Double Healix organises trainings and online courses to support people and organisations with questions on leadership, personal development, team collaboration, and organisational leadership. It also conducts trainings and courses about parenting and the societal transition towards sustainability. Double Healix illustrates her vision and deepens the learning experience through inspiring fragments from movies and documentaries. This MovieLearning method is experienced by many as very effective and entertaining.
The Double Healix model
Double Healix Leadership
The Double Healix Model offers a unique and integral vision for the development of leadership. Within this, there is focus on both the personal development of leaders, and the team, organisational, and societal context in which they operate. The model has three important components: phases, levels, and tension fields.
The phases in the Double Healix Model offer the leader a universal process description, for their personal development as well as the development of teams and organisations. The Phase system is based on narrative psychology and Joseph Cambell’s research into the universal story structure.
The levels represent a growing complexity in our consciousness, from the basic needs of young children to the development of a vision as a leader, with societal impact. Each level is significant to your development as a leader. The Double Healix levels are related to Spiral Dynamics, the Integral Theory of Ken Wilber, and the much older conceptions of chakras, among other things.
The tension fields form the third component of the Double Healix Model. Taking initiative versus waiting, going for short-term success versus letting long-term organisational values guide you. Strengths manifest themselves in the shape of opposites, in a tension field. The challenge for leaders is to recognise these tension fields, make the right choices, and if possible, reconcile these opposing values with each other.
The three Double Healix components together provide us with an integral approach to leadership as an art. Below, the phases, levels, and tension fields will be described briefly. Each time, we will indicate what it means in terms of leadership, teams, and organisations.
The phase system in the Double Healix Model is based on the narrative psychology and Joseph Cambell’s research into universal story structure. This structure can be found in all big stories and in every movie. Below, you will read how the development of a story (a narrative) is built in the so-called Hero(ine)’s Journey.
When applied to leadership, the story structure is a universally recognisable process description. In each phase, the significance to leadership, teams, and organisations is given in bullet points. Double Healix courses and leadership trainings go into this in more depth.
The Double Healix Model thus describes a 12-phase cycle. This cycle returns to our lives many times, in an increasingly complex way. If we are lucky, we undergo a continuing spiritual ripening through the repetition and transformations this brings. A cycle is finished and after that cycle, something has changed. Time and time again, you go through the 12 phases and reach higher levels of consciousness. It can thus be said that the circle is actually a spiral. In the Double Healix Model, we distinguish seven plus one levels of development.
We speak of ‘seven plus one’ because we can find seven levels of actual human development, plus another, underlying mythical level which is the basis for the other seven. This so-called ‘zero level’ is the underlying, universal, archetypical story structure, the invisible foundation of development in our real lives, which is separate from linear time.
The seven levels represent a growing complexity of our consciousness, and hopefully also an increasing level of sovereignty with which we view our lives and more and more compassion with which we can be a shoulder to cry on, an example, and an inspiration to others. The levels follow the principle of ‘transcend and include’. This means that even when we reach higher levels, the lower levels will still be at play, while we can have a more complex consciousness.
The levels climb, from our basic needs to our mystical experiences. They can also be linked to the age at which they can be seen most clearly. These age-indications give direction, but for each person, reality can be that little bit different. A young person can function at a high level, while a very old person might be stuck at an adolescent level of consciousness. The description of the levels is also idealistic: in reality, there are many in-betweens.
0 | Universality
The mythic journey
Development within the mythological substratum. This timeless ‘Travel of the Hero(ine)’ forms the foundation of the model. This layer is universal and not associated with age, since it addresses us on a pre conceptual, instinctive consciousness. In each of the ‘true’ layers of development, this primal layer can be found, also because the myth can be considered to be a condensation of all layers of human experience. According to some beliefs, it might even be the source of it.
1 | Simplicity
Fundamental development of the psyche (youth: 0 – 12 years old) that covers our basic needs. As a child, we are largely determined by our manifesting needs. But in the rest of our lives, our needs – as well as the responses invoked by fulfilling these needs – steer our behaviour as well.
