In the old hierarchical organization, power ruled . In that environment, teams were an aggregation of individuals, usually from the same function, who were led by whomever occupied the pivotal power position in the chain of command. Although subordinates on the team were allowed to express themselves , they typically participated as information sources who served at the behest of the leader or decision maker.
The horizontal organization swept away a good deal of the old-order detritus of power. In the new paradigm, the one who wins is not the person with the most clout, but the one who possesses the right combination of strategic instinct and content capability, the ability to establish rapport, and the power of persuasion.
When Susan Fullman was director of distribution for United Airlines, she occupied a unique position in an organization transitioning to a horizontal structure. She was a cross-functional player in a hierarchical context. Her success hinged on her ability to influence rather than command:
I was the only cross-functional person in the company. I had to interface with the director of just about every function: sales, reservations , pricing, marketing, operations, finance, I.T. These people weren't my subordinates; they were my peers. I didn't have any authority over them. They weren't used to having someone come into their area and start making suggestions about how they should run their business. The only way to succeed was to "sell" my vision to each director. And I couldn't do that without improving my interpersonal skills: learning to clearly articulate my ideas, depersonalize the way I made my case, develop my powers of persuasionand, above all, learn to listen to each person and adjust my approach to address their specific concerns.