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Dynamic Achievement Blog connecting corporate culture to success

How leadership with a vertical mindset can benefit organizational communications

Posted by Kirby James in


Dynamic Achievement has created a framework to describe the Mindset of Leaders and Organizations and refers to them as either more Horizontal or more Vertical.

What does this mean and how can observing everyday communication inform you?

First, organizations that are more Horizontal commonly display the following behaviours:

Distractions dominate. Your employees are distracted and your managers are spending a lot of time dealing with small issues and problems when they should be focusing on your vision and goals.

Silos and Conflict are common. People are not working well together and each department is guarding its own turf instead of working toward their common goals. 

Arrogance and Egos emerge in meetings, emails and conversations. There are a lot of egos strutting around believing they already know it all and are above everyone else. This indicates that people are closed off and not open to hearing ideas and suggestions that might be better than their own and that could improve the business.

Lack of Accountability, especially by leaders. Your employees are not taking full responsibility for their goals and their role in the company. Instead of focusing on improvement, they make excuses for poor performance and incomplete assignments and lament that they aren’t paid enough. Truth is, the culture leaders create is usually the root of this scenario.

By comparison, key attributes of more Vertical Leaders:

Set the vision and direction for the organization.

Lead by example.

Innovative and constantly learning.

Values driven. 




So how does communication fit into this?

It’s easy to see, once you embrace the ideas of Horizontal and Vertical Mindsets.
People who are more Horizontal usually show these traits:

  1. They say “but” often. This comes from the desire to be “right” rather than to truly be open to understanding.
  2. Listening skills are often poor and there is little interest in actually being open to new ideas.
    Conversations, emails and meetings are dominated by “I”, “me” and “my” as they speak and write, rather than “us” and “we.” This often parallels with being egocentric, insecure and having fear of others being right.
  3. Oriented towards solving “problems” rather than creating the result that is needed. Meetings often are dominated by dialogue about making the problem and symptoms “go away.” Very little focus is on understanding the underlying structure of why things are the way they are.

Approximately 85% of people tend to be Horizontal more often, which means these communication traits are common too.

In our workshops we guide people to understand the difference between being more Horizontal and more Vertical, as well as how to become more Vertical by design. As well, we coach people on how our communication style reveals our Mindset and help them move into a more Vertical Leadership style that can proliferate throughout your organization.

So the next time you are in a meeting, sit back and take notice. Keep count of the “buts” and observe how people listen. For yourself, take a look at the last few emails you sent. Are they dominated by “I” and “me” and “my”? If so, that correspondence may have been coming from a more Horizontal orientation.

To take the next step in developing a Culture of Leadership Excellence in your organization, download our free eBook:

Download the Free Culture of Leadership Excellence eBook


Kirby James, General Manager – Organizational Effectiveness, Dynamic Achievement kirby@dynamicachievement.com is a renowned speaker on communication and currently facilitates workshops with MITACS on Communicating with Impact to PhD’s and post-doctoral fellows.