Think Horizontally and Make Decisions Vertically

We’re all used to the idea of vertical leadership, a leader and their team. Everyone in the group looks up to the boss, and the boss looks up to their boss, and so on, and so on. We understand the hierarchy. 

What many of us don’t expect, as we move up the ladder, is that the higher the climb, the more we must look laterally: other leaders at level, other teams below them. 

A manager who moves to an executive role must start to think horizontally and think vertically. 

It’s not enough to lead your team in a silo; you must now consider the integration of all parts of an organization. 

The higher you go in an organization, the more you have to lead horizontally and also in balance with vertical leadership. You have to think holistically; take into account the needs of the business as a whole, as well as the needs of your own group.

For most people who get promoted into executive roles, this transition can be challenging, especially when you may have to give up some resources — and some ego —to achieve real integration. 

What are the key benefits of horizontal leadership? Why, nothing less than making more informed decisions, learning new things, and contributing in new and different ways, of course. Did I mention that your own team will also reap the benefits of your knowledge building and relationship cultivating? Booyah! 🤠

In this episode, I talk about how vertical and horizontal leadership are two sides of the same coin, a lucky penny in your leadership pocket.

If you want to truly excel in your business objectives, all of the teams have to fit together as if they are fresh, out-of-the-box Lego that click together with ease. - Jen Thornton

Four Things To Take Away From This Episode 

Understand organizational priorities and why they matter.
Your success as a leader will hinge on your ability to identify ways to get your team to intersect with the rest of the company. Identify what your group actually needs and doesn’t need and put everything into context with company objectives. 

Learn a little bit about what everyone else does.
No one likes operating in the dark. Come out of your comfort zone and start making connections between departments, roles, and people. Understand just enough to be dangerous about how the organization functions across all verticals. 

Let go around ego.
This is the time to tap into your sense of the greater good. Yes, you may lose precious talent, time, or budget to some other more urgent need, but if you can frame it from a global perspective no one will take it personally.

Get comfortable with curiosity, challenge, and conflict.
The ability to have frank, honest conversations in a no-drama zone is a skill you can improve with practice. Look for opportunities to challenge your peers, ask questions, and coach peers into shifting perspectives. The more you communicate effectively and with emotional intelligence, the more acute your understanding of the board, the game, and all of the players. 

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