2 | Sensationality
Sensory, characterological, sensual and sexual development (adolescence: 12 – 24 years old). This layer covers the way we filter the world with our nervous system, what defence mechanisms we will use and how the world can attach itself in our temperament, character and personality type. This layer also covers the way our urges drive us and provide us with energy (and sometimes consume it). These energy sources go through a transformation from urges to drives along the way.
3 | Maximality
Development of competences (early adulthood: 24 – 36 years old). This period shows the first clear outlines of what is functional to be able to stand on your own two feet and exercise influence. This is also the period during which we learn the basic principles of leadership (when raising young children or heading employees).
4 | Relationality
Teamwork and profound relationships
Deeper relationship building, raising older children, team building with team roles and development of team leadership (adulthood: 36-48 years old). In this period we see the sublimation of social skills. We need to be able to lead other leaders and to shape our intimate relationships over longer periods of time. The consciousness is slowly starting to cover contradictions. After all, we’re learning that a relationship can only be fruitful if we give up a piece of ourselves. Self-interest becomes common interest along the way.
5 | Complexity
Development of complex leadership (ripe adulthood: 48 – 60 years old), both inward (shaping our love, sovereignty and our fate) and outward (to a – complex – organization). We integrate contradictions, handle paradoxes in an increasingly conscious manner and combine an increased awareness of what – in essence – is required with an increased value freedom. The ego that has reached its top halfway level 4 is now starting to decrease in favour of a serving attitude towards the bigger picture. We have arrived at the tip of the Maslow pyramid so to speak. We have proven ourselves and are starting to place ourselves on the background. Our ego becomes completely of service to the bigger whole.
6 | Simplexity
Social management based on vision
Transcendent consciousness and high level of policy forming (early old age: 60 – 72 years old). We transcend ourselves and oversee the slow processes in cultural changes. We oversee the story, surrender ourselves to it and take full ownership of it. Moral and spiritual development keeps pace with our intellectual development. The ability to take is equal to the detachment from material things. Our consciousness is becoming so complex, that is becomes simple again, and our policy covers increasingly high forms of reconciliation of opposites. One thing that may happen is that the more power we have, the better we realize how hard it is to implement changes and how slow that process works. In other words, on the level of the highest power, we discover impotence. Similar to this paradox is that we, as we are able to oversee more complexity, start living an increasingly simple life. We rid our lives more and more of unnecessary frills.
7 | Perplexity
Development of mystical consciousness (ripe old age: 72 years and older). This kind of consciousness is easier to achieve when we are close to death, but also when we are younger we can experience ‘flashes of the sublime’. This level most approaches the secrets of the mythical null layer, in fact, it is a higher octave. It is about the ability with which we can feel the world of contradictions dissolve inside of us, in awe and devotion. While maintaining awareness, we coincide with what we perceive. While maintaining our critical ability, daily life is given a mythical and mystical charge to us. The literal, tangible world coincides with the magical world of metaphors. Death is now near, as a friend.
Creative Tension Fields
The Creative Tension Fields are the third component of the Double Healix model of Development. Strengths manifest themselves in the shape of contradictions in a tension field: the needs of the organization versus the employee, taking initiative versus waiting it out, going for success versus letting organizational values lead the way. The challenge for leaders is to recognize these tension fields, make choices, and if possible, reconcile these opposing values with each other.
In the Double Healix Model, we distinguish between 6+1 tension fields. These are basic contradictory strengths which, according to Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner’s research, are universally recognizable. The seventh tension field is called Sequential versus Synchronized. We can see this in the two ways in which the circle can be read: as a step-by-step journey (in time/Sequential), and as an image with tension fields (in space/Synchronized). Below, we describe briefly the meaning of the other six tension fields for leaders.
