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The Importance of Lateral Leadership

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When I was first starting out building and leading teams in the fabrication industry, I made the mistake of trying to tackle situations on my own. I did not have partners to help me; I felt like it was up to me alone to attack the challenges I was facing.

I quickly learned that it is lonely at the top. While many people try to argue that finding success on your own is good or that it makes you elite, it is important to know that it is scary and dangerous. The problem with trying to lead on your own is that you have no one who is able to give you the advice, encouragement, and honesty you need to lead well. 

Why lateral leadership?

Leadership relationships can make a huge difference. Instead of trying to handle issues or make decisions on your own, lateral relationships, like ones with a peer group or an individual coach, can provide support, criticism, and tough love as you try to navigate different challenges. Meeting regularly with a group of people or an individual who understands your goals and supports them through strategic conversations is invaluable.

During these conversations, you can reflect on past and present problems and ideas. You will also be able to listen to their observations and opinions and create strategies together. If you have an idea, you can run it past someone you trust who will be honest with you, ensuring your ideas is as good as possible. If you find yourself starting to move away from your goals, these lateral relationships can help redirect you and give you a new focus.

Moving toward lateral leadership

Even with the benefits of lateral leadership, some of you might shy away from forming these relationships because of the potential challenges that arise from initiating these meetings and conversations. You might be wondering how you can approach others to build these relationships and keep them going over time.

If this worry is influencing your thoughts about lateral leadership, ask yourself this question: Is the challenge of finding this group of peers worth missing out on all the advantages of receiving insight and support from other leaders? When I think of the value that comes from building leadership relationships, I know I cannot afford not to meet with others.

Here are two steps you can take to overcome this challenge and embrace lateral leadership:

Find people who respect your goals

When you are looking to embrace lateral leadership, it is important for you to find an individual or a group of people who both understand where you are going and are willing to provide the support necessary to help you get there. Stop right now and think of some people who you trust who would be happy to help you grow and accomplish your goals.

Set up a regular meeting time

Many people who try to lone wolf their way to the top find it difficult to reach out to someone when they need help. This is why it is crucial for you to already have someone on the books to meet with regularly. Whether you are facing a challenge or you just need additional support, you will always have people who are expecting to hear from you without needing to be asked.

Make sure to meet frequently. No excuses, no reschedules, and no cancellations. If you make regular meetings a priority, it will not take long for you to reap the benefits of lateral leadership.

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