., Prochaska, J. O., & Levesque, D. A. (2001). A transtheoretical approach to changing organizations. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 28(4), 247-261. Their five stages are: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance. See also http://www.uri.edu/research/cprc/TTM/detailedoverview.htm.


Lester, D. L. (2004). Organisational life cycle stage and strategy: Must they match? International Journal of Management and Decision Making, 5 (2/3), 135-143. This article reviews the match between management strategy and organizational life cycle stages, e.g.: existence, survival, success, renewal, decline.


Tyler, C. L., & Tyler, J. M. (2006). Applying the transtheoretical model of change to the sequencing of ethics instruction in business education. Journal of Management Education, 30(1), 45-64. Building on the developmental models of moral reasoning by Kohlberg and others, the authors develop a stage-strategy model for teaching business ethics.


A “Theory of Change” (ToC) approach to planning and evaluating social services programs and public policy initiatives is becoming increasingly common. See: Anderson, A. (2005). An introduction to theory of change. The Evaluation Exchange, 11(2). Guidance for creating a program “logic model” can be found at http://www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/evaluation/evallogicmodel.html. A toolkit for using program logic models to evaluate program effectiveness can be downloaded here.


Edgar Schein outlines Kurt Lewin's change theory here.

back to model









Armenakis, A. A., Harris, S. G., & Mossholder, K. W. (1993). Creating readiness for organizational change. Human Relations, 46(6), 681-703.


Harris, S. G., & Cole, M. S. (2007). A stages of change perspective on managers' motivation to learn in a leadership development context. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 20(6), 774-793. DOI: 10.1108/09534810710831019


Karp. T. (2005). An action theory of transformative processes. Journal of Change Management, 5(2), 153-174.


Prochaska, J. M., Levesque, D. A., Prochaska, J. O., Dewart, S. R., & Wing, G. R. (2001). Mastering change: A core competency for employees. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, 1(1), 7-15.


Quinn, R. E. (2000). Change the world: How ordinary people can achieve extraordinary results. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Tyler, C. L., & Tyler, J. M. (2006). Applying the transtheoretical model of change to the sequencing of ethics instruction in business education. Journal of Management Education, 30(1), 45-64.


Van de Ven, A. H, & Poole, M. S. (1995). Explaining development and change in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 510-540.


Winum, P., Ryterband, E., & Stephensen, P. (1997). Helping organizations change: A model for guiding consultation. Consulting Psychology Journal, 49(1), 6-16.


back to model




© 2008-2009 Jim Wolford-Ulrich. Note: the Six-A and Seven-A models for change are © Jean McLendon.