Using Vertical Leadership Development to Advance Your Career

career advice leadership Apr 18, 2023
African American woman working on her iPad

Traditionally, when it comes to leadership development, the focus has been on skill development, specifically advancing expertise, technical skills, and foundational leadership competencies. This is known as horizontal leadership development. However, in the future of work, organizations seek leaders to develop more complex and sophisticated ways of thinking and have greater insights to inspire commitment, lead change, manage performance, and develop talent. This is known as vertical leadership development. It's about expanding your cup, not just filling it.

In my AM Northwest Morning Show segment, I shared the three critical conditions allowing vertical leadership development to flourish and advance your career.

1. Think Out of Your Comfort Zone - Seek new challenges and situations where you can't respond with your current way of thinking that will require you to find a new, different, or better way to respond. For example, take on learning projects to expand your self-awareness and capacity for dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty.

2. Engage with Opposite Perspectives - Build diverse open networks exposing you to others with differing perspectives and backgrounds. For example, peer-to-peer learning experiences or polarity exercises can help. This helps to change and expand existing mindsets and mental models, develop empathy, and challenge assumptions and biases.

3. Get Clear On Where You Are in Your Development - Reflect on what's working and needs to change. The stages of leadership development provide a clue about where you are in your development and where you need to shift and expand to get to the next level. For example, working with a coach will help guide you and integrate your new perspectives and experiences in your development.

Adding vertical leadership development to your typical skill-building proficiencies will make you better positioned to advance in your career. 

To learn more about how to implement this type of leadership development model in your organization to advance your leaders, go to


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