How To Be a Better Leader

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We’re living, and working, in a time of unprecedented change. Leaders are faced with increasingly complex challenges that require them to navigate ambiguity, uncertainty and disruption – on an almost daily basis.

For that reason, the traditional approach to leadership development that focuses solely on acquiring new skills or knowledge is no longer enough.

Instead, leaders need ‘vertical development’.

They need to expand their consciousness, increase their self-awareness, and hone their ability to manage complex challenges.

Andrew Stevens, director and co-founder of the Uncharted Leadership Institute, says vertical development “changes how we think, perceive and make sense of the world around us.”

But do I need it?

In the latest episode of Levelling up: Your leadership podcast, Andrew says that the easiest way to understand vertical development is to think of children and the development of their mental complexity.

As we see children grow, we see their ability to understand the world change.

As a young child, they might believe in things like Father Christmas and the Easter bunny, but as they grow and start to experience the world around them, they realise those beliefs are no longer serving them and they expand the way they think.

Vertical development is the idea of doing that on purpose.

Most people reach a part of their lives, usually post-teenager or early adulthood, where our complexity of thinking is enough to get us through in the world. However, it's not necessarily enough to solve the sorts of complex problems that leaders are potentially facing on a daily basis.

Ok, so when will I know it’s time?

There’s three common ways to identify that you need vertical development:

  • Is the problem reoccurring because you’re not able to overcome it?
  • There’s no clear path forward – it’s one of those challenges where you look at it and you can’t tell where it’s going or how it will end
  • Your previous solutions, which may have worked then, are no longer working now

And how do I do it?

Andrew says that professional development pathways, like the University of Adelaide’s Transformative Leadership Program for which he’s the lead facilitator, help leaders to change their mindset and shift the way they approach challenges in the workplace through vertical development.

But, to get you started, he has shared some do-it-yourself tips:

  • Practice self-reflection – take the time to reflect on your own experiences and actions and become more self-aware and understanding of how your behaviour impacts others. Set aside time each day to reflect and think how you could have done things differently.
  • Embrace diversity and inclusion – seek out different perspectives and listen to those who have differing experiences and backgrounds, as this can help to broaden your understanding and ability to connect with others.
  • Get out of your comfort zone – put yourself into scenarios that force you to think outside of your usual way of seeing the world. This could be by volunteering, taking on a new project, or travelling to a new place. This helps expand your consciousness.

Be a better leader

Invest in your career and grow your ability to solve complex workplace problems by enrolling in the University of Adelaide’s Transformative Leadership Program.

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