Inverting the Pyramid

When you think about a typical organisation chart, it looks like a pyramid, with the people in senior leadership and management positions at the top of the pyramid. As you work your way down, you’ll find customer service staff and administrative employees at the bottom.

In other words, the “big wigs” are at the top, while the workers are at the bottom. The unwritten basic premise of the pyramid is the “important” people are at the top, and the less important you are, the lower your position on the pyramid.

Role Reversal

What would happen if you were to invert that pyramid? What if client-facing employees were at the top, and you had to work your way down to the senior management team at the bottom (including you?) the people who should be supporting them?

How would that make you feel? Would you still feel like a valuable part of the company?

Many people at the base of the pyramid may feel as if they don’t have a voice. Even though they are on the “front lines,” they might assume their ideas won’t be taken seriously because they are closer to the bottom of the pyramid than the top. A recent Harvard Business Review survey found that 54 percent of employees reported that their bosses don’t respect them.

As a result, some employees may experience feelings of diminished self-worth and powerlessness.

Along those same lines, some managers may feel superior to those “beneath them” because of their elevated status on the pyramid. If they may view those beneath them as lacking ambition or not very bright, there’s a good chance their employees may sense that.

These feelings may not be spoken publicly by either side, but the divisions they create could subliminally affect the company’s bottom line.

Motivate Instead of Alienate

If you want to encourage people to exercise their leadership potential, it’s your job to demonstrate that you support autonomy and make it clear that innovation is welcomed in your organisation. This only happens when employees believe that management has their back.

If you want your team to provide great service to customers, make it your mission to provide great service to the team itself. By supporting and championing the progress of your direct reports, so that a culture of service permeates throughout your organisation.

Support and encourage their growth and productivity. Make sure they know the goal is to instil a culture of service that permeates throughout your organisation.

Most people have to work, but the goal is have your employees want to work for you and see the company succeed. This will result in a win-win situation for you, your employees, and your customers.

The idea of inverting the pyramid is to position the ‘leader’ as somebody whose role it is to find, identify and remove obstacles that would inhibit anyone who reports to them when performing their role.

As a leader, it is your job to serve your team, ensuring that you deal with any issues or obstacles that crop up. Employees should feel they are just as important as the CEO, because they are. The most talented CEO won’t get far without the support of dedicated and motivated employees.

Change Your Thought Process

You might have heard employees complain that the “leaders are not providing any leadership.” What they often really mean is that ‘those with authority’ are not providing enough leadership. So, it helps to look at leadership as a verb rather than as a noun. When we do that, we see that leadership is something that can be exercised throughout and from outside the organisation, not just from the top down.

Action Step: Banish the word leader from your vocabulary. Use leadership as a verb rather than a noun.

If a person walks into your company for the first time, they should be able to tell who understands what leadership is. Not by their attire or office location, but by their actions.

Leadership means bringing out the best in your employees and giving them room to excel. Leadership is not putting others down, it’s uplifting them. Leadership is looking at the big picture: happy employees make for happy customers, and happy customers will lead to increased sales and profits.

Invert the pyramid and let the leadership flow!

Inverting the pyramid is the third lesson I covered in my Special Report “Untapped: how to harness the potential of your unnatural leaders”. You can discover more ideas for unleashing leadership potential within your team using the resources section below.

Explore Additional Resources:

  1. Review: Employees Don’t Feel Respected By Their Bosses courtesy of Harvard Business Review
  2. Special Report: Untapped: how to harness the potential of your unnatural leaders by Glenn A. Williams

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