Is the Best View Really from the Top?

“In the real, physical world or business world, most relationships are nonlinear.” ― Pearl Zhu


It’s no secret that the 21st-century workplace is different from the business world 20, even 50 years ago. Teams and their departments are expected to move at lightning pace while still ensuring quality.

If the strategy has changed, shouldn’t the leadership structure evolve, as well? Enter lateral leadership, a method that encourages leading your team as equals rather than direct reports. Here are just five reasons why lateral leadership is what contemporary companies need:

Learning opportunities. The best leaders know that learning does not stop with a diploma. In fact, there are many benefits to actively making an effort to acquire more knowledge, not the least of which is career advancement. Remember, each and every member of your team has some unique insight and perspective to offer. Channel these nuggets into personal and professional growth. When you align your talent structure laterally, you set yourself up to learn from the varying areas of expertise. In turn, they will be better positioned to learn from your experience. Progress will grow exponentially when everyone is on a learning curve together!

More ideas. You know that voice in your head? The one that tells you that idea isn’t good enough and they will think poorly of you if you pitch that? That voice’s volume gets turned up when trying to impress a superior in a seemingly high-stakes interaction. To make the team feel more comfortable, managers do not have to drop their titles and awkwardly jump between ranks. Instead, they can and should exert influence without authority. In other words, they can lead their colleagues without barking orders and micromanaging. Curate a working environment in which everyone feels comfortable pitching their wildest ideas; the next one may just be a game-changer.

Less drama. When people feel the weight of the corporate ladder on their shoulders, they cannot help but feel the need to be competitive to reach the top. The catty social hierarchies of middle school have no place in a professional office, so eliminate the risk by implementing lateral leadership.

Clearer communication. If someone is going to be late on a deadline, the result will be the same whether they make up excuses or tell you directly. The latter action, however, will make finding a solution much easier and quicker.  Effective communication – whether over the phone or face-to-face – begins with comfort and respect. Create a culture in which your employees feel at ease approaching you with concerns.

Better buy-in. Ultimately, the success of lateral leadership comes in the form of better buy-in from the team. Lateral leaders consistently collect feedback, updates, and ideas that set their organizations apart from ones that stick to outdated corporate ladder structures. Contact ThinkTank today to learn how to incorporate lateral leadership and buy-in into your growth strategy.

Photo Cred: Dane Rude