Simon Sinek is a leadership guru that is almost a household name in the business world. This is largely because he has the third most viewed TED talk of all time and he is the author of five different business books (my favorite is The Infinite Game).

What has allowed him to be so influential?

Surely there are multiple reasons, including him being a great speaker.

But, there are a lot of great speakers that aren’t as well-known as him. So, what makes him stand out?

I believe it is because he helps leaders and people vertically develop and become cognitively and emotionally sophisticated.

I want to use a couple of short video clips to demonstrate this. But first, let me define vertical development.

Vertical Development Basics

What is Vertical Development?

There are two different forms of development:

  • Horizontal development – Improving our knowledge, skills, and competencies. It is like adding an app on an iPad, it broadens our functionality.
  • Vertical development – Elevating our ability to make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways. It is like upgrading the iPad’s internal operating system.

This definition of vertical development implies that people can see the same thing, but make meaning of it in different ways, ranging in cognitive and emotional sophistication.

Let me give you an example of how people can make meaning of constructive criticism with different levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication:

VD Meaning and Response

 

Making meaning of constructive criticism as an attack may be natural, but it is not cognitively and emotionally sophisticated.

Vertical Development Levels

Developmental psychologists have found that there are three different levels of cognitive and emotional sophistication that adults can operate from. I call them Mind 1.0, Mind 2.0, and Mind 3.0.

Research has found that this is how all adults and executives break down by vertical development level:

Vertical Development Example 1

 

Mind 1.0 is when we are internally programmed to focus on our safety, comfort, and belonging. You can find more information here.

Mind 2.0 is when we are internally programmed to focus on standing out, advancing, winning, and being recognized. You can find more information here.

Mind 3.0 is when we are internally programmed to focus on contributing, adding value, and lifting others. You can find more information here.

Simon Sinek

Let me show you two video clips where Simon Sinek is encouraging leaders to think and operate in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways (i.e., vertically develop).

Video 1

In this video clip, he first recognizes that most people don’t make meaning of failure in the most cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways. For many leaders (and I see this all the time), they see failure as something that absolutely cannot occur. But, this mentality dooms an organization to mediocrity because they can’t be creative, innovative, or agile.

Video 2

In this video clip, he is pushing leaders to making meaning of their jobs in a more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated way.

Instead of making meaning of their job as being responsible for results, he is suggesting that leaders make meaning of their job as being responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.

When leaders can “level up” in this way, the difference is not only powerful, but it is life-changing.

More about Vertical Development

If you want to learn more about vertical development, download my Vertical Development White Paper.

Also, something my clients are finding powerful are these six laws of vertical development:

  1. As leaders improve their cognitive and emotional sophistication, they become more dynamic
  2. Leaders put into place organizational structures, practices, and policies that emerge from their level of cognitive and emotional sophistication
  3. The culture of an organization is a reflection of its executives’ cognitive and emotional sophistication
  4. Organizations cannot evolve beyond their executives’ level of cognitive and emotional sophistication
  5. There is no organizational transformation without a preceding transformation in its executives’ cognitive and emotional sophistication
  6. The most effective way of transforming an organization is to help its executives become more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated