Is your leadership above the line, below the line or off the map?

Casey Onder, PhD
2 min readJan 6, 2024

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

They were above the line, they were below the line…

The above vs below the line leadership distinction sheds light on leaders’ general frame of mind and motivations. Like most models and practically all things mind-related, the categories aren’t set in stone. I added an “off the map” label below from my own work and experience in personal and spiritual development — you or your team may have shown up as any or all of these in any given week or year.

Which is most true to date, and at this stage of your career? How do you know? This has major implications for your leadership experiences and impact.

Off the map

  • Frozen, avoidant or muddled
  • Aimless, exploitative or out of touch

Below the line

  • Frenzied, defensive or aggressive
  • Insecure, blaming or committed to being right

Above the line

  • Calm, curious and collaborative
  • Self-assured, self-responsible and open to being wrong

Not above the line currently, or not as high as you would like? The silver lining is more compassion and understanding for those in a similar place. You (and/or your team members) can also lean on and into the many techniques, support structures and practices that can elevate your day-to-day:

  • Leadership, spiritual and/or personal development
  • Smartly set stretch goals (targeting the how as well as the what)
  • Performance coaching or training
  • Therapy and/or “well-care”

Whichever approach(es) you choose, applying learnings AKA experiential/embodied practice is key to elevating. Enjoy the challenges — and the view.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Executive Coach | Psychologist | PhD. Follow me on LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter @