Top down, bottom up!

June 29, 2018

Laura discusses how ditching a ‘top down’ approach to leadership can help you cultivate a more collaborative approach in your business. 

By Laura Hayden

The traditional model of leadership comes from the top and filters down through the organisation. This blog outlines why this leadership model belongs in the 19th century and should join Dinosaurs and the Dodo in extinction.

Leaders who favour the top-down approach will find it incredibly difficult to gain buy-in from everyone in the organisation, as even with the best intentions and outstanding communication, they will be sharing the business plan from their own perspective, which will have been created without any input from the wider organisation. Engaging and motivating employees without achieving buy-in or gaining their input is not easy – regardless of how strong the leadership skills. 

Imagine training someone in IT when they have no desire to fix computers. They may be able to learn how to get the job done, but they won’t do it with passion. Enthusiasm is one of the key ingredients for productivity and productivity gets results!

So, how can leaders cultivate a collaborative approach?! The answer – ditch the top-down leadership model! Lead through the organisation, actively seek input, be open to suggestions and be transparent – these are all key components in understanding the collective vision. 

If the team feel that they have been involved in setting the direction of the business, they are far more likely to be motivated to achieve the end goal and have a sense of ownership and responsibility in accomplishing this.


  • They feel valued and part of a team.
  • They understand the overall business aims.
  • Their goals and objectives will link to the business aims.
  • Their training and development can be relevant for them personally and for the business.
  • They can see how they have had an impact on the success of the business.
  • They are motivated and engaged.
  • They care about the end result.

Other positive impacts that will naturally result from a collaborative approach are:

  • Self-selection in the first instance. Those who don’t agree with the majority approach will likely make the decision that the company isn’t for them and this isn’t a bad thing!
  • A better understanding of the type of person you are looking for to fill these vacancies – this should come from a values exercise (which of course should involve the team!)
  • You can then recruit to values rather than on the basis of ability alone.
  • From this, you will likely see stronger retention.



People truly are key to organisational success – if they are involved, engaged, trusted and passionate about the business, the results will follow. 

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