There is a really interesting approach to analyze, describe and finally transform company culture as well as leader's approaches to leadership. For all the inspiration on this I have to thank Detego which is a Hamburg based change management consultancy. They adapted a consulting approach based on Beck/Cowan's Spiral Dynamics that they are using with clients. In addition Hermann Küster did a deep dive into the work of Rooke/Torbert who published their research “Organizational Transformation as a Function of CEOs' Developmental Stage” already in 1998. They drew a first picture of six managerial styles and an associated developmental frame that culminated in the 2005 Harvard Business Review publication of “Seven Transformations of Leadership”. Hermann connected this to the concept of the Spiral Dynamic evolution steps.

In very simple words Spiral Dynamics describes the value systems of the different stages of human development from survival and kinship to integrative and holistic thinking patterns that have emerged and are still emerging nowadays. The spiral stands for the chronological evolution from survival up to holistic. Different managerial minds arise out of each time forming the systems that underlie such different managerial eras.

This concept can be a foundation for change management, for transformation on a personal or organizational level. With a specific survey the culture of a company can be measured and linked to the spiral themes. Most likely the outcome will be a mix of different systems on the spiral. The intention should be to move up the spiral as it is proven that leaders who operate based on a “Strategist” action logic are the most successful transformational leaders. Unfortunately in the research Rooke/Torbert did in 2005 there were only 4% of them. Knowing that progressively transforming organizations become most probably industry leaders this should be a concern. The good news is that based upon the identification in which stage the organization or the leader is a transformation can be initiated.



Leader Type






Sacrifice self interest to bigger whole


Generates social transformation.

Leads society-wide transformation

YELLOW = Systemic-Integrative

Live one's potential, no harm to others


Generates organizational & personal transformations.

Transformational leader

GREEN = Communitarian

Belonging & Harmony, Consensus


Interweaves competing personal and company action logic.

Venture & consulting roles

ORANGE = Achievist

Competes for success


Meets strategic goals.

Manager, action & goal oriented

BLUE = Purposeful-authoritarian, truth

Believes in the right way



Avoids conflict.

Rules by logic & expertise.

Supportive, bring people together.

Individual contributor

RED = Egocentric-exploitive, power

Conquers and wins


Wins any way possible.

emergencies & sales opportunities

Let's take a moment and look at Sun's culture from this perspective. I believe we had a strong conviction and belief in our way of being open, doing open source, being an innovation leader, competing against the bigger players in the market, those who lock customers in, etc. (remember the fun that Scott used to make of certain of our competitors during his time as CEO) which is an aspect of BLUE (high sense of purpose, believing in the cause). Interestingly Rooke/Torbert mention Scott in their HBR article as belonging to the Expert type leaders which fits to my above statement.

That element created a lot of common values, there was a strong element of “standing together”, a strong identification with the company and it's products, teaming up was valued a lot and then we were very consensus oriented which all could characterize the Sun culture having a strong GREEN (communitarian) element.

I am really curious to see more holistic patterns appear in our lives, using collective human intelligence to work on large scale problems without sacrificing individuality. I strongly believe that this is what our world needs and it is good to see it is emerging.