When I was an executive at an insurance company, I read the following: “Leadership is as much about who you are as what you do.” I firmly believed this sentiment, but most of the leadership development I received throughout my corporate career focused on the “doing” over the “being.” Both are important, but most leadership courses focus on the doing because it’s quicker, easier and more measurable than the being.
When I left my corporate career, earned a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from Penn and started my own leadership development and executive coaching practice, I sought out the best sources and methodologies for developing transformational change on both the being and doing front. I even found out there was a name for this distinction: Horizontal and Vertical Development. Horizontal development focuses on acquiring knowledge, skills, strategies etc. Vertical Development focuses on how we make sense of the world, what deep assumptions are driving our behaviors, are these beliefs accurate, and are they still effective or are they holding us back. Once we become aware of our vertical development, our horizontal development is much more likely to “stick,” because our behaviors align with our beliefs.
When people participate in my leadership academy or a private coaching engagement, most assume they are going to get lots of “horizontal” development. They’re going to learn concepts and practice them. What they don’t anticipate and what comes as somewhat of a shock is the emphasis I put on vertical development: who they are, what limiting beliefs are they holding, how these beliefs may be limiting their effectiveness and their choices. The vast majority of participants and clients welcome this emphasis on vertical development and feel it makes them not only a better professional but a better person.