A new paradigm known as horizontal leadership

This image has caused a great sensation. The almost 300 likes and countless times that have shared this publication demonstrates that there is a new paradigm in leadership. For many, it is a reflection of vertical leadership, that is, of the typical structure that has developed during the twentieth century around pyramid schemes. However, globalization, the Internet and social networks have allowed the emergence of a new way of seeing leadership.

Vertical leadership is still alive

We must start from the old structures if we want to understand the change that is taking place nowadays. The concept of management arises from the industrial revolution.

This kind of thinking assumes:
  • You need a hierarchy to succeed.
  • The people that do the work are of lower status than those that decide what work to do.
  • Organizations that don’t follow the norms are likely to fail.
Making decisions are preserved in the area of the Board or the owner of the business, according to the size of the organization. The rest of the corporation executes the commands with a very narrow margin of decision linked to the strategic objectives defined by these organizations. Decisions are converted into mid-level and operational techniques at the lower levels of the pyramid. The approach, which I call "top-down" is a cascade that increases the pressure as it descends in the flowchart. Decisions become orders and there is no room for innovation since everything is dictated from above. The organization considers intermediate and operative controls as non-essential elements. So, employees are considered "Human Resources" because they are part of the production chain, as a raw material or an auxiliary service.

Consequences of this behavior are the following:
1. Companies move slowly. Good ideas often just parked because they have to overcome the approval of too many professionals.
2. Climbing up the company is an obstacle that prevents you from devoting yourself to work. You must choose between to focus on getting results and improving things or being constantly promoting. Politics and internal wars will be part of your business life.
3. You cannot enjoy work every day. Your health, happiness and relationships would be affected.
Information becomes a tool of power and does not circulate freely, neither from the top down nor between departments creating the disconnect between Top Management and the rest of the organization and interdepartmental clashes.
In vertical leadership, the leader necessarily has to be the CEO. There are no other possibilities. That is why innumerable publications, including the Harvard Business Review, speak of the need for the CEO to play this role. There are even others like Forbes who talk about Leadership as a boss. However, a leader is a very far away character from a boss. Find below some of their differences.

Every quote or inspiring sentence about great leaders are related to the CEOs of large multinational corporations. If a company is strong or weak, ethics or corruption depends on those who are above. The Corporate Governance approach in which power is concentrated in the Board also points in this way. Let's remember Enron or Volkswagen cases, where there were exemplary Codes of Ethics! Board was prepared and encouraged fraud in a movement from top to bottom, as the pressure exerted on the heading image.

Flater organizations appear with the change of environment

We are facing a new paradigm that runs parallel to the digital transformation, as you can see in this article published by Tech Crunch

The Internet and social networks have broken this principle since information circulates freely. The social networks allow creating a new society that shares it so that the individuals who share it have a greater initiative and responsibility.
The involvement of all members of the organization in carrying out the digital transformation is very important. The human side, that human synergy defined by Ronald C. Stern, materializes in a culture of cooperation.
"In the liquid society of knowledge you lead horizontally with human synergy or you don't lead".
Ronald C. Stern

Teams ask for accountability for outcomes, due dates, and taking ownership of milestones when a project is collaborative.
These new changes in organizations are supported by CFOs. For example, David Sylvester, senior vice president and CFO of office furniture firm Steelcase, says a flat organizational chart can contribute to a safer environment for CFOs by facilitating the flow of information organization-wide.

Horizontal leadership is the new paradigm

The management strategy is changed to innovation. This innovation is not something reserved for an elite. The team beats individualities. Horizontal leadership is a sum of experience, recognized by other people. It’s democratic and is not a matter of title or position. Teammates voluntarily feel deference to their accumulated wisdom in some practice area or context. We usually speak of innovation as thinking outside the box. But horizontal leaders have learned to shift their span of vision even more broadly to think outside the building. In other words, they are true boundary-crossers who have developed a perception so sharp and subtle that they are capable of seeing beyond the defined mandates, goals and outcomes of their own organization.
This model is followed by companies such as Google and large NASDAQ companies. The more integrated into the digital world, the greater trend towards more globalized structures. It is also implemented in GE where is supported by its VP in her article "Power or empower"
One of the advantages of horizontal leadership is that it is shaped to fit with the Loop model of Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Thus, it allows a faster decision-making process. Horizontal leadership is a way of involving networked teams to ensure the organization's vision is implemented. It develops a sort of horizontal chain of command. After getting the best ideas available from the team, a decision is made about a program we’ll run. Those who take on parts of the program make decisions about how they’ll implement those parts. The process virtually eliminates micro-management. The results are scalability, efficiency, greater satisfaction from the work, and continually enhanced skill sets.
The horizontal leader is less about the size of an organization and more about the size of impact the person makes. The new leader is an impact maker, a game-changer, and we recognize them for the disruption they have created. Leadership is about getting things done, not about the number of followers you have. They focus on their biggest and best strengths which may be creating enormous value but in a non-traditional way. Trusting our talent can really challenge tiers that live in a vertical leadership organization. It is not easy to explain in an application form that there is not an "official boss". The answer in this organizations is, "here there are people who don't need to be ordered to act how they should." Teamwork in action implements organisation's vision.
Finally, remember: Leadership is not a noun. It's a verb, it's action, it's moving and if we can understand how to go from level 1 up to level 5 in our leadership we expand it as well as our influence and our effectiveness, as John C. Maxwell states in this video

If you want to lead in the new paradigm, act, be an example and demand more from yourself!


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