Horizontal Leadership

I am often asked “How can I be a better leader in my position?” or told “I want to go into leadership.” First, we make leadership more complicated than it really is, and act like it is only for the privileged few. “Horizontal Leadership”sounds sophisticated, but basically means everyone leading across an organization. The most common misconception is that leadership is linked to your title. Title is nothing more than your granted level of decision making. Leadership is different and is solely based on one’s consistent example. People respect and follow consistency; consistency builds reliability and trust. Great leaders do not wake up every morning thinking about being a better leader or their title. They wake up knowing that people are counting on them, that they have to be the best example, and that they have to be on top of their game. They are ready to serve others, show others, and succeed in performance. Bad leadership is about title and proving authority. These people expect automatic respect, hide their insecurities, and are consumed with their position. These people are not as concerned about their example as they are other people respecting their position. They can cripple their best people and are known to make rash decisions just to prove they are in charge. They use their title as a mechanism of fear; they want more followers, not more leaders… Great leaders understand that their title gives them the authority, but they do not hold this over their heads.

Many are waiting to have the title before they become a leader. They either have had the wrong example or they have not realized that they can be the right example today. It is time that your potential leadership turns into performance based leadership. Leadership is like working out… You can look at your body and tell what you do consistently. We can look at your work and tell what you do consistently. We can look at an organization’s culture and can tell its overall leadership. What ever is done consistently is very noticeable. Leadership does start at the top, but it comes alive when it is horizontal. Bad leadership at the top alienates people and imprisons their ability. Great leadership at the top attracts people and empowers their ability. People will leave organizations for better opportunities, but they will leave leadership before their jobs. Understand that people gain titles for lots of reasons; education, merit, prior relationships, experience, etc… However leadership is not gained; it is earned and is a commitment to something bigger than yourself. Lets take a look at the difference:

Great Leadership (Example Based)Bad Leadership (Title Based)
No Task Is Beneath ThemTitle Exempts Them From Tasks
Do What I DoDo What I Say
Enjoys Serving OthersWants The Image Of Serving
Performance Earns Your RespectTitle Earns Your Respect
Open About WeaknessesMasks Insecurities
Thrives Using Talented PeopleThreatened by Talented People
Great Teacher (About You)Great Talker (About Me)
Protects People FirstProtects Image First
Protects Integrity With TruthProtects Title With False Narratives
Leadership Becomes A LifestyleLeadership Becomes Lonely
Sets Out To Prove Their WorthSets Out To Prove Their Authority
Attracts People… Their Example Elevates OthersAlienates People…. Separates Others From Their Position
Consistency Earns Your TrustTitle Earns Your Trust
Title Determines Who You ProtectTitle Determines Authority
Decisions Are About You First, Me SecondDecisions Are About Me First, You Second
Power Reveals CharacterPower Reveals Character

So How Can I Lead By Example Today:

  • Be the example of loyalty: Support leadership when they are not around.
  • Be the example of the solution: You have a valuable opinion and it is okay to disagree. However, once a decision is made; move forward as one. Talking about it later is being disloyal.
  • Be the example of positivity: Do not engage in blaming, complaining, or faming… Choke the Negative
  • Be the example of culture: Your greatest gift is the best version of yourself
  • Be the example of focus: Focus on your purpose more than your position.
  • Be the example of consistency part 1: You do not become what your vision is, you become what your system is…. You become what you repeatedly do and leadership is found in what you are doing… people follow the consistent example.
  • Be the example of consistency part 2: How do you know you are consistent? Because it is seen in your decisions…. 1) Show up mentally and physically 2) Deal with people the right way 3) Do the work
  • Be the example of taking initiative part 1: Do not wait to be told what to do. The best employees understand the mission, anticipate, and execute without constant direction.
  • Be the example of taking initiative part 2: The best football players are always around the football. The best employees are always around the work and seeking to bring value.
  • Be the example of giving proper direction: Do not lead with sarcasm… It screams insecurity, does not motivate, and only creates a silent disrespect for you as a leader. Great employees want specific information and not a riddle to decipher.
  • Be the example of seeking knowledge: Study leadership and apply it… Just do not read about it…. Share with others…
  • Be the example of respecting others’ position: Respect the chain of command through communication first and action second. Acting out of turn or withholding information does not make you a better leader… It makes you a problem within the organization.
  • Be the example of ownership: When asked why you or the group is doing something. Do not say because, “That is what so and so said to do or because that is what leadership decided.” Say, “Because that is the direction WE have decided to go in.” It is time to stop being a follower and be an extension of leadership. One answer screams that you do not agree, are just complying, or are not bought in… The other answers screams togetherness.
  • Be the example of a humble servant: People love to announce everything they are doing for others. Stop telling everyone everything you are doing and how hard you are working. It makes people play the comparison game, numbs the conversation, and kills your genuine work. The greatest servant leaders; love to do things nobody sees, does not seek recognition, and is silently satisfied. Trust me… people know who does the work….

In close, the goal is simple and massive… The next time you walk into a room, I want you to view yourself differently… I want you to make your favorite quote a reality you live everyday. I want you to have that dopamine rush of something to accomplish. I want you to rid yourself of agenda anxiety and mental exhaustion. I want you to go from I should be a leader to I want to be a leader. I want you to really understand that leadership is simply an example others wish to follow. Leadership is the example of how you use your God given gifts… The best version of yourself….. I want you to realize that consistency is always going to be a struggle and to accept it as a daily challenge. I want you to realize that leadership is about relationships… And through great relationships you will make great decisions. Know that in life someone is always playing defense. People will bluff you and try to manipulate you into not thinking you are a leader. All this means is that you are a threat to their personal security. Everyone has the ability to be a leader, because everyone provides an example one way or another. Just keep being the best you, because the best you is good enough….

Just be the example: You are not meant to lead others, you are meant to lead your gifts.

4 thoughts on “Horizontal Leadership

  1. I’m reminded of the scripture, James 2:14-26
    Which addresses, “ faith without works is dead”. I certainly agree with Coach Winegarden’s statement.” Leadership requires action”! Wow what a powerful article about, “Horizontal Leadership”.
    Thank you Coach!


  2. Some wise council here. Too many young coaches and others seek titles before they are ready for them. They need to understand that they are leaders to everyone around them. Especially those younger who look up to them.


  3. Be the example of the solution: You have a valuable opinion and it is okay to disagree. However, once a decision is made; move forward as one. Talking about it later is being disloyal.

    Love the application and graphic example based and title based…


  4. Outstanding!! What a precise and accurate way to describe how to be a proper leader. I love it. Horizontal leadership is key to changing culture and maintaining culture. This rids your team and organization of negativity.

    Liked by 1 person

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