How to achieve performance breakthrough: four foundational premises 

We base all of our work with leaders — as we help them to develop higher individual and collective effectiveness — on four premises that underpin the Unified Model of Leadership. Here they are:

Premise 1: Structure determines performance.

This is a systems and design principle: the design of any system is the primary determinant of the performance of that system.

For example, the Honda Insight averages 60 mpg — more than double the mileage of most cars. The Insight is designed for economy. It will never compete at NASCAR, no matter how hard the driver pushes the pedal to the metal. Design, its operating possibilities and limits, and not the driver, primarily determines its performance. Likewise, you are designed, individually and organizationally, for the performance you are getting. Structure determines performance.

Premise 2: You are a structure.

You have a mind for thinking and a body for acting. You are a psycho-physical structure. You have an inner game and an outer game, and both have a structure to them. The inner game is a complex system that includes your conscious and unconscious meaning and decision-making system, values, mental models, beliefs, assumptions, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and identity.

This complex system has its own structure. You have been designing the structure of your inner game all your life. We call this our Internal Operating System (IOS). It functions like a computer’s operating system, operating mostly below the surface, mediating and managing everything going on at the surface in the outer game.

The IOS manages the various programs we are running, what tasks those programs are capable of performing, as well as the efficacy and mastery with which they can be performed. The IOS is the inner game that runs the programs called on to accomplish specific results in the outer game.

Like an operating system, the inner game is a structure, and its design determines performance. As the operating system becomes more evolved, increasingly complex tasks can be achieved with greater speed, agility, creativity, artistry, and mastery.

Upgrades in the operating system enable us to be more effective. This is why Apple and Microsoft are constantly pushing to upgrade their operating platforms. Each evolution in the operating system enables us to accomplish more with less — higher mastery amid greater complexity.

You are a structure. The inner game is your IOS, and the structure of your IOS is mediating your level of personal and leadership effectiveness.

Premise 3: Consciousness is the operating system of performance.

Consciousness (the inner game) is the deep structure of performance. David Bohm, a prominent physicist, once said, “Conscious creates reality and then says, ‘I didn’t do it’” (Senge, 1990). Because the operating system operates mostly below the surface, we rarely perceive its influence, but it is running the show.

Thought precedes all we do, say, and create. The nature and structure of our thoughts, beliefs, and assumptions, both conscious and unconscious, create our moment-to-moment reality. The structure of our operating system focuses our attention, influences our choices, drives our behavior, and determines the effectiveness of our actions (both short and long-term). Therefore, consciousness is the operating system of performance.

Performance, individually and collectively, is always consistent with our level of consciousness. We cannot perform at a higher level of performance than is built into our operating system. Likewise, an organization cannot perform at a higher level of performance than the collective consciousness of its leadership.

Premise 4: To achieve higher performance, you must be restructured.

Since structure determines performance, and since you are a structure, if you want to break through to higher levels of performance, you must allow yourself to be restructured.

To perform more masterfully, your Inner Operating System (IOS) must evolve to a higher order mental-emotional structure. Thankfully, there is a well-researched pathway to the maturity of our inner game, to higher-order structures of mind.

In describing what is required to reach higher personal mastery, we might borrow a term from the spiritual traditions — Metanoia, a transformation of heart and mind, a metamorphosis that requires a change in structure and form.

Metamorphosis is what happens when the caterpillar spins its cocoon, crawls inside, and disintegrates. It is a disintegration-reintegration or death-resurrection process. The structure of the old self disintegrates and reintegrates at the next higher order (the caterpillar transforms into the butterfly).

Robert Kegan writes: “If a caterpillar knows its future has wings, it hardly experiences itself as land-bound.”

So, to attain higher effectiveness, you must be restructured. This is the path of mastery—the only pathway to greater leadership effectiveness. When we see extraordinary leadership, we see well-honed capability arising on a higher-order platform of consciousness.

Consciousness and Complexity

The level of maturity of your individual and collective IOS must be more than a match for the complexity of the challenges you face. Consciousness must evolve to a high level of complexity to meet the complexity of today’s business challenges.

Escalating complexity requires that the creative, adaptive capacity of the leadership of the organization evolve at or beyond the rate at which complexity is increasing. The outer-game and the inner-game of leadership, individually and collectively, must mature at a pace to stay relevant and competitive.

The mastery or effectiveness of leadership depends on evolving the complexity of mind or consciousness (IOS) of leadership to be more than a match for the complexity of market and business challenges. Since consciousness is a structure, and structure determines performance, to attain higher effectiveness and better business performance amid complexity, you must be restructured.

This is a metamorphosis process — a radical change in the structure of mind. This mind-shift initially happens within individual leaders. More conscious individual leadership catalyzes collective leadership effectiveness, which transforms business performance.

Bob Anderson is chairman and chief development officer and Bill Adams is CEO of The Leadership Circle and the Full Circle Group. Excerpted from Mastering Leadership (Wiley). Visit or