Breaking Down the Corporate Ladder: Why You Need Flat Leadership

Barry Salzberg has been the CEO of Deloitte LLP in the US since 2007 and will take on the role [...]

May 12 2011 by

Barry Salzberg has been the CEO of Deloitte LLP in the US since 2007 and will take on the role of global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited this June. Having been with the company for his entire 34-year career, Salzberg has strong feelings about the future of the corporate leadership landscape. Salzberg recently spoke at a University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Leadership Lecture about the need for “flat” or transparent leadership structures. No longer should leadership come solely from the upper echelons of a company, but rather from all across the company says Knowledge@Wharton’s coverage of the lecture.

Employees, according to Salzberg, are no long willing to remain quiet. And superiors should not silence them. Leadership should be fostered from the beginning; that’s where the future strength of the company will come from. If you break down seniority (and the corporate ladder) you’ll build a better company; Salzberg calls this the “lattice.” Building a lattice allows for horizontal movement.

Here are some of the important points from Salzberg’s lecture:

  1. “I’ve proved it over and over during my career, that you never know where the best ideas will come from. If you build a supportive environment where everyone is expected to contribute, you’ll get synergies and creative ideas you never imagined were possible.”
  2. “The corporate lattice metaphor signals a shift in mindset. It’s better reflective of today’s employees, who want variety and flexibility and reject a one-size-fits-all approach.”
  3. The “no ostriches, no elephants” principle: “No burying your head in the sand if there’s a problem, and no ignoring the elephant in the room. Much better to name and tame and issue, no matter how difficult it is.”
  4. Have concrete mentoring options in place. Salzberg has even built Deloitte University in Westlake, TX in 2011 to teach Deloitte professionals.

Read: Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg on Leadership as ‘the Norm, Not the Exception’