FLEXING: Whole New Leadership Muscles

Leadership today should be viewed as a lateral adventure–not a linear journey.


Society today is obsessed with the limelight and CEO superstars, including Mark Zuckerberg, IBM’s Virginia Rometty and Starbucks’ Howard Schultz. This focus on the top dogs devalues the crucial role of countless counselors, coaches, and deputies who lead throughout organizations. The implication is if you’re not striving to be number one, then you must lack ambition or the guts to give it a go. “He’s a good number two” is often a deliberate, damning assessment of someone’s unsuitability for the hot seat.

Being second in command need not be a step down, or a step back. Actually, it may be your first choice. Times have changed. New generations of aspiring leaders, for whom career ladders do not exist, see lateral moves as opportunities to progress. Each new job is a chance to test a different leadership muscle, whether as project or team leader or as a quiet contributor to the collective leadership endeavor.


In fact, millennials see opportunities for growth and leadership in new ways that extend beyond the hierarchy. Their evolving attitude and appetite for multiple jobs in their lifetime is supported by data from the Emerging Leaders Program at London Business School. Leadership today should be viewed as a lateral adventure–not a linear journey.

Every organization needs its ultimately accountable leader–its A to make final decisions on core elements of strategy and execution, but every A needs a powerful and diverse team of C leaders beside them: legitimate consiglieri who act as lodestones, educators, anchors, and deliverers. These consiglieri are ambitious, talented leaders in their own right: happy to be accountable yet driven by motivations that are fundamentally different from A leaders. READ MORE

Illustration Credit: Horizon Fire