Dimensions of Leadership
By Fred Latala
Part 1 - overview of the Dimensions of Leadership series
Leadership has many dimensions, just ask anyone and you will probably get a good but different answer. As I have progressed in my life and career, I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by some outstanding people that directly and indirectly molded my leadership style. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, some of the greatest lessons occurred during the most difficult times. Three axioms that have held true are “Lead by example”, “The true test of someone is how they act in a difficult situation”, and “There is no substitute for integrity”. Keep these in mind, as I will give context throughout this series.
I am convinced that leadership is not something that can be taught in solely an academic setting or absorbed by reading articles like this. It must be experienced, observed and honed. It truly is a gift and a skill. I am sure you have heard the phrase “natural born leader”. I believe that there certainly people that have a greater acumen for leadership but I would challenge that it is a born capability. More likely it is a combination of personality and experience. With that said I think everyone has an innate capability to be a leader in some facet of their life if they invest in developing the competency. It is hard to have credibility as a leader and mentor if you have not mastered the areas you are coaching in.
Leadership can be formal and informal in all aspects of our lives professionally and personally. There are cases where each of us are assigned leadership positions and others where we may knowingly or unknowingly assume leadership. In many of these cases it is critical to remember that those around you are observing you in good times and in bad. Consistency and being a good example come into play here. Remember the three axioms listed above.
I have used a simple framework to remind myself of the areas I need to continually invest in to maintain and grow my personal leadership skills. As I have worked with future leaders I have expanded this framework for use as a coaching tool. I will discuss the five dimensions - Lead, Run, Vision, Skills, and Grow at a high level here and dive into each in subsequent articles. It is important to note that this is intended as a framework to guide discussions and as a reminder of areas to focus on.
A key element of the framework is that it is intended to develop the individual personally as well as equip them to help others in their role as leader. After all, leadership is about inspiring and helping others achieve their best, not just about hitting a target. The framework is also constructed to be integrated and the dimensions support each other.
Lead – One must be equipped to lead to be a leader, sounds obvious huh? This dimension focuses on the interaction with those whom you are leading. It is as much about the “what” as it is about the “how”. I learned so much in my life by seeing others in action, both good and bad. Don’t forget it takes time and effort to gain credibility and a millisecond to lose it.
Run – This dimension has a results-based focus. One must achieve their goals to remain in the role no matter what type of leadership is being discussed. In a corporate or competitive setting, you are measured directly and your longevity and upward mobility is typically directly related. In a volunteer setting you may not be fired but ultimately you will not be fulfilling the mission you intended by volunteering.
Vision – Leaders must look to the future. It is critical to have a compelling vision that others can understand and rally around. Your role as leader is to paint the picture of what the future can look like, coach, mentor and enable your team to be wildly successful. If you give people a chance, they will amaze you. Just remember to get out of the way and let them do what they do best.
Skills – These are the table stakes needed to be a leader. If you do not have the ability to do your personal role effectively, it is hard to help others. Do not be confused on this point. You do not have to be the definitive expert on every element of what your team is responsible for, you do need to be competent so that you can provide context and guidance.
Grow - Learning is a lifelong pursuit. In order to be effective as a leader you must evolve. Life, technology, your industry all will change. You need to invest in yourself and find great people around you to observe and to provide you with honest feedback with a positive spirit.
Leadership is one of the most fulfilling aspects my life. Seeing and knowing you have helped others achieve is an amazing feeling.
Next up in the series is a deep dive on the first dimension – Lead.