When someone starts out as a Master, how do they mature and change over time? And can someone become a Master for the wrong reasons? In this article, I am going to cover a coaching model that can be used to map the changing of a Master’s mindset. In the next article, I will talk about tactics that can be used to mature yourself from one Master mindset to another.

The Coaching Model

The coaching model I will use is known as Adult development theory, created by a researcher known as Robert Kegan. 

There are many books written about this, but I have found An everyone culture contains the latest information on how the model works.

As children, our minds are developing and changing all the time. We cannot understand certain concepts until our mind has developed where we can understand the concept.

These can be for broad concepts such as death or divorce. But also for smaller things. If you gave a child around 4 years old of a certain age two glasses of water that held the same volume amount of water: one tall and thin, and the other small and wide, the child would believe that the tall glass holds more water. The concept of volume has not developed yet. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnArvcWaH6I)

But as we grow older, we mature and start to understand more complex concepts (such as volume). 

Researchers used to think when we reached adult age, our development then stopped. However, in research since the 1980s, we have learnt that our minds and mindsets can keep developing and maturing. 

There are multiple models to show this, some quite complex used by coaches and therapists, and some we are much more straightforward.

I will use the model developed by Kegan, which is much more straightforward.

What is the model?

There are 5 main development mindsets:

  • Stage 1 — Impulsive mind (early childhood)
  • Stage 2 — Imperial mind (adolescence, 6% of the adult population)
  • Stage 3 — Socialised mind (58% of the adult population)
  • Stage 4 — Self-Authoring mind (35% of the adult population)
  • Stage 5 — Self-Transforming mind (1% of the adult population)

These distinct levels highlight different levels of mental complexity. Each level represents a different level of how we view the world.

We do not regularly move from one mindset to another. There are periods of development and periods of stability. When we reach a new plateau, we tend to stay at this level for a particular time.

It can be that we reach a certain level and stay. For example, in one study, it is estimated that 58% of the population is in Stage 3: Socialised mindset. Some of these people will move to later stages, but many might stay there.

It is also worth noting that research on leadership has found that leadership effectiveness increases by significant amounts when someone moves into stage 4 and stage 5. SO doing this, not only helps your Master mindset but Your leadership mindset in general.

I will now go through stages 2 to 5 and how this might relate to someone’s Mastery. I will leave stage 2 out as it would be rare for us to interact with an adult at this stage of development.

Stage 2: Imperial mind

We usually have this mindset when we are teenagers, but it is estimated 6% of the adult population stay in this stage of development.

People in this category are entirely subjected to their own needs and wants. They can only see the world according to what they might need and how this might personally benefit or harm them.

For example, someone in the imperial mindset will decide not to break society rules not because it is against the values of their society or tribe, but because being caught could be detrimental to themselves. i.e. jail or being fired from work.

You can think of these people as being completely egocentric. They are the narcists and in worst cases, the sociopaths and psychopaths.

We have probably all worked with one of these people. The person who only thinks of themselves, not the team, and will go and do what they want regardless of the costs to others if they believe there is no impact on themselves.

What this means as a Master in Imperial mindset

For myself, I find these are the Masters to avoid. Most of of the population has progressed to the next development stage, so someone who is stuck here as an adult is probably not going to develop to a future stage.

We can often say that a slave must a Master’s needs first. But this is not the same as a person who can only view the world in terms of their own wants and needs. They are not capable of doing this from any other perspective. They are wholly subjected to it.

Often people who call themselves Masters in this stage do it as they believe a Master/slave relationship excuses them from any behavioural issues they have in vanilla relationships. They do not need to grow, develop or change.

This is also were psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists can be. So anyone in this mindset and who calls themself a Master should be avoided and treated with caution.

I can give an example of one person I served in this mindset. We lived together. Once I was very ill with the flu, and rather than going out to get me medication, they went out drinking the entire night. They then came back at midnight, drunk, and told me how inconvenient it was to finish drinking early so they could find somewhere that was still open to buy the medication that was needed. And they thought this was acceptable behaviour.

Although only 6% of the adult population is at this stage, from my anecdotal experience, and others, there is a far higher percentage of people in this stage that call themselves Master.

But does this mean Masters should not put their need first with a slave?

No. The difference between this and later stages is that here, the person, or Master, simply cannot put anything else before their needs.

Whereas, Masters in later stages can choose to put their needs or someone else’s first. They can make an objective choice, a conscious decision.

So in a proper 24/7 relationship, the Master makes sure the slave’s needs are taken into account. For example, when the slave is ill to make sure they get the meditation needed, rather than going out drinking. 

Stage 3: Socialised mindset

It is estimated 58% of the adult population are in this stage of development. So the vast majority of people we interact with are in this stage of development.

In this mindset, we are completely subjected to how people think of us. How we make decisions is driven by what people think, or could potentially think, from the action you take. 

The relationships we have are essential. And conflict (including giving feedback) is hard to do, as we worry that it might exclude us from our group – and given that we see the world by our group, this would be disastrous.

But we have developed to a point where we are not subjected to our own needs and wants – we hold these more objectively. And so we can put the needs of a social group ahead of our own.

It makes sense this is why the majority of society would be here, as putting society needs before our own at times is how we survive – both now, but also in the past when we were in tribes.

What this means for a Master in socialised mindset

This mindset will be where many Masters will start their journey. They have felt the calling to Master someone, and they need to figure out how they do this.

