Horizontal vs Vertical Leadership Development

Horizontal vs Vertical Leadership Development

How are you developing your leaders - in a horizontal or a vertical way? What is the difference?

Developing leaders horizontally has had a boom moment in the past couple of decades. This approach to leadership development says that we all have different approaches, and those approaches are different but equal. So, you may adopt a friendly and supportive people centric approach with your team and a colleague may be more distanced from his team and focussed on plans, strategies and challenges. The horizontal approach to developing leaders encourages leaders to lean into their personal style and enhance rather than change their approach.

One tool that we use that supports the horizontal approach to leadership development is CliftonStrengths. CliftonStrengths enables you to discover your core strengths in rank order from a total of 34 strengths. The Strengths approach, rooted in positive psychology, suggests that we achieve highest engagement, job satisfaction and productivity when we are engaged in tasks that relate directly to our core strengths. (This is strongly demonstrated in research by The Gallup Organisation). CliftonStrengths is a powerful self-discovery tool and when we use it in coaching or leadership development programmes, participants always love the insights that it brings. It not only offers powerful individual perspectives but it can be used to strengthen team connection and collaboration. However, by only embracing the Strengths philosophy we are missing a critical aspect of leadership development. Enter vertical leadership development.

In vertical leadership development, leaders are not only supported to understand themselves better and lead authentically, they are also encouraged to transform and deepen their way of seeing and making sense of the world. This approach says that there is a different and better approach to leadership (as opposed to different and equal). Vertical development is about shifting mindsets and challenging subconscious beliefs and ways of thinking, this goes much further than horizontal development.

In our leadership development programmes we use many tools and techniques to access vertical development, one of which is Values methodology. Using Barrett Values tools we can map leadership, team or organisational values against seven levels of consciousness. (see blog - Understanding The Seven Levels) As in vertical leadership development, we recognise that some stages of consciousness are more appropriate for different contexts. Senior leaders in organisations will find that they can lead better when they have a perspective that spans all the levels of consciousness.

This is one of the most significant emerging trends in leadership development today, and the real value comes when we can look through these lenses at the same time and support people to develop horizontally and vertically. This is what we are striving to do in our leadership programmes and we are constantly learning and testing new approaches.

What is your organisation primarily doing, horizontal or vertical leadership development?