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  • Jordan Kerner

How to Lead... Horizontally

Leadership Isn't Synonymous With Authority

Many people in the world stand firm on the idea you shouldn’t live or work with your close friends. The main rebuttal point in this philosophy essentially comes down to being unable to effectively lead and handle conflict with people with whom you have a close relationship. In many regards, this is a totally understandable philosophy as lines do get blurred; and it can be difficult handling conflict with people you have no direct authority over. That’s the keyword though, isn’t it? Authority. We have somehow come to the idea that the only reason to listen to someone or take direction from someone is if they have a direct authority over us. Is this something you do? When you have a peer that gives you a directive, asks for some help, or even provides feedback, do your walls go up? Is it hard for you to take direction from someone not in authority? It’s okay if you are, you’re not alone. If you truly care about how to get better at this or even understand why you have that reaction, I can give you an answer with one simple word: PRIDE.

Pride is such a dangerous word. It can mean someone has confidence or is satisfied with a job well-done, or it could resemble a total hinderance of growth. I’ve often said that potential is directly linked to coachability. If I am working with someone, under someone, over someone, or even observing someone, and I see that they really struggle with being coached, I have immediately found their growth ceiling. Sadly, it’s not very high. If you want to grow in your career, you have to be coachable, not always by your boss but also by your peers. No one is above making mistakes, being wrong, or learning new tricks and tips. Humble yourself and accept wisdom from every source. You will not regret it.

Coach, Guide, and Lower Your Pride

But how do you effectively lead a peer, especially one you may have evaluated as someone that’s tough to coach and work with? I’m going to give an answer, and it’s something I will say over and over again. Be the guide. When you’re providing feedback, let them know how your advice will add value to their role, or maybe even life. If someone is especially difficult to work with, you may have to ask for their permission to provide some feedback. Leadership is service first. In order for the whole to succeed, each part has to submit themselves to each other. Whether you are in a space to provide or receive feedback from a peer, remember you are in a constant cycle of submission and service to one another for the betterment of the whole. I know one thing for sure. I would hate for my pride to be in the way of the growth of the company I work for. I know this to be true as well; truth and actions always come out and find the light of day at some point. If you were in a space of little support for a period of time and it hurt the company, it will come out one day. Teammates that refuse to be team players will always be exposed as time goes on. The ability to lead and be led by your peers is crucial to organizational success. As a basketball coach, I always said, “The best teams are always player led teams.” This doesn’t mean that you are “letting the inmates run the prison,” necessarily. But you are, however, allowing your people the space and trust to submit and serve one another.

Do yourself and your company a favor. Keep yourself off the trading block. Be a great team player; be the guide and submit and serve everyone in your organization. Yes, even that coworker you may not like…

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