Lateral Leadership

Brief overview

Lateral leadership is leadership at eye level, often without disciplinary power.

What has changed?

Today, leadership often takes place without direct authority, through team and project-oriented working methods. It is cross-departmental and cross-functional across hierarchical structures. 

What is the core issue?

Communicating a shared vision or goal, by being a role model, by providing guidance, support and coaching at eye level, is how successful leaders steer today. 

What is the benefit for you?

Lateral leadership is contemporary, demanding and successful. Together with you, we develop the necessary competencies for lateral leadership. Lateral leadership - i.e. "leading from the side" - is based on understanding and trust. The leader creates a common level and connects the different interests of the team members and other stakeholders...

Several factors contribute to the success of lateral leadership:

  • Common levels of thinking
  • the acceptance of the rules
  • the agreement on goals
  • negotiating viable forms of cooperation
  • the perception of different interests and
  • the appreciation of divergent points of view

are elements of successful leadership. By involving all participants, the greatest disruptive factors can be overcome. It is no longer the enforcement due to the superior role, but the bundling of forces through jointly developed ideas and goals that becomes the basis of the work. Leadership at eye level enables a greater diversity of ideas and higher acceptance of jointly found solutions than hierarchical one-way streets.

Those who are supposed to lead employees and cannot or do not want to fall back on institutional power need outstanding leadership skills. This so-called lateral leadership requires a different quality and competence in employee management. It takes place by communicating a common vision or a common goal, by setting an example, by accompanying, supporting and coaching at eye level. The leader creates a common level and thus connects the different interests of the team members with those of all participants.

But lateral leadership, or leadership without disciplinary power, is much more than consultation and collaboration. It is not just about leadership skills in coordinating tasks. It is also about influencing people and organizations involved, including steering the boat in the desired direction. People who lead as deputies:in or in projects without being formally superiors are constantly exercising lateral leadership. For them, the authority to issue directives as a power factor falls away.

They must rely on other pillars of authority.

What makes lateral leadership so successful is the fact that far more creative solutions emerge from the flat hierarchy than from top-down control.

Various factors contribute to the success of lateral leadership

  • common thinking levels
  • Accepted rules
  • Jointly agreed goals
  • Constant dynamics and sustainable forms of cooperation
  • the perception of different interests and
  • the appreciation of divergent points of view

and are important elements of successful leadership.

This requires four competencies in particular:

  • Credible personality (behavior, attitude and charisma)
  • Communication (language effect, recognizing people and motivation, convincing instead of persuading)
  • Conflict resolution (recognizing conflicts at an early stage, addressing and actively resolving them, courage for transparency and openness, dispute culture)
  • External and self-leadership (effective self-leadership, mindful external leadership, motivation, enthusiasm, appreciative leadership)

Lateral leadership is state of the art - demanding and more successful than any other form of leadership.

Learn more about these advanced topics:

Leadership in the VUCA world

Leadership transformation