LEADERSHIP & The 8 Skills To Be An Effective Leader

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.                   Lao Tzu

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.    John F. Kennedy

 “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”     Peter Drucker

Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.            Mitt Romney

Leadership inthe FORESTIn 1986 when I began researching ‘Leadership’, 13 years after I began teaching and 8 years after I had become Head of Department, because it was the first time I needed to write a letter of application, a CV and prepare for an interview, I realised I’d been developing my skills as a ‘Leader’ for over 20 years in team sports. In 2017, there is now extensive evidence that the skills of an effective leader are basically the same in all areas and very transferable, but not so in 1986.

When I began teaching in 1973, the school I had attended as a student between the ages of 11 and 18 had invited me back as a teacher (of sport/P.E.) and I had been persuaded to take on new roles (promoted) over the years to teach science, then chemistry, then lead the department. However, as a result of my quest to focus on what we really need to learn to achieve healthy, happy, successful lives I decided to change schools and direction. The Diploma in Education in Personal, Social, Health Education course had motivated me to try to become a Head of Year to allow me to be responsible for the development of about 250 children from the age 11 through to 16 years at school and extend my research to a large cohort of students over 5 years.

I was fortunate in having a senior member of staff who was willing to support (coach) me in the process of applying and getting this new very different role, introducing me to the concept of leadership, and initiating my research into it. My enthusiasm for researching leadership was motivated by the realisation that:

  1. I had been a leader in a variety of ways since my teenage years.
  2. I had been much more of a leader than a manager throughout my 13 years as a teacher.
  3. The traditional theory of trait leadership of what makes effective leaders is really based on the development of the 8 skills.
  4. Effective teachers needed to be effective leaders.These points were to have a significant development of my self-awareness, and I’ve subsequently discovered that it can have similar effect on many others. With this support I was successful in attaining this new role in a new school and it  provided me with many opportunities to research leadership. I was also very fortunate that a very good friend, Julian Simcox, began studying for his Master of Business Administration (MBA or M.B.A.) soon after this (he became a successful Leadership/Management Consultant) and with his help I discovered some excellent books, articles and research by the internationally renowned business gurus that supported my own action research and the importance of the 8 skills.

    “Those who truly lead are able to create a following of people who act not because they were swayed, but because they were inspired.”                                                                                                                                                        Simon Sinek – ‘Start With Why’- page 6

    Leadership can be described as a process in which a person is able to influence others to act to achieve a common goal. A leader is someone that people follow, or guides or directs others.

    Warren Bennis

    In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis (the “Father of Leadership”) explains that the leader’s job is to inspire and motivate others and he composed a list of behaviours or actions that are associated with leaders and managers (page 41):



    I tend to think of the differences between leaders and managers as the differences between those who master the context and those who surrender to it. There are other differences, as well, and they are enormous and crucial:

    • The manager administers; the leader innovates.
    • The manager is a copy; the leader is an original.
    • The manager maintains; the leader develops.
    • The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
    • The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust.
    • The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
    • The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
    • The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the leader’s eye is on the horizon.
    • The manager imitates; the leader originates.
    • The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
    • The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his or her own person.
    • The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.


    Although Warren Bennis does not focus on skill development it is clear that this is central to becoming an effective leader by using key terms such as innovates; original; develops; focuses on people; inspires trust; long-range perspective; asks what and why; eye is on the horizon; originates; challenges; his or her own person; does the right thing. Furthermore, at the end of his book he starts chapter 10, using a quote that emphasises the importance of developing the skill of Effective Learning.

    “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.

    The learned find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

                                                       Eric Hoffer quoted in Vanguard Management

    Then at the end of this chapter (the end of the 1989 edition), page 199,  he finishes with an emphasis on the need for the development of the 8 skills in order to become effective leaders in the future, although he does not actually state it, of course.

    That’s how this group of leaders thrives.

    That’s how they forge the future.

    What about the upcoming leaders?

    The next generation of leaders will have certain things in common:

    • Broad education.
    • Boundless curiosity.
    • Boundless enthusiasm.
    • Contagious optimism.
    • Belief in people and teamwork.
    • Willingness to take risks.
    • Devotion to long-term growth rather than short-term profit.
    • Commitment to excellence.
    • Adaptive capacity.
    • Empathy
    • Authenticity
    • Integrity
    • Vision 

      Stephen Covey




      One of my favourite books is Stephen Covey’s 1989 book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, and it is recognised as one of the most influential books ever written on Leadership.

      Since a leader is someone that people follow, or guides or directs others, then the 7 habits provides a very simple analysis of the habits, requiring good development in the 8 skills, and how they are needed to become effective.

      7Habits-BulletPointsHabit 2 is ‘Begin with the end in mind’, subtitled the ‘Principle of Personal Leadership and Habit 4, Think Win/Win’, is subtitled the ‘Principle of Interpersonal Leadership’.’ Furthermore, in 1989 his ‘Principle Centred Leadership’ book was published, his emphasis being that principle-centered leadership is practiced from the inside-out. We cannot control what others do, but we can certainly control our own decisions and behaviours. In order to achieve personal and organizational effectiveness, and need to be committed and able to think with a long-term perspective. Effective principle-centered leaders build greater, more trusting and communicative relationships with others in the workplace and in the home.

      In Chapter 1 Covey identifies Eight Characteristics of Principle-Centered Leaders, which are clearly dependent on the level of development of the 8 skills:

      1. They are continually learning – constantly educated by their experiences. They read, seek training, take classes, listen to others, learn through both their ears and their eyes, are curious and always asking questions.
      2. They are service-oriented – see life as a mission, not as a career, prepared for service and thinking of others.
      3. They radiate positive energy – cheerful, pleasant, happy, their attitude is optimistic, positive, upbeat. Their spirit is enthusiastic, hopeful, believing, their positive energy is like an energy field or an aura that surrounds them and that similarly charges of changes weaker, negative energy field around them.
      4. They believe in other people – They don’t overreact to negative behaviors, criticism, or human weaknesses. They believe in the unseen potential of all people, feel graceful for their blessings and compassionately forgive and forget the offenses of others.
      5. They lead balanced lives – keep up with current affairs and events, are active socially, having many friends and few confidants, active intellectually, having many interests, have healthy sense of humor, laughing at themselves and not at other’s expense.
      6. They see life as an adventure – savor life, their security lies in their initiative, resourcefulness, creativity, willpower, courage, stamina and native intelligence rather than in the safety, protection and abundance of their home camps, of their comfort zones.
      7. They are synergistic – in which the whole is more than the sum of the parts. They are change catalysts, improve almost any situation they get into, working as smart as they work hard, amazingly productive, in new and creative ways.
      8. They exercise for self-renewal – regularly exercising physically, mentally, emotional ly and spiritually, exercising their minds through reading, creative problem solving, writing and visualizing.

      To put into action how developing the 8 skills can create effective leaders, in 2008, “In The Leader in Me – How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child at a Time”, was published in which Stephen Covey tells the story of the extraordinary schools, parents, and business leaders around the world who are preparing the next generation to meet the great challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, by incorporating The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and other basic leadership skills into their school’s curriculum in very unique and creative ways.

      The Leader in Me is a school wide leadership-development process for both students and staff members of which The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a foundational piece. It integrates timeless leadership principles into school culture, driving transformational results.”

      Edwards Deming

      Another very important influence on my realization that good development of the 8 skills is central to becoming an effective leader is W. Edwards Deming (the ‘Father of Quality’) and how important system thinking is to it. He pointed out that most companies do not train their supervisors or managers in leadership skills and emphasised how important this training is. He explained that effective leaders:

      • drive change by understanding systems, processes,statistics and employee motivation.
      • can see the big picture and fully understand the details.
      • remove barriers to change and do not fear change
      • drive to improve processes and systems.
      • measure improvements using statistical tools.
      • teach and help others do their jobs.
      • take personal responsibility when their employees fail at their tasks.
      • recognize individuals and encourage them for improvement ideas and then do not ignore these ideas.
      • evaluate these ideas and involve all during their implementation.


      “The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people. Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.”                                        Edwards Deming, page 248, Out of the Crisis

      LEADERSHIP_EFFECTIVE-DEMING.jpgOnce again the importance of good development of the 8 skills is inferred to attain these qualities or behaviours.

      Peter Senge

      Peter Senge’s excellent 1990 book, ‘The Fifth Discipline’ explained the role of the leader in the learning organization, chapter 18 being entitled, “The Leader’s New Work”, with the subtitle, “What does it take to lead a learning organization?”. He outlines three leadership roles required to reshape the traditional to being the boss.

      • Leader as Designer – like being the designer of a ship rather than its captain. He paraphrases Lao-tzu (page 341),

      “The bad leader is he who the people despise.

      The good leader is he who the people praise.

      The great leader is he who the people say, ‘we did it ourselves’.”

      He goes on to explain that they need to have the skills to:

    • Create a common vision with shared values and purpose.
    • Determine the “policies, strategies, and structures that translate guiding ideas into business decisions.”
    • Create effective learning processes that encourages continuous improvement of the policies, strategies, and structures.
      • Leader as Steward – the leader must feel they are part of something greater, who wishes to serve the purpose of building a better organization and reshaping the way the business operates.
      • Leader as Teacher – as a coach that works with the mental models present in the organization. “They must be able to help people understand the systemic forces that shape change”. “It is about fostering learning, for everyone.”

      In a 1999 article “Leadership In Living Organisations”, Peter Senge states:

      “Leadership breathes life into an enterprise, without which nothing truly new can emerge. The word inspire, long associated with leadership, derives from the Latin inspirare, literally ‘to breathe life into.’”

      “this simple definition points to much of what we are actually seeking through greater leadership in human affairs, in organizations, in schools, and in communities. Leadership is about tapping the energy to create – especially to create something that matters deeply. Where this energy exists, we are more engaged, fulfilled, and productive. We are more alive.”

      Peter Senge is clearly emphasising the need for skill development  not previously present in most leaders, which are Effective Learning, Communication, Cognition, Self-awareness, Self-management, Motivation, Empathy and Relationship skills.

      Daniel Goleman

                  By the time Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” book was published in 1995, all the previous business gurus books, articles and research had illustrated the importance of good development of all 8 skills in effective leaders to me. However, I was delighted when I discovered the 1998 Harvard Business Review article by Daniel Goleman, “What Makes a Leader?”, as it so closely supported my own conclusion about effective leadership. In the article, he explains how good development in the five EI skills of Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social skill are key to becoming effective leaders and found direct ties between emotional intelligence and measurable business results.

      Leadership Styles-Goleman

      “But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.”
                  Therefore, when Daniel Goleman, collaborated with Richard Boyatzis and Annie Mckee to write the 2002 book, “The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership”, I immediately bought and read it (for some reason it was given the title Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence” in the U.S). They analysed 188 companies, mostly large international organisations, to try to identify the competencies present in the outstanding leaders of them and they divided these competencies into 3 areas, technical skills, cognitive skills and emotional intelligence.

    • Appendix B, pages 253 to 256 lists the 18 EI competencies in 4 dimensions.


      • EMOTIONAL SELF-AWARENESS: Reading one’s own emotions and recognizing their impact; using ‘gut sense’ to guide decisions.
      • ACCURATE SELF-ASSESSMENT: knowing one’s strengths and limits.
      • SELF CONFIDENCE: A sound sense of one’s worth and capabilities.


      • EMOTIONAL SELF-CONTROL: Keeping disruptive emotions and impulses under control.
      • TRANSPARENCY: Displaying honesty and integrity; trustworthiness.
      • ADAPTABILITY: Flexibility in adapting to changing situations or overcoming obstacles.
      • ACHIEVEMENT: The drive to improve performance to meet inner standards of excellence.
      • INITIATIVE: Readiness to act and seize opportunities.
      • OPTIMISM: Seeing the upside in events.

                                   Social Awareness

      • EMPATHY: Sensing others’ emotions, understanding their perspective and taking interest in their concerns.
      • ORGANIZATIONAL AWARENESS: Reading the currents, decision networks, politics at the organizational level.
      • SERVICE: Recognizing and meeting follower, client or customer needs.

