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Adult vertical development - a different but critical perspective on development
Episode 98th June 2021 • The Coaching Question • The Coaching Question Podcast
00:00:00 00:40:01

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How does an understanding of a leader's developmental stage enhance/impact on their performance and what change might that make to the coaching you do?

"Exceptional leaders in even moderately complex environments outperform their average peers by 225% " This was research by Mckinsey that confirms that the difference between average and top performing leaders becomes radically amplified as the challenge becomes more complex. 

Robert Kegan’s metaphor: Fill the Cup AND Expand the Cup

Imagine that a leader’s mind is like the cup above.2 When a leader goes to a horizontally focused leadership program, the goal is to fill the cup with new information, knowledge, and models. A vertically focused interven- tion doesn’t aim to fill the cup, it aims to expand the cup itself. It increases the leader’s capacity. That way the leader can hold more complexity, more uncertainty, and more perspectives. Both forms of development are important and connected. Great leadership development aims to both fill the leader’s mind (horizontal) and grow the leader’s mind (vertical).

The key reference would be the landmark HBR article Seven Transformations of Leadership by David Rooke and William R. Torbert. 

We love the simple video by David Rooke that explains the levels in the Leadership Development Framework.

It’s important to highlight here that later stages of development aren’t necessarily ‘better’.  It is all about context.  The best performing leaders are those whose stage matches or is just above the complexity of their role

  • Leaders whose stage was below the complexity of their role tended not to be high performers. They were in over their heads.
  • Leaders whose stage was well above the complexity of their role were not high performers either, unless they could flex their approach and mindset to fit the context they found themselves in.
  • The clearest pattern we saw was that leaders who displayed the most vertical range were the ones most likely to be high performers.

Nick Petrie has also produced some useful content:

Vertical Leaders Part 1

Vertical Leaders Part 2

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