At a time when our working world is increasingly characterised by cross-divisional cooperation, flat hierarchies and project teams, it is imperative that the traditional understanding of leadership is being adjusted. Traditional leadership approaches based on clear hierarchies and unambiguous responsibilities often prove inadequate in complex networked organisational structures. This is precisely where lateral leadership comes into play.
This type of management differs fundamentally from the classical approach. Instead of being based solely on hierarchical authority, it relies on informal instruments. Trust, mutual understanding and consensus building form the foundation of lateral leadership. Here, the focus shifts from a strictly disciplinary exercise of power to individual competencies and skills. Personal integrity, strong expertise and effective networking become essential resources for the lateral leader.
From Hierarchical to Lateral Leadership: A Paradigm Shift
It is crucial to emphasise that the transition from a classical to a lateral understanding of leadership is more than just a conceptual innovation. It is about actively influencing people and organisational units with a new approach. In contrast to classical leadership, which often provides clear directives, lateral leadership focuses on developing a common understanding and common goals with all stakeholders.
A key point in this method is clearly achieving widespread agreement. Without the traditional hierarchical position of power, a lateral leader must focus on gaining the agreement or at least the acceptance of all stakeholders. This requires not only diplomatic skills but also the ability to recognise and take into account everyone’s different interests and points of view and lead them to a common denominator. This may mean compromising, but in some cases, it may also mean decisively choosing between different approaches.
Consensus and Networking as the Key to Success
It is clear that lateral leadership is a reflection of a modern, dynamic working world. In a working environment permeated by intensive networking and advancing digitalisation, the relevance of this form of leadership is constantly increasing. In this context, not only the conscious and ongoing development of competencies is becoming increasingly important, but also the understanding that it is no longer just about being “up” or “down” – but rather about acting in synergy, striving for common goals and celebrating joint successes.
(Source: MaschinenMarkt, issue 5/23)
Photo: K Louw/peopleimages.com