Leadership Development is a Diagonal Journey

Many leaders are right in the middle of their performance management cycle, so we’ve been talking about their development needs.

It’s great to see that leaders are seeking real change: They want more than a script, or a to-do list or a technique. During Coaching, they speak with me about the parts of themselves that get in the way. If they’ve been blindsided by criticism, they might want to become more self-aware. If they are self-aware, they may be frustrated by how hard it is to change. If their responsibilities are growing, they want to quickly come up to speed.

Integral Coaching™ is the method I use because it’s the most robust and encompassing way I’ve seen to coach. I use the term “Diagonal Development” to describe what we’ll do – and here’s the back-of-the-napkin visual to go along with it.

An easy explanation:  Horizontal development is about growing your skills and competencies. If you are familiar with tiered competency models, its about moving from demonstrating a basic level (of say the skill of “listening”) to a more expert use of that skill (i.e. becoming an empathetic listener).

Vertical development is about increasing your capacity as a leader. Vertical development means you are shifting your mindset and broadening your world-view. This is about being able to operate at a higher level – having more resilience, more psychological resources, more self-reliance and greater comfort with ambiguity.

Others have used the metaphor of a glass of water to explain it. While horizontal development is like pouring more water into your glass, vertical development is about starting with a larger glass. With Integral Coaching™ we are doing both – hence moving diagonally.

I also like to speak to the importance of accessing many levels of intelligence when developing. We learn to rely on head, heart and hands (gut) for wisdom This diagonal development journey requires leaders to move toward what Kegan and Lahey call the “self-transforming mind.” A difficult journey that is made easier with a coach by your side.

How does it work? We work on self-observation, your reflective capacity and specific habits which are unique to your goals. It might sound theoretical, but it’s a day-in, day-out practical effort to grow. We add technical skills while we transform your mind-set. The result is sustainable and authentic change, a diagonal path to the leader you need to be.

One thought on “Leadership Development is a Diagonal Journey


  1. Love this Jill. You’ve managed to bring real clarity and simplicity to a complex area. This shows the depth of your understanding, embodiment and experience. I feel blessed to have your support.

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