Being continually challenged to refine my thinking by Alan Mulally, I recognize that I need to figure out clearer and more concise ways to communicate the power of vertical development for:

  • Individual leaders
  • The effect that vertically developed leaders can have on the vertical development of their groups and organizations

In this article, I am going to attempt to do both of these things, and would love your feedback (e.g., Is this clear? Is it powerful? Is it helpful?)

What Does Vertical Development Look Like at the Individual Leader Level?

5.1 Individual Vertical Development Journey

Vertical development is foundationally about elevating the sophistication of our body’s nervous system (i.e., internal operating system). This can be done through two approaches:

As we elevate the sophistication of our body’s nervous system, a chain-reaction of effects occur:

  1. We first elevate our Being (we upgrade our internal operating system)

We upgrade our internal operating system. We become able to let go of lower-ordered needs (e.g., safety, comfort, and belonging) and grab onto higher-ordered needs (e.g., adding value, contributing, and elevating others).

  1. We second elevate our values and beliefs

As we let go of lower-ordered needs and adopt higher-ordered needs, our values and beliefs change. For example, we may long believe that failure in an indication that we are a failure. As we change this belief, we will begin to value learning more than looking good.

  1. We third elevate our DOings

As our values and beliefs change, naturally so will our behaviors. We will be more inclined to approach challenges instead of avoiding them. We will be more collaborative and less competitive. We will invest more in things that produce long-term success (e.g., culture) and care less about short-term benefits (e.g., feeling comfortable, being recognized).

How Does the Vertical Development of a Leader affect their Group or Organization?

Of course, the vertical development journey at the individual leader level is life- and world-changing for that leader. But, it is also going to be life- and world-changing for the groups or organizations that they lead.

The phenomenon that occurs is a rising tide that lifts all ships.

5.2 Ascending Impact of Vertical Development

When a leader vertically develops, they will care more and more about creating the right environment for their groups and employees to thrive. They will develop a gardener mentality. This is because they have a greater need to contribute, elevate, and lift (Mind 3.0).

The effects of the leaders’ vertical development are an improved and more psychologically safe culture, which creates a chain reaction of positive effects:

  1. Employees will shift from self-protection mode to organization-advance mode

As a group’s culture improve from less safe to more safe, employees will feel like they have to self-protect less and less. This provides the space for employees to take on more positive mindsets. For example, they will shift from a fixed mindset focus of always looking good (failure is catastrophic) to a growth mindset focus of learning and growing, where there is tolerance for failure.

  1. The organization will develop more vertically developed social norms

As employees become less focused on their self-protection and more focused on advancing the organization, more positive social norms start to develop in an organization. For example, vulnerability and humility (e.g., admitting failure or problems) no longer become something that might get you fired to something that is celebrated.

  1. Employees will operate at a higher level of effectiveness

As more positive social norms are established, magic happens. Employees become more agile, collaborative, and purpose- and customer-focused.

And it all starts with the vertical development of the leader: A rising tide lifts all ships.

Case Studies of the Rising Tide Effect

To me, the best examples of the rising-tide effect on organizations and their employees are:

I have hyperlinked commentary on both.

More on Vertical Development

If you would like to learn greater information about vertical development, here are some resources: