The Foundation of Leadership

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

We believe leadership is universal. It is not a title; it is a way of being. We promote the development of leadership across all levels of an organisation, so what is it that’s required in order to be a leader?

There has, of course, been much research and theorising regarding what constitutes great leadership, and this has been happening for centuries.

2,000 years ago, Aristotle suggested that the ‘art of persuasion’ comprises 3 key elements:

  • Ethos – (ethical) character (values and beliefs)

  • Pathos – an emotional connection (focusing on the ‘experience’)

  • Logos – logical reasoning that enables us to make sense.

Over the past 40 years, two American researchers, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, have conducted work across the globe as to what ‘followers’ need from a leader. Consistently, across time and cultures, the answer has been:

  • Honesty

  • Inspiration

  • Competence

  • Forward Looking.

Neuroscience suggests that our brains work along two fundamental networks of emotion and logic. In other words, to get people fully on board with you, you will need to win both the hearts and minds of each follower.

The first three elements in the research by Kouzes and Posner align to both the neuroscience elements of hearts and minds, and to the philosophical perspective of ethos, pathos and logos. The fourth element aligns to vision.

So whether it is 2,000-year old wisdom, decades of research or modern neuroscience, the foundation of leadership is about persuading people to follow a vision.

A leader, therefore, inspires others to willingly move towards an outcome they would not otherwise have considered, been able or been energised to do by themselves. In the beginning, leadership creates followers. At its end, great leadership creates other leaders.

If, as a leader, you are going to engage people to willingly follow you then you first have to persuade them to get on board the journey, and then encourage them to get ‘en-route’ along the journey.

The Leadership Flywheel: © The Performance Learning Company

At the first stage, you are establishing the follower’s ‘belief in you’ as the leader. However, there is another element of getting ‘on board’ which is knowing, and wanting to go to, the destination. Hence, you also have to ensure that your followers believe in ‘IT’, i.e. believe in the destination, vision or outcome!

While getting people on board is one thing, getting them up and moving to the destination is another matter. Again, we can consider two stages – starting the journey and successfully finishing it.

At the start, numerous unknowns might exist and the follower’s belief in the leader and the vision may need lots of encouragement to consider action. Indeed, followers often need help to work out how the vision will show them a clear way forward so they can believe they can get there.

Collectively, this sequence that ‘followers’ cycle through is termed ‘self-efficacy’ and it is about how they can be encouraged to see, believe and deliver an outcome. It marks a shift from believing in the leader and the vision to believing in themselves.

Our Performance Leadership Foundations course is designed to provide the tools and build the mindset and skillset you need to begin this journey. ​In Performance Leadership Foundations, you will develop:

  • A purpose that brings meaning and energy to your leadership

  • A unifying set of values to guide your decisions, behaviours and actions

  • Greater insights and understanding of how you can best leverage your personal capabilities

  • Activity flywheels that define who, why and how you are leading

  • Actions to boost relationships between you and your followers

  • Clear actions that serve performance, improvement and growth goals.

To help you explore this, we use a simple but wide-ranging ‘6Rs’ framework to establish a personal leadership charter, upon which you can have the confidence to be your best and encourage others to be their best. This is your leadership foundation.

Performance Leadership Foundations is a coached development programme that will give you the strong foundation you need to become a more successful leader.

View the curriculum and start building your leadership foundation here.

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