Talent Connection Blog

Organizational leadership can be structured in several different ways. Each organization is most successful with one structure over the others. So which structure of organizational leadership works best for your organization? Take a look at these 3 main structures and the pros and cons of each to see which one works best for your organization.

Vertical vs. Horizontal

Vertical or top-down leadership refers to a chain of command, with multiple levels of management each reporting to the one above. In this case, decisions are handled in the top tier. This is often more efficient for larger organizations than horizontal leadership is because it doesn’t require waiting for several groups to collaborate and make a decision.

Horizontal or side-by-side leadership focuses on teamwork. In this structure, everyone is included in decision making processes. This method is effective for team building and, if your team members share a similar mindset, for making unanimously accepted decisions efficiently. It is often most compatible with smaller businesses and start-ups.

Defined vs. Shared

Defined leadership coincides with vertical leadership. There is an easily recognizable chain of command and no confusion over who to report to. Defined leadership prevents the confusion of who is in charge of who.

Meanwhile, shared leadership coincides with horizontal leadership. Responsibility and leadership are scattered throughout the organization. Although this allows employees to easily see how their work efforts contribute to the bigger picture, it has its negative side as well. This structure may cause confusion over what each employee’s role is within the company, which could cause hiccups in projects and processes when employees are unsure who to report to.

Need-to-know vs. Transparent

More often than not, larger companies that are vertically structured choose to only share information with other tiers on a need-to-know basis to save time and avoid confusion. However, whenever information does need to be shared, there is the possibility of the information getting muddled as it is passed along.

Transparency opens up lines of communication; this is more often found in horizontal leadership types. Although it can be used in vertical types, it is less efficient to have the leadership team constantly trying to communicate with others, making it less common.

There is no wrong way to structure your organization’s leadership, but there are certain structures that are more compatible than others. Now it’s up to you: will your leadership style be more compatible as vertical and defined with information being shared only on a need-to-know basis, or horizontal and shared with higher levels of transparency?