A 360° Leadership Approach

It is natural for people to look at those in a leadership role and think that it is pretty easy to sit in the boss’ chair. After all, isn’t leadership about telling people what to do and then watching them while they do it? Not quite.

An authentic leader is someone who can lead in all directions — leading down to those you have authority over, leading laterally to those across the hierarchical structure, leading up to those who supervise over you and leading yourself before leading others. This concept is called 360° leadership.

Leading Down

This is what comes to mind when most people think of “leading” — leading people who report to you and whom you have some sort of “authority” over. Although that may be true, the use of power and authority — even when it is legitimately available — should not always be exercised. Effective 360° leadership when “leading down” isn’t about getting our way through force; it’s about helping those we lead see the same vision we see for the future of our department, division or organization.

Leading Laterally

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Leading Up

While many people assume that leading up is not possible or necessary, it is important and is usually seen as the most difficult direction in the 360° model. Leading those who supervise you is critical to your success, whether that is personal, departmental or organizational.

Leading Self

Most people will overlook the importance of self-leadership. They’ll forget that it’s impossible to give to others what you, yourself, do not possess in the first place. Self-leadership is about creating the necessary habits, procedures and processes in your own life that warrants your ability to offer leadership to others. If you cannot effectively lead yourself, most people will find it difficult to accept your offer to lead them.

According to John C. Maxwell, author of the New York Times’ best seller The 360° Leader, “Becoming a 360° leader is within reach of anyone who possesses average or better leadership skills and is willing to work at it.”

Being a great leader doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a skill that must be developed continuously. Your influence is greater than you know, and by becoming a 360° leader, you will be able to make a sustainable impact on everyone you encounter.

About the Author

Daniel RundhaugDaniel Rundhaug is the Executive Director at Davenport University’s Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx). He excels in both leadership and management skill sets, being able to create and communicate visionary direction to support and nurture employee development. He may be reached at 616-233-2582 or

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