My Personal Leadership Model

My Personal Leadership Model

A requirement in one of my MBA classes was to develop a personal leadership model.  This model had to be represented by a graphic, and supported with a research paper that explained the model.  I found this exercise to be quite enlightening and introspective.  I originally developed my leadership model in 2000.  I still use this model, after articulating it over 20 years ago. 

In 2017, I received a 360o feedback report.  As part of my reflection and development of an action plan to address the feedback, I went back and looked at the model as I articulated it.  I found (and the feedback validated this) that I had grown lax in consistently applying this model in my leadership roles (personal and work).

I’d like to share this model with you, and see what you think.  Do you have a personal leadership model you follow?  I’d be interested in your thoughts.  What follows below is the original research paper on my model, with a few tweaks and edits to bring it up to date.


The purpose of this report is to outline a framework for leadership that I have adopted for use in leadership roles.  In this report, I will describe the foundation of this model (including the evidence supporting the model); identify the three most important skills required to effectively practice or implement this model; and explain the skill development plan I have for these skills.

My leader model is built on the concept of ABC Analysis, with a feedback loop to indicate continuous improvement.  ABC Analysis is a simple method used in behavioral psychology to systematically analyze the antecedents and consequences influencing a particular behavior.

ABC Analysis defines an antecedent as something that comes before a behavior that sets the stage for the behavior to occur.  Behavior is what people do.  Consequences are what happen to the performer as a result of the behavior.  (Daniels, 2000)

In my model, antecedents are what I must do to set the stage for exhibiting important leadership behaviors.  Behaviors are three sets of leadership skills I must effectively exhibit in order to lead.  Consequences are the outcomes from effectively applying my leadership model.



The following are the three main antecedents in my model: 

  • Know Myself
  • Know Others, and
  • Know the Course.

Know Myself

To effectively lead, I must first know myself.  I need to spend time reflecting on what is truly important to me.  I should clearly articulate my values and goals as well as understand my strengths and weaknesses.  Clawson, Covey, and DePree are three men who substantiate this premise.

Clawson:  James Clawson would refer to the need to “Know Myself” as “Clarifying Your Center,” because he argues that our values, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations (VABEs) are crucial to our ability to lead.  Clawson believes a clear and focused center increases the likelihood that we’ll powerfully influence others.  He states, “When you are centered, you cannot be unsettled or dissuaded or knocked off balance by opposing forces, shifting currents of approval or disapproval, unstable foundations, or even censure by those you love.” (Clawson, 1999) 

Covey:  Stephen Covey advocates an inside-out approach to developing ourselves into what he calls “Principle-Centered Leaders.”  “Inside-out means to start first with self – to start with the most inside part of self – with your paradigms, your character, and your motives.  Inside-out is a continuing process of renewal, an upward spiral of growth that leads to progressively higher forms of responsible independence and effective interdependence.”  (Covey, 1990)  This inside-out approach strengthens my knowledge of who I am as a person and leader.

DePree:  Max DePree (CEO, Herman Miller) describes a “concept of persons.”  This concept emphasizes that leaders must have humility.  He has taken the time to articulate his beliefs and value system.  For example, he states:

  1. First, as a Christian I believe each person is made in the image of God.  For those of us who have received the gift of leadership from the people we lead, this belief has enormous implications.
  2. Second, God has given people a great diversity of gifts.  Understanding the diversity of our gifts enables us to begin taking the crucial step of trusting each other.  The simple act of recognizing diversity in corporate life helps us to appreciate and connect the great variety of gifts that people bring to the corporation.
  3. Third, I believe that God, for reasons that we may not always understand, has provided us a population mix – a population mix for which leaders are held accountable. (DePree, 1989)

As a Christian leader, my model incorporates this belief that leadership is a privilege.  I am humbled at the tasks of a leader and desire to be the leader God wants me to be.

Know Others

As a leader, I should devote time and attention to understanding my superiors, peers, and subordinates.  If I know their interests, desires, values, and goals, I can determine what motivates them (a determination is vital in gaining their support and influencing their priorities).  If I’ve been effective at articulating my values and beliefs, my actions will reflect my sincerity.  Therefore, my attempts to gain support and influence others will be viewed in a positive vein and will not come across as a manipulation.  This approach is aligned with my personal values and beliefs.  I have experienced effectiveness in gaining the support of others once they understand my values and beliefs.  This approach is validated by John Maxwell and Max DePree.

