Why is vertical development needed?

No doubt you have noticed that our world is becoming increasingly complex. Just think of the wave of stress and burnout that has swept the workplace in the last 15 years and which we still haven’t been able to manage. We live in a “VUCA world,” an acronym that has become indelible in management literature. We live in what is often described as a VUCA world. It stands for:

  • Volatile: change happens rapidly and on a large scale.
  • Uncertain: the future cannot be predicted with any precision.
  • Complex: challenges are complicated by many factors, and there are few single
    causes or solutions.
  • Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have.

Too bad for those who think that things will stabilize to a more manageable pace. There is no evidence to suggest that this will happen. On the contrary, all evidence points to the continued acceleration of the ‘VUCAness.’ Moreover, the complexity we face exceeds (1) our ability to make sense of it; and (2) our ability to thrive despite it.

There is a difference between knowing what 'good' leadership looks like and being able to do it.

It appears that the VUCA environment is seeing the demand move away from isolated behavioral competencies toward complex ‘thinking’ abilities. These manifest as adaptive competencies such as  recognizing systems and interconnections, solving problems in novel ways, taking on multiple perspectives and sitting more comfortably in complexity and ambiguity.

And while the world may have changed, the methods for developing leaders and employees have not (or almost not). It seems that many development and leadership programs have become dated and redundant. While these were relatively effective for the needs and challenges of the last century, they are increasingly mismatched against the challenges leaders and employees currently face. At the root is the faulty assumption that if we show or explain to people what to do, they can automatically do it. The challenge is which methods and programs we should use.

Adults can grow and evolve over time, moving through clear and distinct stages that increasingly expand their ability to see the world; approach problems in novel ways; see systems and interconnections; take on multiple perspectives; and sit more comfortably in ambiguity and complexity.

Higher is not 'better'. Any level of development is fine.

There is nothing inherently ‘better’ about being at a higher level of development. My daughters of 10 and 12 can think in more advanced ways than their sister of 5. That doesn’t make them more valuable human beings, just a fraction more developed. Any level of development is fine.

The question is whether that level of development is a good fit for the task at hand. In terms of leadership, this also means that organizations that help their leaders develop to higher levels of thinking will have an important advantage over those that don’t. Especially since the environment will become increasingly complex and unpredictable.

Vertical development is the new competitive advantage.

Vertical leadership development programs are based on the science of human development, which shows how our mental capacity can continue to grow throughout our lives. Greater mindsets translate into the agility needed to lead effectively in a complex and ever-changing world.

With ‘Vertical Development’, not only can we support our development, but we can also support the development of others. If you want to know more about how you can support your own or your team’s development, contact me.