Thinking About Leadership Vertically And Horizontally
Most leaders climb the corporate ladder by leading vertically. They focus on their direct reports and team (downwards) and working productively with their boss and senior leaders (upwards). This vertical focus on leadership frequently enables an effective climb. But many leaders stall out around the senior level and can’t transition to the executive level.
What stops them from reaching the top? Often, the very thing that made them successful to this point: working too much vertically and not enough horizontally. Horizontal leadership is about collaborating with peers and those outside of one’s reporting hierarchy. It’s the cross-functional leadership that breaks down silos and gets to the heart of organizational issues.
This approach to leadership, with a balance of effectiveness on both vertical and horizontal, is a primary difference between senior managers and true executives.
Years ago I worked with AT&T at a time when they were integrating four companies to create one Fortune 20 giant. The CEO, Randall Stephenson, kicked off our leadership session with the top 50 executives in the company. He suggested that the new entity could absolutely deliver on the investment thesis shared with Wall Street. But then admonished the group, saying the problem was that considerable profit was being missed because “dollars are falling through the cracks between the silos we’ve created.” Working horizontally was the solution.
To think more horizontally as a leader:
- Identify ways resolve issues with other senior leaders,
- Make the time to facilitate collaboration between teams,
- Drive alignment by focusing on common objectives
Be the one to toss the ladder sideways and bridge the gap between the silos. Its the sign of a real executive. And both you and the company will level up.