Chaos and Order (1-7), the tension field related to ‘Pattern formation’
The distinction between chaos and order arises since our brains are always looking for patterns. As long as we are looking, we call it chaos, and the second we recognize structure, we call it order. A manifestation of this is, for instance, the tension between anarchy and bureaucracy. Or trust versus controlling. As a leader you want to give your colleagues your trust, surrendering to a not fully controllable process (Chaos). On the other hand, you want them to work according to your standards and rules (Order). This means that you must be able to constantly play with trust and letting go on the one hand and (calling on) commitment and agreements on the other hand. The ideal reconciliation is that the trust you give others makes your leadership more effective, and that the well-ordered preconditions of your leadership contribute to giving confidence.
Construction – Destruction (3-9), the tension field related to Life.
This is about the tension between growth and decline. As a child, we enjoy the construction of our body by eating good food. But soon, we discover the thrill of destroying and causing pain. We discover that we sometimes need to be injured to be able to gain deep insights. As we age, it is about the tension between energy and exhaustion, between good and evil, health and sickness and eventually between life and death. Once we start leading ourselves and others, we should find the right tension between a positive thriving life attitude and making urgent and painful decisions, between hiring and firing people, starting and ending a product or an entire organization. It is the tension between our comfort zone and seeking out danger and pain. We discover that growth should sometimes be converted to shrinking to enable development. Related to this is the tension between harmony and dissonance, synthesis versus analysis, diffuse versus specific, willpower as opposed to consciousness. As a leader it is important that we realize that one cannot do without the other. The tension field therefore becomes a conciliatory paradox when you see that in order to build up new things you have to be able to break down a lot.
Matter – Spirit (5-11), the tension field related to Certainty
This is about the tension between two different forms of certainty and security. Both extremes experience the other pole as a false security and illusionary. As a young child we do not experience the contradiction yet between matter and spirit. At that point, the whole world is still animated. We talk to toys (matter) as if they were alive (spirited). But as our rational thinking process develops, the tangible, rational world splits from the intangible, mental world. The tension fields that we learn to handle are those between body and mind, between the top-down logical thinking and the bottom-up instinctive knowing. It is the tension between the experiences of ambitious engineering and the humbling experiences of destiny. This leads to two certainties that are under tension with regard to each other: that of rational thinking and that of the inner certainty (for instance based on integrity, principles and religion). The same forces have a daily impact on the exchange between policy decisions taken top-down and the warm, inspired forces that appear bottom-up from the work floor. It is the tension between the preservation of power against the rebel forces. As a leader we need to internally reconcile these forces in the paradox of animated business, when conscientiousness helps improve results. Or the other way around: if a business-oriented, result-oriented attitude helps to realize ideals.
Cause – Effect (2-8), the tension field related to Causality.
This is the tension field of ‘Causality’. The distinction between cause and effect is an intervention of our brains to make life more understandable. The tension field of causality manifests itself in the tension between moving and be moved, speaking and listening, leading and following.
As a child we experience the tension between being active or indulging ourselves in the stories of others. Or in the classroom, coming up with our own comment or accepting what the teacher dictates. Later in life, the question of how much we can cause ourselves and how much we are influenced by others, is even more important. It is the tension between acting and experiencing, between competition and cooperation, between being active and staying passive. As a leader we can reconcile Cause and Effect in the paradox autonomous collaboration. This is shown in the principle of coopetition: competing to help each other achieve the best possible performance. Or in strategic alliances between competitors.
Divergence – Convergence (4-10), the tension field related to Meaning
This tension field is called ‘Meaning’ because it creates a distinction between the many and the one, between that which deviates (divergence) and that which unites (convergence). From Divergence we experience that an event can have many meanings, everything can be true. While from Convergence we experience that there can be only one truth and only one meaning of existence. As a child we learn to enjoy the world of differences, we discover how we are different from others and at the same time we long for that which connects us, we long for sameness and cohesive truth. In organizations, it is the tension between free brainstorming and reaching a decision. Between light hearted and functional, between unique and universal, between the relative and the absolute. The tension is constantly reflected in the question of which direction we are going. Do we stick to the core business and to the one vision? Or do we constantly develop and adapt to the market? The paradox is that both are important at the same time. As a leader we try different things to achieve our set goals. We will have to shape diversity within a recognizable identity. We will have to learn from events while staying on track.
