The Six Dimensions of a Leader

Guest blog By David C. Miller

In their book, The Hands-Off Manager, authors Steve Chandler and Duane Black state that the number one reason for quitting that employees cite in exit interviews is “my manager.”

Today’s business environment demands that professionals at all levels become transformational leaders. Here I briefly explore six dimensions that a leader must operate in to produce transformational results.

Dave Miller PhotoDimension One: Leading Yourself

As a leader, you must walk the talk and model the way. Your words will fall on deaf ears if people don’t see you living out the values you talk about.  For example, a recent survey done by one of my corporate clients revealed that lowest area of employee satisfaction was that “our senior management does not reflect our core values.”

Make no mistake about it: your team is watching what you do. The number one quality people look for in a leader is integrity. You must model the way to be a masterful leader.

Dimension Two: Leading Upwards

The place to start when leading others is to help people connect with a compelling vision. They must be hungry for this result before the knowledge you impart makes sense and becomes usable. 

As a leader, you want to emotionally connect to people—make them want a better future. Once you achieve that, they will be more than willing to achieve great results, as well as to do the work to grow, achieve and reach their potential.

Dimension Three: Leading To Responsibility

When I work with leaders in organizations, I teach them how to coach. I find that it’s more effective to demonstrate coaching than to describe it, but let’s try:

Coaching is a collaboration where you help your team members find the answers that are right for them. It is in everyone’s best interests if you do this in a way that increases their awareness, sense of responsibility and ownership.

Here is something true: A transfer of knowledge does not translate into changed behavior.

Did you know that 80 percent of what a person sees is based on information they already have? We are often locked into the beliefs developed out of past experiences. This makes it difficult to modify our behavior.

Coach your team members to own the problems, the challenges and the solutions. Leaders who default to a directive style inhibit a person’s growth and causes them to be dependent on the leader the answers.

Dimension Four: Leading Deeply

This means going beneath the surface to really understand people and the issues they face. The key to doing this is to become a masterful coach. It’s not enough to utilize the process of coaching, a leader must become proficient in coaching.

There are certain skills that will help make you a masterful coach and leader.

  1. Listening Beneath The Words
    • Listening at a deeper level requires maintaining a sharp focus on your team members. Listen beneath the words and the content, watching body language and voice tonality. Periodically paraphrase, summarize or reiterate to ensure clarity and understanding.
  2. Asking Powerful Questions
    • Powerful questioning is the ability to ask questions for the maximum benefit of your team members and the organization. These are typically open-ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning. They evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action.

To lead deeply means to delve deeper in conversation to better understand, motivate and develop your team.

Dimension Five: Leading Each Person Uniquely

Not everyone is motivated in the same way. If we had a user’s manual on what makes people tick—what their motivations, goals and fears are—we could be more influential.

Good news! Due to some incredible psychometric tools and models of human behavior, this “user’s manual” actually exists.

Many, if not most, communication mishaps are due to style differences rather than real differences.

Leaders who haven’t incorporated Dimension Five may dismiss people who have different styles. They believe “these people just don’t get it.” What happens? They hire core team members just like themselves. As a result, the team is one-dimensional and not nearly as effective as a style-diverse team.

Dimension Six: Leading Each Situation Uniquely

Just as we need to adapt our leadership style based on personality preferences, we also need to vary it based on the situation.

Ken Blanchard discusses four stages a person goes through to master anything in his book, Leadership and The One Minute Manager.

Blanchard defines four stages of the developmental continuum:

Stage 1: The Enthusiastic Beginners 

  • These people are new to the job and have much to learn, yet they are highly motivated and excited to succeed.
Stage 2: The Disillusioned Learners
  • As these people’s skills grow, their confidence and motivation often drops, realizing how much more there is to learn to do a really good job.        
Stage 3: The Capable but Cautious Performers
  • These people have developed the skills to perform their jobs at a high-level. However, engagement varies between high and low.

Stage 4: The High Achievers

  • These people are confident and self-motivated as well as skilled and experienced.

Six-dimensional leaders will abandon a “one-size-fits-all” approach and vary their leadership style based on where their team members are on the developmental continuum.

Remember, great leaders build great organizations. Practice being a six-dimensional leader and watch your organization thrive.

Learn more about leadership and coaching at my upcoming ACTEX eLearning Webinar: Influential Leadership and Coaching for Actuaries, on March 20th at 1:00 ET where I will be presenting in depth on Dimensions three, four, five and six.