Hierarchies can stifle communication, but managers can help by communicating across the organisation.

Building relationships up and down the hierarchical ladder

In today’s world, a junior staffer straight out of leadership training can quite easily tweet a CEO and expect a reply. The lines that have traditionally segregated those with power and influence and those without have become blurred.

Even with communication skills training, hierarchies can still stifle relationships.

Yet have hierarchical power structures really changed over the last century?

Hierarchy still prominent on the commercial landscape

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer starts many of his classes by asking his students about traditional organisational structures. Like many millennials, Pfeffer’s pupils believe that the current models of power are irrelevant and companies are becoming flatter and more dynamic.

However, the professor of organisational behaviour believes that this perspective is false.

“There’s this belief that we are all living in some postmodernist, egalitarian, merit-based paradise and that everything is different in companies now,” he told his US college. “But in reality, it’s not.”

Traditional power structures work because there is inherent value in higher and lower hierarchical positions. Specifically, Pfeffer believes they satisfy need fulfilment in relation to order and security.

Yet, hierarchies have the potential to stifle communication, collaboration and even innovation. Managers must then ensure they are aware of how their position in the hierarchy impacts others around them, including those above and below.

What can the US Army teach us about situational leadership?What can the US Army teach us about situational leadership?

Leadership positions change perspectives

Speaking to the Kellogg Insight, US Army Chief of Staff Col Brian Halloran argued that leadership changes one’s point of view, and each position on the organisational ladder alters a person’s perspective.

For Col Halloran believes that leaders need to always be situational, adjusting their goals to ensure solutions are developed on time. One of the ways he accomplishes this is through the use of the US military’s “Two Up/Two Down” model.

“When I get my assignment, I not only have to understand my mission,” Halloran said. “I’ve got to understand my boss’s mission – and my boss’s boss’s mission – and where my goals fit into that.

“What that does is it helps prevent me doing something that works great at my level but ends up causing a bigger problem for the overall organisation.”

While this may seem like a waste of time in an environment where people are not being shot at, it has the distinct advantage of opening up communication between people in different roles. The consequence of this is that leaders are more aware of their direct reports, helping to ensure strategic alignment up and down the organisation.

“When you’re circulating and getting to know people in your organisation two levels down, you have a better flow of information,” Halloran says. “You can make sure that people understand why certain tasks are being asked to be done, where it fits in the big picture, and how we’re all actually going to benefit.”

If you would like to know more about the types of leadership styles and how they can help you, contact a quality leadership training provider today.


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