Someone in a self-socialised mindset does this through external validation. How does the slave react to what You do to them, but if You are Mastering someone publically, how do other people view You Mastering someone else.

So other people’s opinions are significant, and it is the data you use to know whether You are doing a good job. 

If I could summarise this: How You are viewed as a Master is more important than the actual Master You are.

Masters will be very concerned about how other people view them, or what they do, and how they are seen publically. In fact, some Master will want to do more stuff publically as that is how they can validate themselves. 

A Master may be very concerned with how many slaves they can see in a week/month, and what the slaves appearance.

They will also make decisions based on how people will view them, and it will be a significant factor in the decisions they make.

Stage 4: Self-authorising mindset

It is estimated 35% of the adult population are in this stage of development. 

We now hold societal values, needs and wants, along with what people want us to do, in a more objective manner. You are no longer subject to them.

To move to this mindset, you have now created your own set of values of principles. You now have you own internal model of how you perceive the world, and you use this to make decisions. When making decisions, you can remove bias and personal feelings to look at facts according to your own internal model, (but your internal model with have facts and bias.)

You become more authentic as a person. You also take more responsibility for yourself and how to navigate through the world.

If you google “self-authoring mindset,” this is often detailed as the most fantastic place to be. That most problems would be solved in business, everyone could move to this mindset. And it has been researched that leadership effectiveness significantly improves if you develop into a self-authoring mindset. But people in this mindset still have problems and issues.

A person in this mindset is wholly subjected to their own internal model. So if this person receives information that does not fit into the own model, they will ignore it. Imagine the model as a filter on the world.

An example in business could be someone who thinks team development makes no sense, and therefore ignore it. A person in a self-authoring mindset who has a model where they do not see the importance of team development would, therefore, ignore this directive – even if it is a priority for the business and the person’s performance will be rated upon how well they do this.

Because they are completely subjected to their own model, they literally cannot perceive this as essential or even needed.

People can also have parts of their internal model that can cause friction with other people. For example, a person may have a particular view on a concept such as loyalty that is different to everyone else’s – and this can cause tension with other people.

What this means for a Master in self-authoring mindset

At this point in your development, you have moved from external validation to internal validation.

You have built up an internal model of what Your Mastery is, including the values and principles you wish to live and Master by. When you make decisions, they will be based on this internal model.

So in self-socialised, you might change some of the principles You Master by to fit in, or to stay fashionable. But in self-authoring, You will work according to Your inner system – even if that could impact Your standing or popularity in the community.

I personally find Masters in this stage beautiful, so what I write here could have some personal bias. But I find Masters in this stage to have this deep well of inner strength. People often find this very attractive, even if they do not understand why.

Depending on their model, they may start to look for slaves who sort their internal model better. So if a slave does not work out, as Master and slave want different things, the Master will not worry too much about it, as their internal validation tells them what is right or wrong.

But Masters in this stage are also entirely subjected to their own internal model. This means that ideas and information outside of their model will be ignored or dismissed.

Although decision making can speed up, Masters will make assumptions and believe their assumptions are correct, not believing they could be wrong or have viewed the situation in the wrong way. They have blind areas to how they view the world and will refuse to believe these blind areas even exist.

I will cover this more in the next article, but this can also be one of the hardest stages to change and adapt. Often people who develop into self-authoring have a lot of success, and this is due to their internal model. So why would you want to change something that has made you so successful? So Masters can struggle to adapt and change here, even when it is evident to those around them that this needs to happen.

So you can have Masters that might have something that is very distorted and is causing more issues, but they are unable to see it.

For example, there was one Master who had a deep fear of abandonment. His internal model told Him to have as many slaves as possible. But because there were so many slaves, he could not keep up with the training. And this eventually meant most slaves would leave after a time. He had created a self-perpetuating cycle which he was utterly blind to, and therefore unable to stop.

Stage 5: Self-transforming mindset

It is estimated 1% of the adult population are in this stage of development. 

When we reach this mindset, we can step back from and reflect on the limits of our own internal model. I.e. we see the limits of our ideology or personal authority. We are now able to see the filter we use to understand the world.

The boundaries of our own internal model become softer, and we can also adapt and use other models if we believe it will be helpful. We become friendlier toward contradiction and opposites and seek to hold on to multiple models and systems. 

What this means for a Master in self-transforming mindset

A Master in this stage still has their own internal model, but they are aware of their limitations. The borders of their model are more blurred and softer. They are more willing to adapt and change their model and to use other models when they think it is useful.

They usually are more aware of their blind spots and will work to improve these as and when they become aware of it. 

The Master is more able to hold ambiguity more effectively and deal with more complexity.

The authenticity is more profound, and there is almost a level of spirituality in that person. They have integrated most of their issues and so are much more about wholeness. 

I am not sure I have ever met a Master in this stage. But I think my last Master was transitioning to self-authoring to self-transforming.

Different aspects of ourselves can be in different development stages

It is also worth mentioning that when we progress from one stage to another, it is not something that happens in one go.

Some aspects can develop faster than others. For example, I believe I have slowly transitioned from self-authoring to self-transforming. But a year ago, I found an aspect of myself that was still in the socialised development stage.

Due to an issue I had at the time, the constraint made this self-evident to me, and like an elastic band, it moved from self socialised to self-authoring. I found an immediate increase in confidence in myself.

So do not think of this as a binary change, but one where different parts of yourself will develop at different points.

Next article

In the next article, we examine how you can move from one mindset to another.