Maxwell:  John Maxwell has defined influence as a key aspect of leadership.  How leaders wield their influence can attract or repel followers.  He advocates leading others by looking through their eyes.  This can only be done if the leader cares for the people they lead.  He refers to a study in the Wall Street Journal:  “Of the 16,000 executives studied, the 13 percent identified as ‘high achievers’ tended to care about people as well as profits.  Average achievers concentrated on production, while low achievers were preoccupied with their own security.  High achievers viewed subordinates optimistically, while low achievers showed a basic distrust of subordinates’ abilities.  High achievers sought advice from their subordinates; low achievers didn’t.  High achievers were listeners; moderate achievers listened only to superiors; low achievers avoided communication and relied on policy manuals.”  (Maxwell, 1993)

I choose to use my influence as a leader to tap into the goals of the people I have the privilege of leading and tend to model the behaviors exhibited by high achievers in this study.

DePree:  DePree believes that leadership is effective only after the leader has developed the trust of the followers.  To gain this trust, the leader must know what the follower expects from a job and from their leader, as well as understanding what drives the follower.  At the heart of this approach to gaining trust is respect for the individual.  “Respect demands that we first recognize each other’s gifts and strengths and interests; then we must integrate them into the work of the organization.  Only then can we reach our common and individual potentials.  To take people seriously requires us to listen seriously.”   (DePree, 1997)

Know the Course

One of my key roles as steward is to develop a vision for my group.  A leader should always start with the desired result before pinpointing the behaviors necessary to achieve the vision.  To develop a course (vision), a leader should understand the business environment, the leadership direction, and the group’s mission.

Maxwell refers to vision as the indispensable quality of leadership:  “My observation over the last twenty years has been that all effective leaders have a vision of what they must accomplish.  That vision becomes the energy behind every effort and the force that pushes through all the problems.  With vision the leader is on a mission and a contagious spirit is felt among the crowd until others begin to rise alongside the leader.”  (Maxwell, 1993)


To implement my model, the following three skills are the most important for the leader to possess and exhibit:

  • The ability to develop and clearly communicate a vision that will engage the passion of the members of the organization.  This takes great communication skills, along with relationship skills (in order to fully understand the needs of the members of the organization).  I refer to this as “Casting the Vision.”
  • The ability to clearly set out the performance expectations of everyone in the organization.  I refer to this as “Painting the Frame.”
  • The ability to select appropriate measures, provide timely feedback on performance, and celebrate success along the way.  I refer to this as “Coaching the Game.”

Casting the Vision

Once the vision is developed, the leader must cast the vision.  A leader has the ability to cast this vision in such a way that catches the passion of the people in the organization.  For example, Disneyland management created a vision for the park that fulfilled promise.  This vision was articulated in a simple way: “No chipped paint; all horses jump.”  This slogan means that the park should always be well maintained, and all riders should experience the same joy and excitement.  This vision is cast to the organization during training.  The vision engages Disneyland employees to be dedicated to a high level of customer satisfaction.  (Taylor, 1992)

Painting the Frame

The leader has the responsibility to define performance requirements for each individual to empower the employee within a certain framework.  The leader is the one who ensures that all employees fulfill their job requirements.  Both Aubrey Daniels and Stephen Covey support this premise.

Daniels:  Aubrey Daniels refers to this process as “pinpointing.”  “Sustaining results requires precise management.  Managers and employees need to know precisely which outcomes are required and precisely what the acceptable behaviors are that produce them.  The procedure for specifying results and behaviors is pinpointing.  Pinpointing means being specific about a result you want and then being very specific about the behaviors you require to achieve that result.”  (Daniels, 2000) Pinpointing both results and behaviors is necessary to effectively measure progress, and sets the stage for providing clear feedback (“Coaching the Game”).

Covey:  Covey refers to this as the process of setting performance agreements.  A performance agreement is “a clear, mutual understanding and commitment regarding expectations surrounding roles and goals.”  According to Covey, to effectively empower followers, leaders must:

  1. Specify desired results
  2. Set some guidelines
  3. Identify available resources
  4. Define accountability
  5. Determine the consequences (Covey, 1990)

Leaders can use these five steps to effectively paint the frame for the organization.

