Leadership in its simplest form is defined as the ability to influence, but what one influences depends on the level one occupies in an organization. As a person moves up the leadership hierarchy, it is vital to work on transformation in mindset and cognitive power. This change has a high probability of bringing behavioral change. On the contrary, if someone has already reached the position of enterprise leadership and needs a behavioral intervention for improving leadership effectiveness, then a top down approach could add lot of value.

Behaviour = Inside the person + Situation (outside the person) + Time

Hence behavior is the interface between person and situation, as explained by Kurt Lewin. Behavioral changes depend on Skills, Knowledge, Motivation and Attitude, which would be built from the core values and beliefs of an individual. This change should be through a continuous learning process to capitalize the maximum potential of an individual.





The Value system of an individual is formed both by nature (genetics) and nurture (life experiences). An individual’s behavior and perception of a situation is a reflection of their values and beliefs.

Attitude, like values, is inherited and learned, and is a combination of positive and negative predispositions.

Motivation is influenced a lot by a person’s value system.

Knowledge is information gathered from education and experience. Continuous learning depends on the value system and beliefs.

Skills are application of knowledge.


All the above explained facets are based on the values and beliefs of an individual. The top down approach based on values and beliefs, and bottom up approach based on situation, enables one to respond to a given situation.


An individual paying attention to a situation is taking a bottom up approach. Our values and belief system activates our top down approach and contributes to our perception. Changing one’s perception requires change in the way that the individual is paying attention to their value system and this would require a mindset shift to a learning mindset.



Mindset is the beliefs people hold about themselves. There are two types of mindsets: fixed and learning. The fixed mindset entails being rigid about beliefs and not willing to accept new things. The learning mindset is growth oriented and open to learn new things. As stated by Carol Dweck, a fixed mindset makes a person think their intelligence and talent are fixed traits, which makes them feel that they can have success without any effort. The learning or growth mindset makes people think that intelligence or talent are just a starting point but hard work and continuous learning will get them the real success.


The fixed mindset becomes a hindrance for a person to pursue his or her passion in long run. People with this mindset are used to brain making decisions quickly hence would not be open for learning and developing new things. On the other hand, the learning or growth mindset is when people engage in adapting and updating new things around them for becoming better. It is the mindset of people that impacts their skills, knowledge, motivation and attitude.



Holistic Model – Leadership Development at Various levels & tools


Cognitive Power:

Cognitive power is the mental process in which a person is able to organize information to make it available for doing work. The fixed mindset works with the existing neuron connections in the brain, on the other hand, the learning mindset creates new connections of neurons in the brain and enables learning.

Cognitive process is the highest level of complex task a person can handle in their leadership transition. The different types of cognitive processes are listed below:


    • Assertive processing: Collates information and connects it to the current situation.


    • Cumulative Processing: Associates relevant information and enables decision making.


    • Serial Processing: Combines information in a linear form and in logical sequence, which would lead to foreseeing the future more accurately.


    • Parallel Processing: Organizes information into separate processes and combines the relevant processes to show the impact on each other.


    Skills, knowledge, motivation and attitude are the key element for successful delivery of a task. Cognitive powers help in knowing and understanding the key components and their importance for doing a task. As already explained in Mindkai® Blog it helps in being mindful and take small steps to learn new things.


    Top down approach:

    The top down approach is the behaviour influenced by conceptual data. Our perceptions and behavior, which are constructed by cognition, would be based on our expectations. When a person is moving from their comfort zone, the security levels would also be low and might experience different states as it becomes difficult to accommodate this change. This is explained further in Mining the Magic Zone.


    The change in behaviour would impact the learning of a person positively or less positively hence the skills and knowledge acquired by a person would depend on the behaviour. Updating skills and knowledge will help a person stay motivated. All these aspects will be controlled by cognitive power and the mindset of a person. This will change the values and beliefs of a person, which would be perceived by others as artificial.


    Bottom up Approach:

    The bottom up approach is a data driven process as we observe things and form perceptions, which directs cognitive processes and helps in decision making and change in behaviour. There is a possibility that values can also be changed as the brain is neuroplastic and it can be shaped. This approach would be experienced by people as realistic as it impacts the value system. When a person moves from one level to another level through the learning mindset their comfort and security levels would be high because of using their highest potential (refer Mining the Magic Zone Blog).


    The change in values and beliefs of a person will impact the way they look at people and things around them, and this will impact their attitude. As already detailed above, the mindset of a person determines the motivation, skills and knowledge as the learning or growth mindset would impact all these aspects positively and it is the cognitive power that helps in controlling the mental process for the same.


    Leadership Pipeline:

    There are six levels of leadership hierarchy defined by Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel. These are the different transition phases of leadership in any midsized organization for nurturing and navigating best leadership at each level.




    The individual contributors can be molded to become self-managed individuals, changing from doing only what they have been asked to do to engaging their brains in order to understand their capabilities better. The next transition is from managing self to managing others, where they are expected to collaborate and widen their individual skills. From here they move to managing managers where they start thinking about individual tasks and manage and assign the right leadership tasks to people. When people move to the next role of functional managers they have to be a team player with other functional managers and understand the business needs and work accordingly. At a business manager level, they can see a link between their efforts and market results. These people need to have a cross functional thinking in order to look at the business from long term profit.


    The Group Managers have to be skilled on the following four areas: Capital allocation and deployment, developing and coaching business managers, portfolio strategy and knowing what business should add or delete to ensure current and future earnings. At an enterprise manager level people focus more on values than the skill sets. Hence leadership at different levels has different expectations set and it is all about right person at the right job.



    R.R. Krishna has about 30 years of work experience, in Human Resources spanning different industries. He is a PCC, – ICF, RPCC – RCS, CMC – BCI/ICC and a CPC from Fowler International Academy with 15 years of coaching experience and also member of International Association of Coaching, Asia Pacific alliance of coaches and Association of Coaching. Find more about Krishna at


    Kavitha Sethuraman is a commerce graduate and a MBA from Liverpool University with more than 5 years of experience in Human Resources. She is currently working for a Multinational Organization and also pursuing her doctoral research in the area Leadership.