What Does Your Leadership Model Look Like?

pic for leadership model

I’m a big believer in visuals and images. When leaders make commitments to themselves and their teams about the importance of strong leadership, words may not be enough. Although words can be a good way to begin a conversation or reflection about leadership, words don’t always display your entire leadership story. For example, if one of your critical leadership values is “building relationships”, it may be unclear what that means. But what if you constructed a bridge connecting team members or drew a picture of people connected to a web of yarn? Might that visual help you clarify and describe more completely how relationships are built?

During one of my workshops recently we spent some time creating leadership models out of Legos. To say the structures were fascinating is an understatement. But getting to the actual model was a process and involved a great deal of zeroing in on what kind of leaders the participants wanted to be.

Here are some steps to take to discover what your leadership model might look like:


The first most important step is identifying our leadership vision. Whether we are working on our team or organizational leadership vision or our personal one, we need to be clear where we are headed as well as our purpose. Here are some helpful questions to ask:

  • What are our organization or personal core values?
  • How do we see our leadership evolving?
  • Who is integral to the success of our leadership?
  • What actions are necessary to make our vision come alive?


The next stage is brainstorming a substantial list of attitudes and behaviors that reflect our leadership vision. Word choice is important, as it will begin to steer the vision in a particular direction. During the brainstorming session make sure not to judge or eliminate any possibilities.


Once we have a large list, it is time to evaluate and ask empowering questions.

  • How will this vision help us grow our leadership?
  • Are we being consistent with what we stand for?
  • Do we need to add any additional behaviors that we haven’t considered?
  • Are we being open-minded and able to move in a different direction?


Now we are ready to give life to a physical structure or image that reflects our leadership model. Think about what visuals are critical in building a model or drawing a picture that represents the words, behaviors and attitudes of the type of leader we want to be. If we want to be an approachable leader who is willing to listen to many perspectives, we may want to use images of open windows or unlocked doors. If we choose to put lifelong learning as a leadership value, we may want to display a stack of books and videos. Whatever our leadership vision, try to capture it physically.


The final step in creating our leadership model is bringing it back to our individual workplaces. What will our actions and behaviors looks like in our work worlds? What must we do to model our new leadership direction? Be as specific as possible, identifying actions and choices we will need to take.

What does your leadership model look like? What images or visuals help you to describe your leadership model?


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8 thoughts on “What Does Your Leadership Model Look Like?

  1. What I love is that even with the same words, the vision may be different yet you help bring people together. If I say I value “freedom” it may mean one thing to me and another to you. By doing this work as a team, it gets everyone on the same page and perhaps even discovering that their different words actually have similar meanings in practice. Love that you bring physicality into the mix encouraging people to truly clarify their leadership in motion. Words are one thing, taking it into another space heightens the learning. Will share! ~ Alli

  2. It is so interesting that words that describe our core values may mean different things to each leader. That’s why it can be challenging to develop a leadership model for an entire organization. That’s what we set out to do and why it was essential to add the step of what the values would like like in the workplace. When everyone on a team understands what actions, behaviors and attitudes support the leadership model, it is more likely to be successful.

    Thanks Alli for your great additions and insights!

  3. Hi Terri,

    Construct the Model – Brilliant step to help with discovery. Thanks for highlighting it here. As you note, visuals have power! But sadly they are under utilized.

    I too have seen the tremendous value in using legos for “hard yet fun play” during a team workshop. The power comes from a process that enables dimensions beyond words. Construct the Model takes people out of their heads, tapping into inner truths and heart-felt clarity. Excavation and expression reach new heights for each participant and the team as a whole. The benefits of modeling can be quite amazing.

    Excellent ideas. Well-made points. Will share.


  4. I love your comment Terri: “Construct the Model takes people out of their heads, tapping into inner truths and heart-felt clarity.” It is true when people work on creating models they forget constraints and even fall into a childhood thinking pattern. The process allows them to play to their creative side, even it they are extremely analytical.

    Thanks so much for your wonderful ideas Terri!

  5. Love this post! Communication can be so difficult because what one word means to one person may not mean the same thing to another! I like your idea of combining words with visuals…ideas always need fine tuning!

  6. Words can mean different things to each of us so adding an image or a physical model can often clarify our leadership vision. When we have many different perspectives on leadership designing a model can really bring the words to life. Thanks LaRae!

  7. As someone that learns best kinesthetically and visually – I really love this!

    I’ve worked with teams that had a list of core values that hung on their wall, but when they all started to point to a value that appeared to be wallpaper, and we dug deeper – we were able to demonstrate how each one viewed that value differently. And determine what aspects of that value were lacking. Making it visual makes it easier for everyone to remember.

  8. I love the idea of putting up a visual display of the values and having each team member share their understanding! It is true that we each bring our own unique experiences to reflecting on our organization’s values and that means asking more questions to clarify a team’s direction.

    Fantastic story to share Chery! I so appreciate your perspectives and knowledge!

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