Coaching the Game

Once the leader casts the vision, the groundwork is laid for success.  The leader should build on this foundation by monitoring progress, providing feedback, and celebrating success and failure.  I refer to this skill set as “Coaching the Game.”  This skill set is based on an analogy of an athletic coach during a game.  The coach acts in a way consistent with beliefs and values (“Know Myself”), knows the players’ abilities and wants them to be successful (“Know Others”), and knows what’s required (“Know the Course,” “Casting the Vision,” and “Painting the Frame”).  Once the game begins, the coach knows the score, provides feedback for improvement, and celebrates success.

Monitoring Progress:  This should be done using a balance of process and results measures.  The balance is necessary to maintain focus on the vision, while ensuring the morality of the means.  Monitoring progress will provide for the momentum the organization needs to succeed.  DePree defines momentum as “the feeling among a group of people that their lives and work are intertwined and moving toward a recognizable and legitimate goal.” (DePree, 1989)

Providing Feedback:  To assist in the growth and development of employees, the leader must provide honest feedback on performance.  This feedback is necessary for the employee to adjust behavior and performance.  If the leader is leading from a foundation of integrity, the employee will know that the leader knows them, wants them to succeed, and knows the feedback will help the employee be successful.  This feedback can and should include both positive and negative feedback.  The negative feedback should be delivered in such a way that encourages the employee to make the necessary changes.  Positive feedback should be shared generously and deliberately. 

The definition of feedback that I use is “information about performance that allows an individual to adjust and improve his or her performance.”  For learning to occur, specific information about how an individual’s behavior affects the environment must be gathered and presented in a constructive manner.  (Daniels, 2000)

Celebrating Success AND Failure:  As the group meets milestones, it’s necessary that the group celebrate success.  Celebrating success strengthens the reinforcement around proper behaviors and aids in motivating the group to achieve even more.  (Daniels, 2000)

I think it’s also necessary to celebrate failure as well.  I believe that learning from mistakes is a powerful technique.  By performing an explicit “learning look-back,” the leader allows a sense of closure around the mistake or failure.  This behavior also sends a strong signal to the group that failure is necessary in achieving high performance.


The consequences of implementing this leadership model include:

  • Financial Success (both Organizational and Personal)
  • Individual Growth and Development of Group Members
  • Personal Growth and Development

Financial Success

The financial success attained by the Herman Miller furniture company is a clear example of the financial success that can come from adopting a leadership model similar to mine.  A $100 investment in Herman Miller stock in 1975 grew in value to $4,854.60 in 1986, which is at a compounded annual rate of growth of 41 percent!  (DePree, 1993)  Other companies that have used a model similar to mine include Eastman Chemical Company, Allied Systems, 3M Dental, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, BP Amoco, Delta Faucet, and Preston Trucking Company.  (Daniels, 2000)

As a leader, my personal salary is tied to the success of my team.  As I effectively apply this leadership model, my team will attain financial success.  I have applied this model in teams at Chevron and have achieved financial success.  For example, by applying this model to a team charged with evaluating demurrage (a charge for detaining a ship) claims, the team collected a record amount of demurrage owed by others to Chevron, and was able to successfully reduce the amount of demurrage paid by Chevron.

Individual Growth and Development

If I successfully utilize this model, other people will grow and develop their strengths and talents.  As Covey states, “Enlightened leaders and business managers throughout the world have used this simple principle in one way or another for many years.  They know that when people are meaningfully involved, they willingly commit the best that is in them.  Moreover, when people identify their personal goals with the goals of an organization, they release an enormous amount of energy, creativity, and loyalty.”  (Covey, 1990)

The best testimony of individual growth is the success others have achieved while under my leadership.  For example, in my last team, three people all received promotions within one year.  One received two promotions in under two years.  Two of them now have the same salary grade as me, which happened because these three people flourished.  They were willing to devote significant energy to the success of the team.

Personal Growth and Development

For my team’s performance to continually improve, I must also continually improve.  John Maxwell states that “Leaders face the danger of contentment with the status quo.  After all, if a leader already possesses influence and has achieved a level of respect, why should he keep growing?  The answer is simple:

  • Your growth determines who you are.
  • Who you are determines who you attract.
  • Who you attract determines the success of your organization.

If you want to grow your organization, you have to remain teachable.”


Underlying my model is a feedback loop that is built on trust.  The environment in which modern business operates is one of constant change.  As a leader, I must be comfortable with the uncertainty and ambiguity of today’s business environment.  I also need to be more confident of confusion’s role in a self-organizing world (Wheatley, 1994).  Feedback is one way to stay in tune with the confusion and to adapt my leadership style to achieve success.

In the last two years, I’ve been faced with a team that hasn’t responded well to the style of leadership that was so successful with my previous team.  I’ve had to adjust my leadership style to take into account the needs of the current team.  As I’ve adjusted, I’ve seen improvement.  The team is starting to respond to my leadership and is achieving success.  In the process, I’ve grown as well.


I know from past feedback sessions where my strengths lie.  I am a good communicator who can provide timely and useful feedback.  I know the skills I need to develop.  I will share this paper with my supervisor and a few key peers (in order to heighten my accountability for this action plan). The four steps to my action plan are:

  1. Develop relationships with key people
  2. Develop a vision communication plan
  3. Develop the ability to clearly articulate performance expectations, and
  4. Develop the ability to provide timely feedback on performance.

Develop Relationships with Key People (Ties to “Know Others” in My Model)

I recognize that I haven’t tapped into the diverse gifts and talents of my subordinates, as evidenced by the way my current team has responded to my leadership style (referred to in the Feedback section above).  Spending quality time with each of them will help me get to know them better.  I should devote a minimum of 30 minutes per week getting to know one member better, and track this on a personal behavior checklist (something I’ve been maintaining for three years).

Develop a Vision Communication Plan (Ties to “Casting the Vision)

I know that I need to further develop my ability to cast a vision to my group.  I have a vision in mind, but have not clearly articulated it to my team.  I commit to documenting the vision by May 15, 2000.  I will then use my monthly team meetings to discuss this vision with my team.

Develop Ability to Clearly Articulate Performance Expectations (Ties to “Painting the Frame”)

I commit to documenting a performance agreement with each of my direct reports as part of the annual Performance Management Process (PMP).  I plan on documenting each of these by May 15, 2000.

Develop Ability to Provide Timely Feedback on Performance (Ties to “Coaching the Game”)

I have a tendency to avoid conflict.  I should articulate the beliefs and assumptions I have for each of my direct reports.  My subordinates should see through my behavior that I truly believe in each of them, and am committed to their individual success.  Once I’ve built this foundation of trust with each of them, I’ll be able to effectively deal with performance issues.  I will devote one hour per week to developing this ability.


I have greatly enjoyed this assignment.  Spending the time to “clarify my center” has been extremely valuable to me.  I can’t wait to start applying what I’ve learned through this part of my leadership journey.  I have already started applying what I’ve learned, and am enjoying the success.  I shared my leadership model with two peers and two subordinates.  So far, it’s been well received.  In one case, it caused a rich discussion of the subordinate’s performance.  I’m already seeing an improvement in this person’s performance as a result.  Thank you for this assignment – it’s the best and most applicable one I’ve had so far in the EMBA program!

  1. Clawson, James G. (1999).  Level Three Leadership, Prentice-Hall, Inc.
  2. Covey, Stephen R. (1990).  Principle-Centered Leadership, Simon and Schuster.
  3. Daniels, Aubrey C. (2000).  Bringing Out the Best in People:  How to Apply the Astonishing Power of Positive Reinforcement, McGraw-Hill, Inc.
  4. DePree, Max (1989).  Leadership is an Art, Dell Publishing.
  5. DePree, Max (1997).  Leading Without Power.  Jossey-Bass.
  6. Maxwell, John C. (1993).  Developing the Leader Within You, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  7. Maxwell, John C. (1998).  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  8. Maxwell, John C. (1999).  The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, Thomas Nelson, Inc.
  9. Taylor, Larry (1992).  Be an Orange:  Win Big in the ‘90’s by Avoiding an Apple to Apple Comparison, Larry Taylor (self published).
  10. Wheatley, Margaret (1994).  Leadership and The New Science, Berrett-Koehler.  

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