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Vertical Development: Turning The Leadership Axis on its head.

Marwan Aljahani

Jun. 18, 2021

Our world is getting more complex by the minute, and the rate of competitiveness is growing by the second, and the mental need of leaders to be able to navigate ambiguity, volatility and uncertainty is growing by the nano-second, here’s when vertical development comes in to play.

The organizational world has been focused on the horizontal development when it comes to acquiring human capital, meaning they look into skills, capabilities and knowledge of the person they envision joining their organization, so if you see it as a tool kit, you would be looking for the person with the highest numbers of tools, however in today’s time and with a global market more competitive than ever, comes the need for vertical development, that is not the toolkit but the depth of mindset, behavior and mental capacity of the person holding that toolkit, so if horizontal development is about what you can do, vertical development is about how you do it. how you think and how you behave.

Vertical development means cultivating a deeper sense of awareness around one’s self, themselves with others and themselves within the system. It is the ability to span across complexity swiftly and with ease, able to adapt and accommodate whatever changes taking place within the organization internally and externally, vertical development means operating from wisdom.

Now comes the question of how do we vertically develop? Well, there are three condition that pave the way to reach vertical development, first conditions begins with.

The What (the heat experience)

Happens when the leader is faced with a challenging set of circumstances that their current way of thinking is unable to face and comprehend, this unique challenge is deviating and disrupting the leader’s habitual way of thinking and create new thought streams in order to meet this novel challenge.

The who (colliding perspectives)

happens when the leader is challenging their current mental model and perspective by exposing themselves to different mental models, worldviews, differences and opinions of those around them. It happens when they actively tap into the pool of perspectives around them and feel comfortable with putting themselves in other people mental model shoes.

The How (the reflection)

Through allowing themselves to navigate the diversity of opinions and perspectives around them, comes the important and crucial stage of self reflection, this is when the leaders looks for a way to make sense of the different experiences around them and how it relates together, how it makes sense in the bigger picture. Reflection here means reaching a deeper level of awareness and mental development, reaching a vaster and more sophisticated worldview.

When these three conditions are met, leaders can be interdependent thinkers who can draw on the resources of others, they will sharply see systems, patterns and interconnections within complexities whilst holding multi-framed perspectives in mind, and have a command of being able to dive deeper into their awareness, and the collective awareness around them. And here is where true leaders arise.