Business Columns & Blogs

Are you inspirational, a builder or a trailblazer? Ask questions to see what leader you and your team need

Linda Clark-Santos
Linda Clark-Santos Boise State University

Models of leadership abound – some complex, others simple. However, on examination, most models cluster around three concepts:

▪  Inspiring Example: The first cluster focuses on leaders as role models. Their words and deeds demonstrate what is right and good. Ideally, their speech and deeds are closely aligned, thereby showing people they can be trusted. Such alignment displays fully and openly what the leader values and what those values look like in action. Leaders who mindfully set a fitting example bring out the best in others and challenge them to behave accordingly.

As humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner Albert Schweitzer said: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It’s the only thing.”

▪  Team Builder: The second cluster focuses on relationships. Skilled leaders recognize that their success rests with their ability to engage others and harness their collective energy to achieve common goals. At various times, they play the role of servant leaders, as eloquently described by researcher and author Robert Greenleaf. Other times they operate as team players, binding the group together as they roll up their sleeves and contribute their own hard work. At still other times they play the role of cheerleaders, offering enthusiastic vocal support. Or they serve as coach, giving feedback and encouragement from the sidelines. But in each case, the leader works with others to get the job done.

As retail entrepreneur Henry Gordon Selfridge once said: “The boss says, ‘Go.’ The leader says, ‘Let’s go.’ 

▪  Trailblazer: The final cluster centers on leaders as visionaries and innovators. As management pioneer Mary Parker Follett wrote, these people see things that are not yet there. They are masterful change agents who see opportunity where others see adversity. By developing, communicating and implementing strategy, they play the most critical role of connecting people to the future.

It is unlikely – and perhaps unnecessary – that any one leader will master all of these dimensions. However, every organization needs its leadership team to fulfill these roles: inspiring others, building strong working relationships, and positioning the organization for future success.

Of these three, consider where you and your leadership team excel and where you can improve. Better yet, ask questions to learn more about what your organization needs from you and your team.

Linda Clark-Santos, Ph.D., has extensive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. LCSBUSINESSINSIDER@GMAIL.COM.