For many organisations investing heavily in developing the leadership skills of the management group, the focus has largely been about refreshing and adding skills capability – expanding and polishing the toolkit and providing all leaders with a common framework and language within which to function and behave as part of the wider management team.
Choosing to focus on vertical leadership develops the leadership group in a very different way. At the core of vertical leadership is the intention to build the group’s thinking capability; their ability to think more broadly, more deeply and to function confidently within our very complex, challenging and uncertain environment. Navigating a complex ‘system’ successfully requires the development of different attributes, that enable the leader to sense their way through the complexities as well as use more conventional management tools and skills and behaviours.
We need to be able to read the ‘system’ beyond the tangibles, to feel and sense our way into it, to read between the lines. Our thinking capability needs to expand, upwards and sideways (the very essence of vertical leadership). We need to be able to absorb more information without becoming overwhelmed by it and to be able act, move and think fluidly within it.
We hear the word ‘agility’ being used so much these days. Dexterity is another good description of the qualities and capabilities we need when working consciously within a system. The ability to choose the right ‘tools’ from our toolkit – behaviours, skills, experience, frameworks, people and so on and combine them in the right way to achieve the best possible outcome.
Increasingly vertical leadership will define the leadership development curriculum of high performing organisations bringing a much needed expansion to the definition, and practice, of leadership – an expansion that takes us more into a connection with greater good and true collaboration across multiple stakeholders.