Recently I read a very powerful and insightful whitepaper by Nick Petrie from the Centre of Creative Leadership. What struck me as I read through the pages of the trends in Leadership Development was the term, putting “Development” back into Leadership Development. LeadershipHQ are consistently researching, reading and reflecting on our methods, content and most importantly making sure we deliver cutting edge and practical leadership programs and “development”.  This paper really captured many areas that I feel really hit the mark in terms of transitions for leadership development.

The four transitions mentioned for leadership development explored:

  • The “what” and “how” of development
  • Horizontal and vertical development
  • Each person owns development
  • Collective leadership is spread throughout the network

The one area that resonated to me was the vertical and horizontal development. Neuroscience has taught us that even as adults, we can continue to learn and grow, in turn, change our thoughts, beliefs and behaviours. The paper explains that horizontal development is the development of news skills, abilities and behaviours – it is technical learning. Vertical learning, in contrast, refers to the “stages” that people progress through in how they “make sense” of their world. From a neuroscience lens, even as adults we can continue to progress and our mind can expand.

I worked with an emerging leader on an infrastructure project for nearly 2 years as his leadership development and executive coach. What struck me about his growth and shifts, as a leader was his willingness to open his mind not only to the horizontal but vertical learning. Therefore, his progress as a leader was astronomical. As Kegan states in metaphorical terms, horizontal learning is like pouring water into an empty glass. The vessel fills up with new content (you learn more leadership techniques). Vertical development aims to expand the glass itself – not only does the glass have increased capacity to take in more learnings, the structure of if the vessel itself has been transformed. As such the leaders mind grows bigger and changes (neuroplasticity). With this change in glass or vessel, my emerging leader has continued to grow and learn – and he now empowers and leads his team to change and progress.

A great leader growing other great leaders. Another significant point in the whitepaper around the focus on collective rather individual leadership; which I will explore in my next blog.

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