Stepping Sideways

Unless you are the owner of the company, or the chairperson of the board, we need to do away with the overwhelmingly negative implications of ‘moving up.’ Unless you are in charge, all moves within an organization need to be seen as lateral. Hierarchical structures lead to undue stress and manipulation. Changing roles in a company needs to seen as stepping sideways.

The problem with structures

If the goal of having a hierarchy in the building is to build positive leadership, it will fail miserably. No, it’s not about the competition or the ‘cream rising to the top.’ In many cases, where there are a limited number of leadership positions, hiring becomes a matter of nepotism and politics.

Some would argue that these are necessary traits. The best person for the job is the most qualified and political. But in these circumstances, politics has a heavy finger on the scales. This means the most political, rather than most qualified, gets the role.

Don’t get me wrong. Being political isn’t necessarily terrible in and of itself. It’s just not a trait that fosters collaboration or openness. If the people you are working with don’t know if they can trust you, they will be guarded. If all you care about is the perspective of your superiors, you won’t care about your peers.

Take those same traits and put them in leadership. All of a sudden, it’s not about the role, it’s about the perspective of it. Now we start to attach strange things like social status to it. Political leaders will not be satisfied where they are and will constantly be on the lookout for their next ‘move up.’

Shifting the steps

But if we can shift the focus to lateral moves, and takeaway the backwards notion of upward mobility within the hierarchy, we can start to make real changes. Being in a leadership role would no longer make you ‘better than.’ That means qualified individuals could move in and out of roles without disparity. It’s not ‘stepping down’, just stepping sideways.

That also means that the best person for the job in that moment would always have the opportunity to do so. And the person who contributed so much to the organization could continue, even if in a different role.

Now you have loyalty, leadership, and a clear path to diversity.

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