Your Career Needs to Be Horizontal

By Ron Ashkenas   Article

“Most of us have grown up assuming that career success is vertical. We climb the ladder and move from junior positions to senior ones. As such, we implicitly compete with others because there are fewer positions as we advance. It’s like a reality show where people get kicked off the island.

The problem with this powerful paradigm is that today’s work is no longer divided up into small tasks that require higher and higher layers of management to put together. Instead most work is accomplished through horizontal processes that cut across different functions, geographies, and specialties. Therefore real success comes less from controlling people that report to you, and more from the ability to align stakeholders who surround you.

Given the hierarchical structures of most organizations, we will still have upward career paths. More and more however, the real contributors will be the process owners and project leaders that are able to provide horizontal leadership. To support this shift, organizations will need to reward and recognize horizontal contributions as much, if not more, than hierarchical positions. At the same time, each of us will need to overcome our personal assumptions about moving up the career ladder, and think more about how we add value across.”

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