Vertical Development = Elevating Above Your Insecurities

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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We all have insecurities.

In my work helping leaders vertically develop, I have learned a few things about people’s relationship with their insecurities:

1. People are rarely fully aware of their insecurities.

In fact, some people do not believe that they have any insecurities.

Our insecurities often lie below our conscious awareness. But, if we can be conscious of our insecurities we can do something about them.

2. When we have an insecurity, our mind and body are wired to protect us from exposing us as that insecurity.

For example, if I am insecure about my value (i.e., “I am not good enough”), then my mind and body will cause me to think and operate such that I prevent exposing myself as being of “low value.” Thus, I will likely avoid challenges, doing something I haven’t done before, or anything that might lead to me being rejected.

What we are getting at is:

Insecurity → Commitment → Behaviors

For example:

I am not good enough → I need to be seen as good enough → I avoid challenges and am a poor loser

3. What is particularly challenging about understanding this chain of effects is that oftentimes the commitments we hold are good commitments. But, they are the very commitments that are holding us back from being a more effective leader.

Consider the following examples from some of my past coaching clients:

Client #1

I am not worthy of love → I need to be loved → I will only be loved if I am perfect (perfectionism)

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved, but because it is driven by an insecurity, their good commitment drives them to operate in a manner that they do not leave room for errors. This has caused this leader to be a micromanager (in attempt to make everything perfect).


Client #2

I am not talented → To be seen as talented → I will do anything to succeed

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be seen as talented, but because this commitment is driven by an insecurity, this good commitment causes them to step over others or use others to be successful.

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Why this is important?

For both of these leaders, their mind and body is programmed to operate in a manner that feels good to them, but that causes collateral damage.

And, not only are they unwilling to see the damage they cause (or they at least justify it away), they ultimately are not aware of the insecurities that they hold.

These leaders can go through all of the training in the world to be a better delegator or to become more empathetic, but here is the hard truth: they will never become a significantly better delegator or significantly more empathetic until they (1) become aware of their insecurities, and (2) heal from their insecurities.

Vertical Development is All About Healing

Vertical development is a form of development that helps leaders rewire their minds and their bodies so that they can operate at a higher level.

At the core of vertical development is helping leaders awaken to their insecurities so that they have the opportunity to heal from their insecurities, which are generally rooted in having a not-so-good relationship with themselves.

Thus, vertical development is really all about helping leaders heal their relationship with themselves. It is only when this healing occurs that one can make the transition from being self-protective to being a value creator.


Do you know a leader who is well-intended, but is wreaking havoc on their organization, division, or team? Do you know a leader who struggles to create a psychologically safe environment? Do you know a leader who is a micromanager? Do you know a leader who lacks empathy? (The questions could go on and on.)

I am sure you do.

If you want to help them to change, this will only be possible through vertical development.

If you would like help vertically developing your leaders, let me know. I would love to see if I could help you.

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