Conscious Leadership Through Vertical Learning

Learning has traditionally focused on horizontal development. Trainers become skilled at designing and delivering training opportunities that develop an individual’s competency, and our training and education systems reinforces this with a competency based model and our MBA programs.

Traditional leadership learning is horizontal learning and focuses on increasing “what” a leader knows to strengthens their expertise. Horizontal learning uses known techniques to solve clearly defined problems, and develops functional knowledge, skills and behaviours to successfully meet the job role requirements.

Horizontal learning represents the knowledge and skills a leader acquires while operating at the same level of cognitive, emotional and relational complexity.

Vertical Learning focuses on mindset transformation, where leaders develop through stages to think in increasingly more complex ways. Vertical learning broadens one’s view, and permanently heightens one’s awareness, making them wiser, more caring, and increasing the quality of their relationships. Vertical learning develops mental complexity and emotional intelligence, improving how people think and how they interpret situations.  It is essential to address complex problems, cultivate high-stakes relationships, and navigate rapidly changing, uncertain circumstances.

Vertical learning is based in adult development theory which describes stages or levels of cognitive, emotional and relational capabilities; the higher stages reflect increasing complexity and ability to deal with uncertainty, trust ones intuition, and harness energy to achieve amazing results . A stage relates to a structure of thinking rather than the content of thinking.  It is a nested model where each stage becomes increasingly more complex, incorporating the previous level and expanding awareness and capability as it increases.

Action logic, developed from the work of Rooke and Torbert, is one model that describes a staged developmental approach to vertical learning.

These action logic levels are described below.


Vertical Learning Level 8 Highly Conscious


<1% leaders Ironist Likelihood of successfully leading organisational transformation
Level 7 1% leaders Alchemist
Level 6 4% leaders Transformer
Level 5 Good to Great Leaders             (Collins and Porris) 10% leaders Redefining
Levels 1-4 Conventional Leaders 85% leaders AchieverExpert





Leadership development must now focus on vertical development to set leaders up to successfully manage the conditions of the future.

With an understanding of the psychology of stage development and the science of vertical learning we can accelerate development of mental, emotional and relationships up to five times faster than normal stage development, unleashing the latent capacities of the mind to achieve measureable results.

Vertical learning enhances leader capacities across a range of critical domains:

·       Think strategically·       Think systematically

·       Think contextually

·       Decision making

·       Lead transformational change

·       Inspire vision

·       Build relationships

·       Collaborate

·       Create innovative solutions·       Tolerate ambiguity

·       Resolve conflicts

·       Develop themselves and others

·       Facilitate learning

·       Reframe challenges

·       Seek out feedback


Within the action logics we have our “centre of gravity” – our standard operating mindset, and both an emerging level and our fallback level which we refer to in times of stress.

Each mindset transformation brings forth latent abilities that are needed to facilitate and manage increasingly sophisticated organisational and societal challenges. We are now at a moment in time when we have the unique opportunity to self-transform, to accelerate our own growth and evolution – to flourish with greater insight, power and grace.

One of the easiest ways to begin to develop our action logic level is to practice moving into consciousness altering states such as in mediation, peak performance states and deeply connecting with nature on a regular basis. The more we consciously focus on emerging into new levels of being the faster it can occur.

As we take charge of our own mindset development, we enable other people to do the same, thus creating the futures we desire personally, for our organisations, and for our global community. The benefit and results occur for everyone!

If you would like to know more about developing your own and your teams action logic to higher levels please contact me.

Posted in On Leadership