Our approach to leadership is founded on three core ideas.
In response to an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment, the skills,capabilities and mindsets a leader needs have changed.
The environment that leaders are currently operating in is increasingly complex and unpredictable.
The US Army coined the phrase VUCA, which is useful in understanding the difficulties posed by the operating environment many leaders find themselves in:
Volatile – Change occurs on a large scale and at a fast pace.
Uncertain – Difficult to predict the future with a high degree of certainty.
Complex – Challenges are complicated by multiple, interdependent and often unknown factors.
Ambiguous – Events can have multiple interpretations with little indication which is true.
VUCA exposure varies by industry sector and position, but executives we work with report increasing complexity and interdependence directly impacting their ability to be personally and organisationally successful. A recent study by IBM of 1500 Global CEO’s highlighted “the escalation of complexity as the biggest challenge confronting them” and that their organisations were not equipped to cope effectively with this complexity.
The skills needed to exercise effective leadership have changed.
In response to an increasingly complex and unpredictable environment the attributes a leader needs have changed. Mastery of known knowledge and technical skills does not guarantee success, what is needed is complex thinking abilities. However, leaders need help to “shift” thinking.
The way we develop leadership needs to change.
The focus of leadership development needs to shift from “horizontal” (skills, competencies; taught known knowledge) to “vertical” (thinking transformation; learnt not taught). Horizontal development with its emphasis on known knowledge (technical skills) does not address the complex thinking abilities needed for leaders to be successful in a VUCA environment. Vertical development addresses the gap by focusing on adaptive or complex thinking abilities. It does this through creating a learning environment designed to transform thinking around how participants “make sense of” their experiences.
We are not suggesting horizontal leadership development is wrong. In our experience, 80-90% senior executive effectiveness relies on learnable technical knowledge and skills. Both of these areas are well suited to traditional development. We would like to suggest that only developing leaders horizontally is no longer enough, leaders need a mix of both forms of development.
Over the last 10 years we have developed expertise in the design and delivery of effective vertical development and feel this is the core benefit we bring to the leadership development work we do.