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StageSHIFT partners with executive leaders to inspire and accelerate a quantum vertical shift in conscious leadership capacity and effectiveness, embracing the opportunity in systemic complexity and rising volatility to co-create more sustainable, healthy, and equitable business ecosystems where everyone and all of life flourishes as a community.

Vertical Leadership Development has become Critical and Urgent

executive coaching leadership leadership development online leadership programs synergist verrtical development Apr 24, 2020

There’s a difference between “nice to have” and “need to have”. The first is optional, the second is necessary. In today’s world, vertical leadership development has become absolutely critical and urgent. Why now?

  1. The Issues
  2. The Perspectives
  3. The Crisis
  4. The System
  5. The Solution


We’re dealing with issues arising from the 3rd person perspective that can only be solved from the 4th person perspective. As Einstein said, problems can’t be solved at the same level that they were created.

Capitalism means that the more capital you have, the more you can get. The less you have, the fewer resources you receive and the fewer opportunities come to you. Anyone who has played Monopoly or Catan understands this. Extreme capitalism is inequitable and heartless by nature and equal opportunity is a myth in this type of society. See social and political commentator Noah Berlatsky’s wrap here of changing US economic policies.

As did the mortgage crisis of 2008, the pandemic is once again exposing the inequitable foundations of the capitalist economic system. Take a look at this excellent expert commentary of a pending global financial crisis by Adam Tooze, Professor at Columbia University and Director of the European Institute.


Now onto vertical development, this is my playground. It leads to greater adult maturity and more effective leadership. However, unless you understand vertical development, it’s difficult to comprehend its value. While there are many complex ways of describing it, to keep it simple, vertical development is based on person perspectives.

The 1st person perspective is “I”, just as in English grammar. It’s all about me. The mature 1st person perspective is an Opportunist a la President Trump at his worst.

The 2nd person perspective is “you”. You’re in charge. The mature 2nd person perspective is a Conformist who issues orders and complies with those in authority. A command-control system.

The 3rd person perspective is “it”. “It” is king i.e. work, money, profits, material goods, goals, success. The majority of executives share this striving Achievist perspective. It is the hallmark of our current capitalist system and where our UK and Australian Prime Ministers operate from e.g. Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison.

The 4th person perspective is the 1st person plural: “we”. It’s about how we thrive and flourish as a community of people. I call the mature 4th person perspective a Synergist (many others use Strategist but this denies the character of this collaborative perspective). Think about Jacinda Ardern's impact and Angela Merkel.


Right now, in the pandemic, and in every crisis we face such as raging fires, floods, tsunamis and tornadoes, the community gathers together. The force of evolution is inviting us to live our lives with more concern and compassion for each other, and this force will not stop until we reinvent our economic and social systems to provide everyone with equitable means to thrive and flourish.

Success needs to become understood in terms of the extent to which local communities in an interconnected world can thrive and flourish, and enable all citizens to live into their potential, rather than in relation to making more money. The problem is money begets economic power and buys political power. Moreover, most governments in the major western democracies are composed of political parties that are stalled in the 3rd person perspective of the “have’s” and “have not’s”.

So, as a society, we’re stalled. And now we’re in crisis again. There’s no going back. Only forward. We can try to rebuild what we had at the 3rd person perspective, or rebuild new more sustainable, healthy and equitable foundations from a 4th person perspective that create a new inter-systemic context where everyone really has the opportunity to thrive and flourish.


The thing is leaders at the 3rd person perspective can’t yet see through the inter-systemic complexity they’re bound in. This is another aspect of vertical development. The ability to see, influence and transform complex adaptive systems only becomes possible at the 4th person perspective. 3rd person perspective is more linear, cause and effect, polarised.

The 4th person perspective is inter-systemic i.e. it can identify the source of the systemic outputs and therefore lead the collaborative design of fundamental changes to the context that benefit everyone and the environment. It's an integrated synergistic holistic perspective. It is only at this level that we can reinvent our economic and social foundations and transform society so that everyone has an entirely new context within which to thrive and flourish in this digital age. It is the work of our generation.

And the big problem is less than 10% of executives have a mature 4th person perspective. The percentage of politicians with a 4th person perspective is probably even less.


I’ve been coaching in vertical leadership development for more than a decade now. I’ve focused explicitly on how to enable strategic leaders to shift from Achievist, the great majority of leaders, to Synergist, the top 10% of leaders. I undertook a research study where all the participating strategic leaders shifted a full stage after 8 coaching sessions in 1 year. Two shifted twice to Synergist in the 12 months and others followed. This is 4 times more effective than most typical leadership programs in just 10% of the time - 2-days spread throughout the year instead of 20.

After receiving the quantitative results, I’ve invested years exploring how and why the coaching was so effective. A thematic analysis led to 8 drivers, and these were then explored in relation to the dynamics of vertical development to Synergist. I’ve since realised that three distinctive factors set StageSHIFT coaching apart from all others: setting purposeful, evolutionary, aspirational intent, resolving shadow psychodynamics at a deep level, and a focus on transforming the inter-systemic context as well as the individual. All this is possible with a transformative 3rd generational coaching approach with a later stage executive coach who is practised in all of the above distinctive dimensions i.e. StageSHIFT Coach. And online coaching means application and implementation as you go, not intensive teaching and then returning to the workplace without the means or knowhow to lead change.

If you are an executive coach, strategic leader or aspirational politician, I urge you to register for an online StageSHIFT Leadership Program. Based on the research, they have been proven to expedite and accelerate leadership development to the mature 4th person perspective at Synergist in a single year. They involve individual learning modules and fortnightly live group coaching webinars running from 90-days to 12-months. New programs begin on 29 April 2020 with a special PANDEMIC discount of 30%. Check them out here and view a Free Webinar that tells you all about StageSHIFT Vertical Leadership Development.

Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks is a thought leader in Vertical Leadership Development and a Master Certified Executive Coach with >3,500 coaching hours with >250 strategic leaders from across the private and public sectors. She has a proven track record in expediting rapid shifts to Synergist enabling strategic leaders to uplift their organisations and realise extraordinary outcomes. She is renowned for enabling executives to transcend the turmoil and cut through complexity, trust emergence and navigate uncertainty, and transform their world with strategic ingenuity. Antoinette leads a range of online StageSHIFT leadership programs. Find out more about Vertical Development at Her new book, Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership: The Drivers and Dynamics in Vertical Development, will be published by McGraw Hill in mid-2020.


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