Organisational leaders dream of everyone ‘buying into’ their plans. Wouldn’t it be nice if your colleagues just assumed responsibility and accountability, without being told? But what does it mean in practice? Are you really ready for it?

It took me two years to find out that, if we’re honest, what it probably means is that we want people to do their jobs without being told. Which I used to think was different from wanting them to ‘do what they’re told’. But is it?

Think of it this way: do you want people to ‘buy’ into your plans? Or to ‘own’ them?

Our learning since the Lasting Leadership guide came out in February 2020 is that ownership is far more powerful, but far from pain free. So we’ve updated the guide, splitting it into four separate sections to give them each the weight they deserve. The first, Lateral Leadership is out now.

One person can’t deliver a strategic plan, so why are strategies usually seen as ‘belonging’ to the Chief Officer or senior team? Leadership isn’t a job title or positional authority – it’s the ability to spot need, identify opportunities and take responsibility. Devolving leadership acknowledges that everyone in an organisation has knowledge, experience, skills and enthusiasm which they can bring to help an organisation achieve its goals – if they are given the opportunity.

Lateral leadership involves people taking ownership, autonomy, and accountability regardless of their role or place in the hierarchy.

The five word summary for stressed executives is ‘share power and build capacity’.

The 50 word version is:

  • Lateral leadership recognises that leadership exists in every corner of organisations.
  • It involves people taking ownership and accountability for the organisation’s vision and outcomes.
  • Leaders need to be willing let go,
  • Because leadership capacity needs to be nurtured, with room to grow.

These might sound like obvious, desirable things. But lateral leadership presents a fundamental challenge to the ways we have been brought up to think about organisation, control and influence. Assumptions that run very deep in our society and organisational systems.

This can be challenging for everyone involved, which is where the ‘not pain free’ part comes in. It takes trust to promote ownership, participation, agency and self-direction. To let go of having to have the answers. It takes proper, skilled leadership to let others find their own answers and lead the way there.

The Lasting Leadership guide helps by equipping you with:

  • Clear principles
  • Practices – ideas for action, grounded in real life examples
  • Interactive templates for assessment, action planning and delegation
  • And, for those ready to unlock the power of distributed leadership, a template for designing your own lateral leadership development programme.

You can read more about lateral leadership here and download the full interactive PDF here or via

The guide is free and uses a Creative Commons licence. In this spirit, please pass it on to everyone who might benefit from ‘buying into’ lateral leadership.