Dr. Alan Watkins writes on the science of coherent leadership which encompasses a wide range of areas brought together to help individuals in business increase their developmental levels and be more personally effective. Alan is an honorary senior lecturer in neuroscience and psychological medicine at Imperial College, London and originally qualified as a physician. Alan worked with the Great Britain rowing squad prior to the London Olympics and provides continued guidance to the coaches in advance of Rio 2016. He is the founder and CEO of Complete Coherence

Most people would recognise the ever-increasing pace of work; we need to bring products to market more quickly, make decisions faster, make sense of much more information, and cut through increasing complexity. We’re running faster and faster, but struggling to catch up with the pace of change.

So, how do we cope?

Development is all about increasing maturation and sophistication.

The traditional view is that only the most knowledgeable can survive, but acquiring more knowledge, gaining more experiences, or even learning a few skills is simply no longer enough. All this learning will not save you. What you need is real development. It is vertical development that will give us the true competitive advantage in the future, not horizontal learning.

Development is all about increasing maturation and sophistication. Most of what goes on under the name of leadership development is not development at all, it is learning. People may call it development, but it’s not. 

Think about the stages of development experienced by children; you cannot run before you can walk. The stages of development are not only physical, they can be emotional, intellectual, moral, spiritual, and behavioural. We all recognise how true that is for children but very few people realise that there are well-defined levels of adult development.

Some of the tensions we see today in organisations are simply a result of technically minded and knowledgeable individuals, struggling to cope with the fast pace and complexity they face. They may have come up the learning curve but they have not developed. They are in over their heads which is why you sometimes see behaviour in the boardroom that would be expected in a high school playground. This is due to a lack of development, and is why bullying is not uncommon in business today.

Being able to identify what level of development a leader operates from is crucial

Being able to identify what level of development a leader operates from is crucial, but if you’re able to develop someone up one or two levels, then you have a real competitive advantage. Left to their own devices, most leaders are unlikely to move up a level. Rather, they need developmental coaching from an expert coach who knows how to develop them, not just teach them some things.

Unfortunately, few coaches anywhere in the world are capable of guiding vertical development, but this is the breakthrough that leaders need from their coaches in order to be able to thrive in the volatile, uncertain complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world of today.

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