Bridging the Complexity Gap

There is a complexity gap. Leaders need to be able to think and act more effectively in times of increasing complexity, ambiguity, volatility, uncertainty and rapid change.

Yet most leaders lack the necessary capacity, and most organizational cultures do not support the higher-level thinking needed to face these challenges. With further education and development, you and your organization can successfully meet these challenges and opportunities. At Clear Impact, we know how to build individual and collective capacity to bridge this complexity gap, and we have the data to prove it.

We focus on Vertical Development

Most leadership development programs only give leaders more things to think about, similar to providing more apps for your computer. Our Vertical Development program upgrades your overall “operating system,” increasing the capacity to think and act more effectively at a global level. At higher levels of vertical development, leaders can more successfully integrate multiple factors and perspectives. They make better decisions by taking more stakeholder needs into account as well as multiple timeframes. They have integrative, both/and rather than either/or thinking. Leaders at higher levels of vertical development create truly engaging and collaborative cultures permeated with safety and trust, with rich integration of multiple perspectives that bring out the best in people. They are more self-aware, conscious, sensitive to the needs of others, and consistently reflective. They perform better in the present and build more sustainable results for the future. In our Vertical Development program we include vital skills in the areas of change management, organizational culture, high performing teams, coaching and communication.

Our Leadership Effectiveness Initiative

Clear Impact designed and conducted the Leadership Effectiveness Initiative for the top 800 leaders of a large North American city. We typically work with groups of 30-40 leaders for seven days over a nine-month period. Between sessions participants work on individual action learning assignments as well as an overall Action Learning Project. They also meet in small cohorts of 4-5 leaders for collective action learning. Cohort members are intentionally drawn from diverse areas (police, parks, recreation, fire, transportation engineering, waste management, transit, etc.) and quickly learn that “leadership is leadership.” Although content  areas and contexts are very different, the essentials of effective leadership are the same.

We use a pre-post measure considered to be the purest and most valid measure of leadership thinking available today. The  Lectical Decision-Making Assessment (LDMA)* presents real-world workplace dilemmas and asks leaders to discuss the nature of the problem, propose solutions and describe an ideal decision-making process for similar situations. The LDMA focuses on three aspects of decision making: (1) Collaborative Capacity: bringing together diverse perspectives to develop inclusive, innovative, and effective solutions; (2) Contextual Thinking: considering problems in terms of the broader systems and contexts in which they are embedded, and (3) Cognitive Complexity: the ability to think well about complex issues. Over the nine months of our 40-hour program, the average gain in cognitive complexity was equivalent to two or more years of full-time graduate school.

What do these gains in cognitive complexity really mean?

When making decisions, leaders who perform at higher levels on the LDMA (higher Lectical scores) demonstrate more agility, response flexibility, creativity, nuance, humility, and perspectival skill (the ability to effectively take, seek, and integrate multiple perspectives). They are also more likely to be offered advancements. As leaders move into more senior positions, the task demands of their role increases in complexity. They must juggle more complex perspectives, take into account more factors, and cope with more ambiguity. It’s no surprise that leaders who are more complex thinkers are more likely to rise into senior management roles.

Our program offers three levels: supervisory, mid- and senior-level. Over the course of nine months, all three levels made significant gains, with an average gain of 0.18 on the Lectical scale. The difference between supervisors and senior-level leaders before starting the program was 0.15. In simple terms, after our development program supervisors more than fully made up the initial gap between their ability and that of the most senior leaders. They were able to think as effectively about complex  leadership challenges as had their senior leaders!

Did these gains in cognitive complexity also lead to more effective leadership behavior?

Yes, gains made in our leadership program translate into actual changes in leadership behavior and effectiveness. Leaders who showed more gains on the Lectical scale were also rated by their supervisors as showing more effective decision-making behavior. In 40 hours of curriculum, our program increased the cognitive complexity of our participants leading to real changes in decision-making ability.


1. There is a complexity gap. Leaders need to be able to think and act more effectively in times of increasing complexity, ambiguity, volatility, uncertainty and rapid change. Most leaders lack the ability to do so because they haven’t been given the right opportunity or context to support vertical development.

2. This gap can be bridged. In 40 hours or less of curriculum over nine months, our participants gained the equivalent of two or more years of full-time graduate school, providing the ability to think more effectively about complex leadership challenges. Supervisors ended up at a level higher than the initial scores of senior leaders.

3. Gains in cognitive complexity lead to more effective decision-making behavior in the workplace.

4. We know how to build individual and collective leadership capacity.

At Clear Impact, we are organizational effectiveness consultants who integrate coaching and training into our work. Your organization can have similar or greater gains in developing leadership capacity, as well as building a culture that consciously supports those changes. We would be happy to talk to you about how we can help your organization increase its organizational and leadership effectiveness.

To download a PDF of this report, please click here: Bridging the Complexity Gap – Clear Impact Consulting Group

*For more information on Lectica’s LDMA, we invite you to view this short video called Complexity, Lectica and Your Business For additional information we direct you to

Our Proof: With 40 hours or less of curriculum over a nine-month period, our clients demonstrated an average gain in the ability to think effectively about complex problems equivalent to two or more years of full-time graduate school, resulting in more effective leadership behavior. Further, Supervisors were able to think more effectively about complex leadership challenges than had their senior leaders.

Endorsement from Ken Wilber, The Integral Vision

“Joel and Sandra’s Clear Impact Consulting Group is providing an integrally-informed, harmonious, and comprehensive approach to Leadership Development work. This type of consulting work is literally light years ahead of the standard, conventional, “flat-land” approaches that remain fragmented and highly partial in their makeup and presentation; and instead presents theory and practice that covers the leading-edge discoveries in growth, development, and leadership work. These discoveries are quite recent, and are proving to be enormously more effective, efficient, and productive than any of the alternatives. Try it out and see for yourself—highly recommended!”

“Vertical development is without question the next frontier of competitive advantage in business and represents a quantum leap in human capability that can then be turned to solving all manner of urgent and pressing issues.”
– Ken Wilber and Alan Watkins, Wicked & Wise: How to Solve the World’s Toughest Problems, 2015.

“If horizontal development is about transferring information to the leader, Vertical Development is about transformation of the leader.”
– Center for Creative Leadership

An IBM Global CEO Survey found that the great majority of CEOs expect that business complexity is going to increase, and more than half doubt their ability to manage it.

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