Reflections About Reliability And Validity Of The Connective Leadership Mirror

An HRM responsible once asked me whether to use the Connective Leadership Mirror to recruit and assess their leaders, and I said: ‘better not’. For various reasons, amongst them: (i) much more than a role, management is a process, performed by the collectivity of managers; (ii) as all employees, managers match or not with a certain place, time and circumstances; (iii) diversity within a leadership team can be very powerful, when each member is aware of the differences.

When a professional coach, who considered including the Connective Leadership Mirror in her services, approached me with the question of reliability and validity, my research sensors were triggered. Especially the ones regarding generative research. As Ken Gergen put it in his award winning 2014 essay: “What about research, not as a mirroring but as a making of the world? This is what I would like professional CLM users to be aware of. For the sake of this blog, stated in crisp language.

Essence of the Connective Leadership Mirror

  • I was personally involved in the creation of the CL movement and the development of the tool.
  • The instrument was merely designed to provoke reflection and dialogue.
  • We consider it more an intervention than a diagnosis.
  • Important therefore is the instruction how to interpret the report - it is not true nor the truth; it is true insofar the person - after taking notice of the meaning of the values - recognizes elements or patterns or parts in the report, and starts the reflection from there; the ones unrecognized may be recognized by others, for which dialogue is valuable.
  • Besides, we are looking at a momentary snapshot; a possible start of self-exploration.

About the “ideal” profile

  • What we present as the 'ideal leadership profile' is deliberately provocative, to fuel awareness.
  • The ideal profile is initially based on imaginary leadership profiles and - later on - by sampling with real people in leadership roles, who we considered meeting our conditions for being a CL.
  • The ideal profile is only ideal when working in an organizational environment that 'matches'; having a high entrepreneurial style in a conservative system may be a bridge too far.
  • So, the Connective Leadership Mirror may give clarity why a person with a certain profile is less effective in one organizational context, and more effective in another.


  • The translation from profile and corresponding behavior to the Spiral Dynamics Values Systems© (i.e. Graves theory) has been performed by certified SD experts.
  • Reliability in this respect is firstly based upon the science behind Spiral Dynamics©, secondly on the clarity of the words being used in the query, and thirdly on the method of questioning (the 10 points distribution scale).
  • The reliability of the words grew by itself to a point of saturation, because of comments, confusion and questions by respondents; after 5000 tests we can state that misinterpretation has become insignificant.
  • A next level of reliability can be derived from respondents' opinion whether or not (s)he recognizes her/himself in the profile; the complication is that we don't recognize what we don't see in ourselves, for which this type or reliability is not easy to assess.
  • In the end it comes to the respondents' perception of the added value of the instrument; not formally studied; but also zero complaints received in that respect; besides, the real value can depend upon the level of instruction before, or explanation after; which sometimes is present and most of the times just taken care of by the instrument itself.


  • Validity of the Connective Leadership Mirror shouldn't be seen as "providing an accurate or definite profile or preference of the candidate".
  • Validity is better to be regarded as: "doing the query and processing the report is impactful or meaningful for the respondent - when it serves in a way as an intervention".
  • To research the validity we should systematically question the respondents on their reactions after receiving the report; this hasn't been done so far; also for the reason of not "intervening in the intervention".
  • What I personally can say after having seen hundreds of respondents live before me, is that the Connective Leadership Mirror does ignite awareness, reflection and considerations of personal development.

The Connective Leadership Mirror as a monitoring tool

In the last three years, I have used the CLM as a monitoring tool alongside my certified Appreciative Inquiry course, and a frequently provided Inclusive Leadership course.

  • There is not enough data yet; but results so far seem to show a certain trend, in which the profile of the respondent shifts to increased tier two values (turquoise and yellow).
  • If it can be concluded that the training is impactful, this supports the reliability and possibly the validity of CLM, as used to detect ‘progress monitoring’.
  • What can't be concluded is the impact of the training on the shift, or other circumstances, or of the use of the Connective Leadership Mirror itself.

Conclusions & Suggestions

If you would ask me - for your own application - to connect a conclusion or advise to the above, I would say:

  • Check validity and reliability as described at least for your own profile/report (N=1).
  • If the tool would be used for recruitment or selection purposes, don't assume the results one-sided, but only after proper discussion with the owner of the report...
  • ...and then still, make decisions on what you see in the person rather than what you see in the report (since Spiral Dynamics© is inherent dynamic); always appreciate potential.
  • Feel free to use the freemium; it has full functionality.
  • Consider extended expert reports, if you or the respondent needs deeper knowledge.
  • Consider a branded version for professional use on behalf of your company.
  • If you lack sufficient knowledge of Graves Values Systems or Spiral Dynamics©, don’t worry: approach the instrument purely from a facilitators angle, and focus on the dialogical reflection by the respondents.
  • If you would consider yourself knowledgeable on Graves/SD, try to write expert reports of your candidates yourself; you can always send me a few for the purpose of reflection and alignment.

Personally speaking, the Connective Leadership Mirror’s main reason for being is to support my mission of Humanizing Organizations; leaders that are interested in their connective capabilities will contribute to that mission.

Cees Hoogendijk
February 26, 2024
Reading time 6 minutes
Reflections About Reliability And Validity Of The Connective Leadership Mirror
Photo: Sindre Fs