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:
DECIDE ON THE VISION
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?
CHOOSE DESCRIPTIVE WORDS
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.
CHALLENGE THE DIRECTION
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?
CONSTRUCT THE MODEL
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.
MAKE IT RELEVANT
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?