Vertical or Horizontal, Which Way Do You Lead?
Vic, after 22 years with his company, was just promoted to executive. Congrats, Vic, you deserve it! Vic is ambitious, empathetic, a wicked-good problem solver, long term thinker, and driven by healthy competitiveness.
Vic is now VP of operations. In his previous management role he was responsible for effectively leading a team and ensuring that they consistently met and exceeded goals set by senior management. Now Vic finds himself in that rare position of being part of the executive team. In my experience of thousands of hours of executive coaching I have found that the transition to Senior executive poses a unique and nuanced challenge to the new executive’s mindset.
The critical difference between a manager and an executive is this: the difference is how one views the organization. Effective managers tend to look at their organization as a vertical reality, and effective leaders/executives view their organization as a horizontal reality. In a vertical view mindset the manager is responsible for a function – one’s team or department for which they are held accountable. In a horizontal view mindset the executive views the entire organization as their responsibility, regardless of the function that they are leading. The term that I use for horizontal mindset is Stewardship.
A vertrical mindset store owner in a mall will work effortlessly to increase the sales of their store; a horizontal mindset store owner in a mall will place effort to enliven the entire mall, reconginzing the spillover effect to her store. A vertical mindset farmer will tend to the crops in his field, working to maximize his yield. A horizontal mindset farmer will engage with all his neighboring farms to ensure total environmental quality and exhchange of best practices. A vertical mindset school mom volunteers for her child’s class – energizing the classroom and the learning; a horizontal mindset school mom joins the PTA to improve the entire learning environment of her child.
Here are some of the signs of effective stewardship:
- Problem solving begins with asking “why;” why is this a problem the for the entire organization, why is solving this an improvement for the entire organization?
- While solving problems, you are constantly looking to understand how the solution might affect other parts of the organization
- You consider all other functions and all of the people in the organization as your customers
- You don’t hold back from giving input and ideas in areas that are not your domain, when you see that you can make a contribution
- You find yourself worrying about the entire organization and not only about your team or your department
- You recognize that succession is your responsibility and promote your people based on their talents and goals + organizational needs
Being a Steward of your organization is a role you CAN fill whether you are a manager or executive. However, when you arrive at the senior level of leading your organization, you MUST adopt a Stewardship role – anything less is small minded.