The Spiral Dynamics Leadership Mindset with Natasha Todorovic

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“Defining a belief is filling in the gap between knowing and not knowing.” – Natasha Todorovic-Cowan

I sat down with Natasha Todorovic, CEO, and co-founder of the National Values-Center Consulting and owner of the Spiral Dynamics® brand. Natasha works with leaders, consultants, coaches, and organizations to predict hurdles within change.

We discuss: 

  • What is Spiral Dynamics®?
  • Human nature and how we change, evolve, and develop
  • How mental maps are like international travel

What is Spiral Dynamics®?

What is Spiral Dynamics

Spiral Dynamics works to determine mental maps and uncover what mental models people are working with and, in turn, how that affects their responses and choices.

If you are trying to navigate Paris with a map of Iceland, you will no doubt have some challenges making progress.

“The problem is with the maps that we use—as consultants, as coaches, as parents, as spouses—we are using maps that we picked up along the journey of life that are for Iceland, to Reykjavik, but not for Paris to go to the Eiffel Tower.” Natasha shares. 

The Spiral Dynamics program is a series of courses and a proprietary tool suite, carefully developed and crafted.

This process answers questions around preferences for: 

  • Leading 
  • Parenting
  • Learning 
  • Managing 
  • Being managed

“It’s human nature and how we change and evolve and emerge and develop.” The spiral is the human element of growth and development.

Human nature and how we change, evolve, and develop

Human nature and how we change, evolve, and develop

When we look at the spiral within ourselves and others, we can see that the behaviors and thought patterns that make up our spirals develop with internal influences as much as external impacts. 

In other words, we choose to alter our behavior to match the exterior world or adjust our surroundings to line up with our interior.

“I'm sensing what’s around me, the outside context, taking that information and changing myself to adapt to that world.” Natasha explains, “One approach is to change the world; the other is to change me to adapt to the world. So if we start with those two, that's what cycles back and forth between the Express self to the Deny self.”

With support at the needed levels, following the spiral can be transformational for how people relate to one another. 

“I call them relationship systems—you have to see humans in systems.” Natasha points out, “And far too often, people see other humans transactionally, ‘what can you do for me? What can I do for you? I owe him, I owe her.’ It's a tit for tat; what's actually happening is our minds and our brains and our hearts; our cells sync up with one another.”

We tend to follow the well-worn paths in our brains—habits, routines, unconscious actions, and thought patterns. By following the spiral and identifying those preferences and tendencies, we help pave the way for successful change.

“Level one is asking, ‘What are the things that people talk about as important to them?’ Their beliefs or values or behaviors.” Natasha explains, “And then level two is connection—we do not transform in isolation. We transform as part of these human relationship systems, so the job of leadership is relating, the job of a parent is relating, etc.”  

How mental maps are like international travel

How mental maps are like international travel

Natasha was born in former Yugoslavia and ended up in Colorado after her parents took action to forge a better life.

“My mother had to figure out how to get the heck out of the country with a baby and then fly across the world, to this entirely different world, where she understood a little English, but not very much. She had to teach herself how to speak English, and she did it by watching soap operas.” Natasha shares.

As Natasha grew up, she had to build multiple mental maps to survive—from Yugoslavia to Colorado to Canada; she worked hard creating those maps.

“Until you get into the space of another being and their understanding and experience and knowing, you're not confronted with the limits of your understanding and experience, and that's what international travel does if you're able to open up to what's happening, culturally,” Natasha explains. 

Unpacking the mental maps of others is a lot like international travel—new landscapes, new processes, and unfamiliar contexts.

“The biggest help for folks is understanding and being in touch with their own internal meaning and reactions to their experiences.” Natasha shares, “If you're aware of the words that are going on in your head, the maps that you're using, and the places where you are, and if those maps and places do or don't match up, those reactions are informational as to what you need.” 

The stories we give ourselves about what we need are not always accurate. We have to do the work to trace our behaviors and mental maps to uncover the essence of our stories. Natasha, armed with Spiral Dynamics, aims to help people on that journey.

Remember to check out Natasha’s full episode for further insight on internal maps, and learn more at!