Thinking and acting in complex times

Increasing leadership capacity with vertical development

  • Many leadership interventions are designed for a predictable, ordered world, not the unpredictable nature of today.
  • Is your development not helping your leaders cope with the complexities they are facing?
  • Are your leaders cancelling training because they say ‘I’m in over my head’
  • Would a set of tools and approaches to help you progress your own initiatives be useful?


This one day workshop provides the practical approaches and toolkit to apply capacity building to improve the impact of leadership development. It is aimed at Human Resource, Learning & Development, Talent and Organisational Development leads, responsible for development and talent offers within their organisations who want to improve the focus and effectiveness of their interventions.

Organisations can no longer simply rely on the existing abilities of their leaders to address increasingly complex and unpredictable challenges. Talent and Development practitioners recognise the need to better target interventions (and budgets) at increasing the capacity of their leaders to make sense of information, relationships and the world around them.

“The workshop was both a challenging and transforming experience and I am now using the habits I learnt to help me navigate the complexity around me. Having peer input and the opportunity to practise enabled me to progress my specific challenge as well as providing the toolkit to tackle other difficult issues.”  Head of HR, Saffery Champness

Traditional development has focused on what we would call ‘horizontal development’, i.e furthering knowledge and skills to become more proficient in given aspects of leadership such as improving communication. Complementing this, ‘vertical development’ is growing in popularity as an effective approach to transform the way a leader thinks and acts. It powerfully pinpoints the development needs of a leader as they transition towards more mature ways of understanding complex and ambiguous situations, and how to act on them.


Call: 0207 323 2104

Learning objectives

You will apply practical exercises to your own organisational challenges, alongside peers and learn what works best in your context.  You will gain:

  • an understanding of what is meant by capacity building or vertical development
  • the knowledge, experience and tools to develop capabilities within yourself as well as with your leaders
  • approaches and frames of reference to confidently ‘sell’ vertical development into your organisation
  • techniques for incorporating capacity building into the design of development programmes
  • an introduction to key theories underpinning vertical development
  • case studies showing how capacity building has been used by companies
  • insights into hindering factors in organisations and ways to counter these

Learning format

The day consists of facilitated learning by experts in the field. You will learn to apply a range of tools from our toolbox, tools used to help leaders navigate increasing complexity and uncertainty. Participants will be HR and development practitioners from a variety of sectors, ensuring you network with and learn from different experiences.  Participants are limited to 16 to optimise peer to peer support and learning.

Programme benefits

You will leave with:

  • exercises to apply on your own challenges
  • habits to continue building your own capacity to think, relate and act in more sophisticated ways
  • the confidence to deploy specific vertical development with your leaders
  • clarity on how vertical development compliments horizontal development
  • access to extensive networking and ongoing peer feedback
  • ongoing support from course leaders and a wide community of vertical development experts
  • access to insight and resources post-training

Your organisation will benefit from better targeted development, increasing the effectiveness of your leaders to navigate ambiguity and changing circumstances.

Upcoming dates

24th January 2018

Course leaders

The day is facilitated by Karen Ellis, a practitioner in the field of vertical development for over 15 years. Starting her career in management consultancy and realising that people are the key to any intervention, Karen was spurred on to learn about organisational psychology. Having discovered the theory of adult constructivist development, Karen has spent the past 15 years supporting individuals and organisations across a variety of industries, to successfully use vertical development.

The course design has drawn extensively upon the collective knowledge of MDV Consulting’s Research and Innovation Alliance, a body of highly experienced leadership development practitioners and experts in the field of vertical development.

Duration and fees

The programme is one day at a cost of £750 (plus VAT).

Fees are inclusive of all materials and includes complimentary lunch and refreshments.

Please call us on 0207 323 2104 to discuss discounts for multiple bookings.


Wallacespace, 18 Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0DP (a five minute walk from Farringdon station).

(Map here)

To register

Please complete your details below in the ‘TO BOOK’ section and we be in touch to confirm your registration and to arrange payment.

Terms and Conditions apply – please read these here before booking.

Related content

Watch Karen Ellis talk about the value of vertical development here.

Our conference on vertical development saw L&D practitioners speak on how they are transforming their business with vertical development – watch here.