Vertical leadership development for a complex world

Horizontal development is about adding more knowledge, skills, and competencies. It’s about what you think.transformations

Vertical development is about the ability to think and act in more complex ways. It’s about how you think. It’s about maturity, and  growing “up” and increasing one’s “depth.”

Two excellent white papers on this topic by CCL’s Nick Petrie describe why vertical development is essential for effective leadership: Future Trends in Leadership Development, and, Vertical Leadership Development. The Transformations™ tool embodies this model in a practical, user-friendly way. A further tutorial on vertical development is posted here

Triggers of vertical development include:

  1. Intense stretch experiences
  2. New ways of thinking
  3. Strong developmental networks

More vertical development is needed to address more complex challenges. Seven or more successive stages (or “action logics”) of vertical development are found among adults, according to Bill Torbert and other constructive-developmental researchers (most notably Robert Kegan and Susanne Cook-Greuter). Each includes and then transcends the earlier stages.vertical

Our views of vertical developmental have been greatly influenced by Susanne Cook-Greuter, who has been a key research and business partner with Bill Torbert and who is the originator of much of the theory and practices. A deep and thorough explanation of developmental stages by Susanne is posted here: Nine Levels Of Increasing Embrace In Ego Development: A Full-Spectrum Theory Of Vertical Growth And Meaning Making.

These action logics also describe different leadership cultures. These leadership cultures have different ways of creating shared direction, alignment, and commitment, as below.

leadership culture


DAC cultures

About Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth

Charles J. Palus & David Magellan Horth are Senior Fellows at the Center for Creative Leadership. Many thanks to Steadman Harrison III, CEO of GO, and Senior Associate for the Center for Creative Leadership.
This entry was posted in Early Leadership Toolkit™, Leadership Essentials™ for Change, Leadership Metaphor Explorer™, Transformations™, Vertical leadership development, Wisdom Explorer™. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Vertical leadership development for a complex world

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