Vertical Development: Culture Still Wins Over Strategy

Vertical Development: Culture Still Wins Over Strategy

Organizations today operate in a fast-moving global environment where market dynamics and competitive landscapes constantly change. Shifting threats and emerging opportunities are compounded by rapid advances in technology. To survive, businesses need solid strategy – and they need vertical leadership development to drive the mindsets and organizational culture needed to support strategy implementation.

A strategic initiative can succeed only when an organization’s leadership culture supports it. Yet too many companies waste time dreaming up strategies that their culture lacks the mindset to actually implement. The level of complex thinking must match the level of complexity required for the strategic change — and we call that vertical leadership development. To put it more plainly, vertical leadership development is the science of evolving the perspectives of individuals and groups to become progressively more elevated, complex, and integrated.

“If you want best practices, you need best beliefs. Beliefs drive practices. Beliefs are embedded in cultures. And culture always wins.”

To develop these more complex ways of thinking, we recommend that leaders do 2 things: 

1.) Examine their cultural beliefs and practices, and 

2.) Develop more sophisticated leader logics. 

The Vertical Leadership Development Framework

Our groundbreaking vertical leadership development framework starts with developing executive teams and scales to help entire organizations initiate and sustain true cultural transformation by fostering the interdependent, complex thinking that ensures strategic initiatives succeed. This is accomplished in a tight learning process that starts with the senior team and increasingly moves into the broader organization, helping to shift the cultural beliefs and practices of leadership in order to implement the desired transformation.

Our white paper discusses a model for successful leadership culture transformation based on our organizational leadership development work with dozens of clients around the globe. A key component of this model is the vertical development of leadership mindsets, which requires 3 categories of development work, shared between members of the senior leadership team: 

1.) The expansion of awareness and increased perspective;

2.) The sharing of power to collaborate, learn, and lead; and 

3.) The persistent pursuit of critical thinking in a “view from the balcony.” 

Enhancing vertical development of leadership culture can result in increased collective capabilities, with beliefs and practices held between all of this in leadership, creating the foundation needed to spark real organizational transformation. In particular, there are 5 clear outcomes that vertical leadership development helps to create: 

1. Silo-busting

2. Agile decisions

3. Enterprise ownership 

4. Dilemma-readiness

5. Strategic complexity/disruptive capability

Overall, vertical leadership development is critical because your organization’s leadership culture can make or break any change effort or business transformation – and culture always wins over strategy. That’s why intentional focus on leadership culture is the key to strategic success. Download our white paper to get a full look at the importance of culture over strategy and how vertical leadership development can help your organization build the leaders and culture you need for the strategy you want. 

Download White Paper

Download this white paper to learn more about how vertical development of executive teams can improve an organization’s culture and the effectiveness of its strategy.

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September 9, 2019
About the Author(s)
Leading Effectively Staff
This article was written by our Leading Effectively staff, who analyze our decades of pioneering, expert research and experiences in the field to share content that will help leaders at every level. Subscribe to our emails to get the latest research-based leadership articles and insights sent straight to your inbox.

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