What is Vertical Leadership Development? And how is it different from traditional leadership development?
Traditional executive development focuses on horizontal development: gaining new knowledge, skills or methods, all within existing paradigms or worldviews.
Vertical development is about transforming worldviews, fundamentally developing our mindsets to expand the way we think and the perspectives we are able to take. This results in seeing more of a situation, discerning the nuances, inter-dependencies and root causes otherwise missed. It enables leaders to develop and discover solutions to complex challenges they could not solve previously.
Our 21st Century challenges require new perspectives and ways of being, working, and relating.
As Robert Kegan, Harvard professor, developmental psychologist and best-selling author says, “80% of our leaders are in over their heads,”meaning that the complexity they face in their leadership development challenges is beyond their cognitive development. They cannot see, accurately interpret and process the numerous dynamics at play. They cannot see the order in the chaos of their challenges.
Vertical development is like climbing a ladder or mountain peak.
The next stage of development, or rung up the ladder, provides a larger, more holistic perspective than the stage below.
As leaders develop vertically, three fundamental changes occur:
They broaden their perspective across space.
They become able to see inter-dependencies and connections, across boundaries to identify distant inputs and impacts; able to see progressively larger contexts of influence (e.g, organizational to market to national to global). This results in greater “systems thinking.”
They broaden their perspective across time.
They become able to see further into the future, perceiving delayed impacts and the inter-dependencies of past and future events; leaders develop to gain greater ability to course correct and navigate complex processes; able to see and predict emerging trends more effectively. This results in greater “process thinking.”
They deepen their insight into human dynamics.
Rather than attend just to behavior and skills (exterior expressions), they become able to see the deeper interior dynamics of emotions, mindsets, beliefs, assumptions, values, and motivations at work in people. This delivers greater understanding of themselves and others, and better leadership ability.
Horizontal development is useful but limited in its impact, especially in our ever-increasing complex and dynamic 21st century marketplace and world. Vertical development is a requirement of solving today’s complex challenges, successfully transforming their organizations and achieving breakthrough.
For more information, search “Vertical Leadership Development” in the Resources section of this website. And listen to the videos of CEO’s speaking about the impacts of vertical leadership development on themselves, their teams, and their organizations in the Testimonial section.