Center – Periphery (6-12), the tension field related to Localization.
The tension field ‘Localization’ expresses itself in the way we experience the centre of the world. Looking from one pole we are the heart of the cosmos, but when viewed from the other pole we are insignificant, expecially in contrast to the whole world, the sun or maybe God. As a child, we love to be centre of attention, we need appreciation and confirmation, but we also love loving our parents, and we love applauding others. As we get older, it requires conscious effort to find the right balance between how much attention we request and how much we give, how much passion we develop and how much compassion. As a leader (formal or informal) it is about similar tensions between the small self-interest and the interest of the team and the bigger whole. Related polarities are centralization and decentralization, internal versus external orientation, doing something yourself or outsourcing it, taking or giving credit, egocentrism or altruism, serve or being served, being visible or being on the background, passion as opposed to compassion. Reconciliation can be found in the integration of healthy egocentrism and altruism. We sometimes serve our team or organization best by inspiring others with our own charisma or enthusiastically representing the team to others.
Double Healix Power Cross: Basic Tension Fields of Leadership
Finally, we discuss a special combination of two tension fields, the Power Cross. This is the most basic structure for leadership development. It concerns the tension field on the horizontal axis (cause versus effect: 2-8) and the tension field on the vertical axis (matter versus spirit: 5-11). Skillful handling of horizontal and vertical positions is seen in the interventions of all good leaders.
The horizontal axis represents leadership interventions which are based on equality and getting one another involved voluntarily. On the active side of the horizontal axis (2), we can find the motivating, tone-setting actions through which the leader can establish competition and voluntary transactions with mutual respect. We call this ‘Sell’. On the opposite end of that same axis (8), we see the actions of the leader who represents the passive side of equality: listening, waiting, asking questions, asking for help, collaborating, looking for a win-win. We call this ‘Buy’. The horizontal axis as a whole describes the Engaging process.
The vertical axis describes leadership interventions that are based on an imbalance of power. The top-down interventions (5) are characterised by external power: making demands, setting deadlines, and selecting for reward, promotion, or dismissal. We call this ‘Tell’. On the opposite side (11), we can fine the bottom-up interventions with which we create independence, a full conscience, and a sense of justice. We call this ‘Rebel’ or ‘Evoke’. The vertical axis as a whole describes the top-down and bottom-up Alignment and Dictation process.
The Power Cross refers to the ability to integrate the two tension fields with each other, and create honest actions: top-down stability must be balanced with long-term justice and wealth for everyone. At the same time, competition must be balanced with collaboration to create a constructive form of dialogue and cooperation.
In the documentary ‘Iron Ladies of Siberia’, former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf first puts herself in a vulnerable position (Buy) and then shows courage by pushing aside her bodyguards (Rebel/Evoke). Then, she addresses the leader of the rebellion from above (Tell), is confronting (Sell), and subsequently allows herself to be vulnerable again by giving all the men access to the government building (Buy). During negotiations, she gives them respect and recognises them as equals (Buy), or she confronts them as an equal (Sell). However, when the soldiers get too confident, she sets top-down boundaries (Tell) and speaks to them about their moral principles (Rebel/Evoke). She ends with: ‘We’ll count your recommendations’ (Buy).
In the Double Healix trainings and learning paths, we work on better recognising universal patterns. Through MovieLearning and a broad range of other methods, we deepen the experience. By continually linking daily work and life, we hope to contribute to the personal development of leaders.
You can also follow our extensive online courses in which the model is illustrated with inspiring excerpts from feature films and documentaries: