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Vertical Development: What it is & Why You Need It | HRDQ-U Webinar

Vertical Development: What It Is and Why You Need It

View on June 4, 2024
Start time 2:00 pm (ET)


We have observed a troubling trend over the last decade (and particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic): the accelerating rate of complexity that organizations are facing has outpaced the development of organizations’ leaders. This is observed by research stated in Training that indicates (1) 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future, and (2) 75% of organizations say their leadership development programs are not very effective. The truth is that most leadership development programs focus on helping their leaders “tool up” (i.e., horizontal development), but this is only incrementally helpful. Organizations need to help their leaders “level up” (i.e., vertical development). In this session, Ryan Gottfredson will explain what vertical development is and why you need it.

This live event is free. A recording will be available after the event with an HRDQ-U Membership for Learning Professionals.

Attendees will learn

  • What vertical development is.
  • That for leaders to improve in their ability to navigate change, pressure, uncertainty, and complexity, they need vertical development.
  • How vertical development is different from and far more superior to horizontal development.
  • The three different vertical development levels.
  • How to help your leaders vertically develop to guide your organization and its employees more effectively through the turbulent conditions they are facing.


Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., is a cutting-edge leadership development author, researcher, and consultant. He helps organizations vertically develop their leaders primarily through a focus on mindsets. Ryan is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-selling author of Success Mindsets: The Key to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership. He is also a leadership professor at the College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton.

He has worked with top leadership teams at CVS Health (top 130 leaders), Deutsche Telekom (500+ of their top 2,000 leaders), and dozens of other organizations. As a respected authority and researcher on topics related to leadership, management, and organizational behavior, Ryan has published over 19 articles across a variety of journals including: Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Business Horizons, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, and Journal of Leadership Studies. His research has been cited over 2,500 times since 2015.

Connect with Ryan on FacebookTwitter, and at

Available on Amazon


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Ryan Gottfredson

Leadership training is a $366 billion global industry. Despite that, 75% of organizations say their leadership development programs are not very effective. A primary reason for the lack of development effectiveness is because they almost solely focus on horizontal development (think “tooling up”) instead of vertical development (think “leveling up”). Ryan Gottfredson helps organizations vertically develop their leaders so that they can more effectively navigate the change, pressure, uncertainty, and complexity that they have to navigate.

Learn more at

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Everyone is talking about HRDQ-U webinars!

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“Ryan is an excellent speaker and teacher! His message is clear and very easy to understand. He gives his audience the chance to ask questions and ensures participation. It was a fabulous session and I really learned a lot! Thanks so much!”

Pearl P.
Clinical Practice Consultant
Kaiser Permanente NCAL

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“Great speaker with a new (to me, at least) model that was very useful [and] thought-provoking!”

Christopher H.
Covestro LLC

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“Ryan hit the nail on the head on the complexity and constant change that leaders today face, and what is needed to be a strong and sophisticated leader in organizations today.”

Elizabeth K.
Environmental Program Manager

One Response

  1. Q&A from the webinar.

    Question: Does this (vertical development) change with age?

    Answer: Well, if people do change, they generally do it, you know, as they age. So if they do vertically develop, um, it will happen. But they’re, what research is finding is that, again, 66%, or, sorry, 64% of all adults never get beyond mind 1.0. So, vertical development is not a function of age. What it is, it’s a function of effort.

    Question: Can you be a great doer and director of getting things done in mind 2.0 but not be liked by your team or develop your staff?

    Answer: Yes, and in fact that’s why I think often happens is that the doers, mind 2.0 doers, they’re all about doing. They get promoted into leadership positions and leadership really requires a mind 3.0 mentality but they never shift and they really struggle in their leadership. So I think that that’s what’s really common. And why we see such poor leadership statistics, such as I’ve mentioned earlier, 75% of their employees say that their boss is the worst and most stressful part of their job.

    Question: Are people born into mind 3.0 or do they progress?

    Answer: Really good question. What research is finding is that this is connected, our vertical development is connected to our body’s neurological system. And when we go through trauma and that could be at any point in our lives, that impacts our ability to make meaning of our world in cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways. This is interesting. And to me, what is really meaningful about talking about vertical development, is because when we understand this, we understand that if we want to help people vertically develop, we’ve gotta help them heal their mind. We’ve gotta help them heal from past trauma. What statistics suggests, is that 70, more than 75% of all people have been through significant trauma in their lives.

    Question: If people have strong personalities, can a leader vertically develop until they recognize their delay de-railers?

    Answer: The answer is, yes, I think. But I’m also learning that it is a little bit contingent upon how much trauma that they’ve been through in their lives. The more trauma, the more deep, internal work that they’re going to have to do. But I think everything starts with awareness, and that’s one of the things, reasons why I like talking about these three different mind levels. It is because it creates a framework to help us to become more aware. And, in fact, I’m going to give you some tools that will help in this process as we move forward.

    Question: Does your executive leadership team need to realize this concept for people to be successful at trying to get closer to mind 3.0?

    Answer: Yeah, really good question. And he goes on to say, meaning, if your C suite is like bulmer, then I assume you have to decide, is this the right place for me? And the reality of that is, yeah, yeah, it is really difficult. It is really challenging for a mind, 3.0 leader to operate under a mind 2.0 or mind 1.0 leader, it is a really challenging circumstance. Can it be done? And can it be done effectively? Yes. But it is, oftentimes it is personally a struggle for that mind 3.0 leader.

    Question: Is a high EI leader automatically a mind 3.0 leader?

    Answer: Yeah, great question. I think it’s an indication of it. I think there’s more to vertical development than just emotional intelligence. But emotional intelligence is a vertical development concept. One of my biggest pet peeves about emotional intelligence and how it’s kind of trainings that are out there around emotional intelligence as we have a tendency to boil it down to being a horizontal development topic. Right? Here are the things that you need to do to be more emotionally intelligence. But emotional intelligence isn’t a doing thing. It’s a being thing. And so I think that as we help people vertically develop, they become more emotionally intelligent. And so, when people do have emotional intelligence, I do think it is a signal that they have greater cognitive and emotional sophistication.


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