Leadership: The power of Vertical Alignment

Gavrav Kataria

22+ yrs of experience across Digital Transformation, Technology, consulting, marketing & strategy. Strong operations capabilities & ability to drive large strategic programs across globally dispersed teams.

Some time back I wrote a blog about the “Inner Values” and how it differentiates a leader from an outstanding leader. (link to the previous post).

I got some great feedback about the post and I thank you all for the same. In the feedback some of you also brought about the point that if we use a basic primes that all people are good human beings, then why arn’t all people outstanding leaders. A great question!

There are many traits that are needed for being regarded as an outstanding leader, but as per me there are two that do not get enough emphasis. In this post I want to try and highlight them.

A. Vertical Alignment:

We all have our own way to prioritize operational tasks, but how do we sub-consciously priority complex decisions. This internal deep rooted prioritization mechanism (closely linked to our inner core) is what I call “Vertical Alignment“.

 For me my vertical alignment is:

  1. God
  2. Profession
  3. Family
  4. Friends

People have different variants of this and some even split Family into “Immediate Family” and “Extended Family”, but the fact is that the vertical alignment plays a critical role in decision making as a leader. Let me try and elaborate.

1. God: When I mention “God” as the highest priority, I am actually referring to a higher power, who keeps the individual grounded, humble and humane at all times. For me it is “God”, for someone else, it could be their idol or role model or anyone else.

2. Profession: This is a little tricky one. You might say, how can you give work higher priority over family and are you just saying this to please your bosses. But the fact is that this alignment has always worked for me. A few reasons:

  • My profession provides for me and my family
  • Keeping my profession above family always keeps me honest to my profession. There are times in one’s profession when you might be presented with options to make easy money and the choice of the right path is less lucrative. It is times like this when this alignment has always helped me uphold my integrity. Integrity for me is the most important value and something that is non-negotiable.

3. Family: This is the most important part of our lives and this is what we live and work for. Though for me they are at no. 3, they understand why and support me.

4. Friends: You all are the support system that we all need. In good times and bad, you all are always there and that for me is priceless. Thanks!

B. The second trait is a simple yet most critical: Doing the right thing even when no one is looking! Though this sounds obvious, this trait really differentiates leaders and creates the transparency and predictability their teams expect.

In my experience of working with and observing outstanding leaders, recognizing the power of “Vertical Alignment” and “Doing the right thing even when no one is looking” has differentiated these leaders among the many leader that surround us!

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