New Trends in Leadership Development


Author: Dr. Nancy Zentis

Today’s dilemma for leadership demands expertise in dealing with a changing, challenging, and complex environment.  In this environment, the pace is fast and there is little stability.  To respond effectively, leaders need to be adaptable and agile in order to implement change quickly and skillfully.  Leaders must create an adaptive organizational culture that can continuously innovate, motivate, learn, and predict future trends.

Current approaches to leadership development do not fully equip leaders to deal with complex change.  This is because training and development are predominantly based on horizontal development – competency building.  The benefit of horizontal learning is that competency development can be implemented in a consistent way – through coaching, mentoring, and training.

Horizontal leadership development is necessary and fairly common.  It helps leaders climb the corporate ladder and become experts in their leadership roles by developing skills such as presentation skills, influencing, engaging people, coaching, delegating, problem-solving, business acumen, decision making, and developing people. Horizontal development can be provided through hands-on experience, training, reading, and self-directed programs. Currently, nearly all traditional leadership development is based on horizontal learning.

In the current environment of complex change, horizontal learning alone won’t prepare leaders to meet the challenges they are facing.  Due to the rapid nature of the changes, many leaders are overwhelmed by the challenges they face and are unable to lead effectively.  Leaders can no longer rely on their old thinking patterns, mental models, biases, and assumptions if they want to successfully deal with their current challenges.  Today’s responsibilities are totally different from what they were in the past and require a totally different skillset.

The future of Leadership development is moving in a new direction, utilizing a vertical development approach to increase a leader’s mental capacity by evolving or growing one’s mindset and challenging one’s beliefs.

Vertical leadership development transforms how a leader thinks, feels, and makes sense of the world. It includes the development of both mental complexity and emotional intelligence. It’s about learning to challenge the worldview, value systems, and beliefs that the leader holds. Transformations at these vertical levels are much more powerful and effective at developing leaders who will be able to navigate today’s highly complex, ambiguous, and rapidly changing business environment.

Horizontal development requires us to master skills and competencies. To be a more effective leader in a world of increasing complexity and accelerating change, leaders must also increase their mindset and focus on their vertical development to expand their capability.

Vertical development is not for organizations that simply want a quick fix but if your organization believes in investing in its long-term leadership capacity to effectively lead people and teams, then applying a blended approach to Leadership Development may provide the results you are seeking.

If you would like to learn more about Vertical and Horizontal Leadership Development and gain valuable tools to help you create a state-of-the-art Leadership Development Strategy, please join us for our next Leadership Development Certification Program.  Distinguish yourself as a Leadership Development Certified Professional!  Please check out our website for more information at


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