Transformational Leadership - The Leadership Circle

As a key element of my mahi and what I love doing – leadership coaching - I often get asked what 360o tool is available that is both uplifting and challenging for growth and development to be maximised.

There are many credible 360o tools, but the one that I prefer is the Leadership Circle. This tool has been instrumental in enabling leaders to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, the world they live and work in, and their relationship to others.

Co-founded by Bob Anderson and Bill Adams more than 20 years ago, the Leadership Circle assessment has been completed by more than 460,000 leaders across the world.

The tool has the potential for a leader to not only develop exemplary leadership skills, but also to embody leadership that can create an envisioned cultural change for which organisations often strive.

The profile is based on the premise that extraordinary leaders make significant difference to an organisation’s outcomes and performance and that leadership affects every measurable dimension of performance. This leads to the key features of the Leadership Circle:

  • How creative leadership competencies measure key behavours and internal assumptions that lead to high fulfillment, high achievement leadership
  • How reactive leadership styles reflect inner beliefs that limit effectiveness, authentic expression, and empowering leadership

The ultimate influence of extraordinary leaders is the obvious development of other leaders being dependent on the leadership above them – exemplary role modelling.

The layer of analysis includes leadership competencies, internal assumptions and the balance between being creative and reactive. It also differentiates whether the leader is people or task driven.

Of particular note is the comprehensive theory base that significant contributors to leadership provide, including Senge, Kiefer, Kohlberg, Beck, Covey, Bennis, Goleman, Zenger and Folkman and many others.

The coaching model that aligns with the Leadership Circle is the FUEL Model:

To frame the coaching conversation, the overall profile of the circle is discussed. This includes different sectors that have some correlation. There are also sectors that have unique connections like being ‘near enemies’. Internal assumptions are then explored, eg ‘edges of understanding’- what is most at risk? There are many other coaching strategies that enable a real enlightening of a coachee’s potential – greatness, gaps, gifts and a growth edge. The coaching process is challenging because of the complexity of the Leadership Circle, yet I have found it stimulating and fulfilling, as the coachee begins to grow and appreciate its uniqueness.

In summary, the Leadership Circle profile provides a 360o model that is both comprehensive and holistic. Results are complete and accurate. They are fair, believable and capture collective wisdom. The unpacking of results enables clear understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses, and enables continuous learning and autonomy for one’s own development.

Chris Mitchell, Principal of Cornerstone Christian School, underwent a Leadership Circle 360 – see what he has to say:

“In 2022, as a relatively new principal, I engaged Craig to facilitate a Leadership Circle assessment. To be fair, signing up for this kind of in-depth assessment of your own leadership ability can seem about as attractive as giving yourself a paper cut and pouring lemon juice on it. If you asked me to sum up in a few words my perception of the assessment, I would say it’s 'challenging and confronting', yet also 'empowering and affirming'.

Essentially, this tool provides opportunity for you as a leader to consider how your own behaviours and mindset impact on your leadership performance. It combines self-assessment with broad-reaching feedback from the team around you. The tool allows you to compare your own creative competencies with your reactive tendencies as a leader, and how others perceive these aspects of your leadership. For me the most powerful document produced by this process was the Leadership Circle Profile; – a simple graphical representation of your results that show at a glance what is working and what is not. The profile allows you to compare your own assessment with that of the people around you – and also against global leadership results. At the end of the day, I’ve asked myself, “Has this made me a better leader?” Well, yes. In one sense it affirmed aspects of my leadership strengths and weaknesses that I already knew about myself, while some aspects of how others saw me were surprising – giving focus for the blind spots in my leadership that I’ve tried to work on over the last couple of years.”

Authored by Craig McDowell, one of our leadership coaches.

If you would like to talk further about using the Leadership Circle 360o tool, contact Nicky on 021 133 1201 or

An interesting topic presented in a very inclusive way.

A great tool to add to my leadership skills. Interesting to be more feeling focused.

This has given me a tool to give new life to a tired planning process.

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