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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.

What is Vertical Development?

leadership development organisational development vertical development Aug 18, 2020

There are three main theoretical foundations for vertical development:

  1. An expanding mind from the self-authoring to the self-transforming mind that expands our capacity to see interweaving patterns so we can intervene more effectively to purposefully evolve inter-systemic complex adaptive systems. This is commonly called Adult Development based on the research of Kegan, Commons and Dawson, and applied by Jennifer Garvey-Berger.
  2. An expanding consciousness that embraces the heart, mind and spirit arising from Ego Development is based on the research of Loevinger, Cook-Greuter and O’Fallon. This is applied in Beena Sharma’s work and also forms the basis of the Spectrum Stage Shift that is fundamental to StageSHIFT’s proven accelerated holistic approach to later stage vertical development.
  3. The application of vertical development to evolving organisations by Graves, Beck & Cowan, Torbert and Laloux so they become more purposeful, liberating, aspirational, conscious and emergent workplaces where the evolution of people and the organisation become intertwined. The Strategic Leadership dimension of StageSHIFT Coaching liberates organisations to integrate and accelerate the vertical leadership development of strategic leaders.

From a big picture perspective, a bigger mind, bigger heart and better self, enables a person to lead a bigger life and hold the space to co-create a better world. This expansion across all dimensions of self speaks to greater perspective and insight, greater generosity and grace, and bolder purposeful evolutionary aspirations in the context of a more liberating context that together, facilitate the realisation of our potential to evolve and build a better world.

This later stage leadership capacity, currently accounting for less than 10% of leaders, arises in the light of this pivotal VUCA transition. The guidance of later stage leaders is essential for enterprises, institutions and societies to build a more sustainable, healthy and equitable world together. We’re being invited to complete the shift from the 3rd person perspective of the profit-driven material, commercial, industrial world to the 4th person perspective of a purpose-led minimalist, collaborative, digital community.

In the diagram below of the Stages of Vertical Leadership Development, you can see the progression of person perspectives through the stages and the StageSHIFT correlation with heart, mind and spirit.


StageSHIFT ~ Inspiring, Igniting & Integrating Rapid Vertical Development


The cognitive dexterity to cluster themes and patterns of more and more intricate data into larger systemic clusters of knowledge is a capacity that develops with the Self-Transforming Mind at Synergist. Given the new longer-term intergenerational perspective and broader preoccupations of the Synergist mind, events and challenges can be better understood within a wider context, and wiser decisions can be made based on universal principles that facilitate the emergence of innovative collaboration.

It is not that the later stage leader at Synergist has all the answers, quite the contrary. It is not just a matter of intellect, although this is a necessary ingredient. However, the Synergist is able to hold the emergent space of consciousness that enables the plethora of stakeholders to arrive at synergistic solutions and policies to implement. Synergists can generate convergence amongst divergent perspectives due to their depth of awareness and breadth of perspective.

Imagine the complexity of the earth’s ecosystem – its rivers, oceans, mountains and forests; biodiversity, sustainability, industrialisation and mining; climate, floods, fires and quakes. Imagine the reach and impact of our social systems embedded in schools, hospitals, prisons and shelters in relation to education, health, justice and humanity. It is impossible to appreciate all the details within each but it is possible to integrate the myriad of avenues for exploration by applying universal principles to bring a sense of order and efficacy to the whole.


What brings people together? Cognitive agility? Intellect? No. People come together if there is compassionate understanding. The opportunity to be seen, heard and understood by someone who sincerely cares, holds the positional or authentic power to make a difference, and who also, as Synergists do, can hold the reverent space to enable protagonists and polarising forces to see, hear and understand each other.

A Synergist with a big heart has done much of their own personal shadow work and a mature Synergist leaning into the next stage of development, also has perspective on collective shadow. They can bring the outcomes of their personal experience of shadow resolution and healing, clarity and compassion, to the people. Their vision is no longer as clouded by their own personal misgivings, they can see political undercurrents and interpersonal dynamics in discerning, non-judgemental ways.

The real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ~ Marcel Proust


Not only do they have the ability to see far and wide, and the clarity to see the underlying dynamics, but they also have the efficacy to see a way forward to realising bold aspirations. They hold ethical standards that are universally applied to ensure that all people, all of life, and the earth itself, will thrive and flourish.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


And finally, later stage leaders are also visionary seers. They trust in their imaginations to conceive a new and better world and that, with spiritual ingenuity, synchronicity and serendipity, this world will emerge with time. They believe, as a consequence of their own personal life experience, that provided we do our very best on earth to be our best self and chart an optimal way forward in the best interests of all, we will receive the help and blessings of unseen and unforeseen forces.

Mature Synergist leaders trust in the power to imagine, envisage, generate and manifest in collaboration with all involved and in congruence with cosmic evolution. They have tested and developed the courage, authenticity and trust to allow the intuitive flow of emergence step-by-step forwards, backwards, inwards and outwards, in the inevitable journey to wholeness.

Antoinette Braks

Transcend the turmoil to cut through complexity, trust emergence to navigate uncertainty and transform your world with strategic ingenuity!

How would you explain Vertical Development to someone new to it?


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Enjoy the first two chapters of Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership to find out more about the History and Stages of Vertical Development. We’ll continue to guide you with our new monthly insights.

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