                                   Relationship Management

      • INSPIRATIONAL LEADERSHIP: Guiding and motivating with a compelling vision.
      • INFLUENCE: Wielding a range of tactics for persuasion.
      • DEVELOPING OTHERS: Bolstering others’ abilities through feedback and guidance.
      • CHANGE CATALYST: Initiating, managing and leading in a new direction.
      • CONFLICT MANAGEMENT: Resolving disagreements.
      • TEAMWORK & COLLABORATION: Co-operation and team building.

      On page 38 they state:

      “These EI competencies are not innate talents, but learned abilities, each of which has a unique contribution to making leaders more resonant, and therefore more effective.”

      Therefore, I felt this research and book offered a great deal of support to my own research and conclusion that good development of the 8skills is central to becoming an effective leader.

      Jim Collins

                  By the time I discovered the research and 2001 book by Jim Collins, “Good To Great”, I felt confident that there was already huge amount of international research evidence to support my conclusion that effective leaders had good development of the 8 skills. Jim Collins explored what made great companies great and how they sustained that greatness over time and it further helped to add to this evidence. A key result (they considered it to be surprising) in the research of good-to-great companies was in the discovery of the type of leadership required to turn a good company into a great one. They were not led by high-profile, big personality leaders, but exhibited “Level 5 Leadership” (chapter two, pages 20-40)

      Level 5: Executive  – builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will

      Level 4: Effective Leader – catalyses commitment to vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards

      Level 3:  Competent Manager – organises people and resources toward the effective and efficient pursuit of predetermined objectives

      Level 2:  Contributing Team Member – contributes individual capabilities to the achievement of group objectives and works effectively with others in a group setting

      Level 1:  Highly Capable Individual – makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills and good work habits


      “The problem is not in my estimation, a dearth of potential Level 5 leaders.They exist all around us, if we just know what to look for.”

       When I read it, I feel like shouting out to Jim to say:

      “This is would not be a problem if developing and measuring the 8 skills became the priority of society instead of academia and exams!”

      LEADERSHIP_Level 5.jpg

      Clare W Graves

      The work of Clare W Graves and the table in contains illustrates how our stage of development or view of the world depends on our development of the 8 skills. The yellow stage in Spiral Dynamics corresponds with the characteristics of Level 5 leaders outlined by Jim Collins.

      Spiral Dynamics – YELLOW ‘Life is learning and continual change’

      • Motivated to learn and understand the complexities of life.
      • Material possessions become far less important to the magnificence of learning and life.
      • Flexibility and functionality in the long term, becomes the highest priority.
      • Weaknesses and differences are expected and integrated into interdependence, development and the big picture
      • Chaos and change are expected, natural and appreciated as part of human 


        Spiral Dynamics.jpgFurthermore, the research by Bill Torbert and Associates has created a Leadership Development Framework (LDF) and the Strategist Developmental Action-Logic Frame also overlaps with Level 5 leaders.

        Strategist Action-Logic Frame

        • Strategists are relativistic – aware that what one sees depends on one’s world
        • Speak in terms of perceptions rather than unquestionable realities.
        • Interested in the frames (stages) of others.
        • Place high value on individuality, unique market niches, and particular historical
        • Play a variety of roles. Witty, good sense of humour (existential)
        • Create situations in which others can cause things to happen.


        ‘Human Development’ can be perceived as the evolution of humankind in the skills needed to achieve healthy, happy successful lives, with each stage reflecting those needed in specific environments, with the yellow stage being the environment in 21st century developed world. Therefore, the skills needed to become yellow thinkers, are systems thinkers, and Level 5 leaders.

        In recent years the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talks have become extremely popular with millions of viewers of various talks. Simon Sinek has given two TED Talks so far that have had millions of views, both focused on ‘Leadership’ and both emphasising the importance of the 8 skills (though he does not state it). His ‘Why good leaders make you feel safe’ talk in March 2014, has a reference comparing great leaders to parents which I have done on numerous occasions, using ‘The Waltons’ from the TV series as an example.Leadership-WALTONSparent.jpg

        “The closest analogy I can give to what a great leader is, is like being a parent. If you think about what being a great parent is, what do you want? What makes a great parent? We want to give our child opportunities, education, discipline them when necessary, all so that they can grow up and achieve more than we could for ourselves. Great leaders want exactly the same thing. They want to provide their people opportunity, education, discipline when necessary, build their self-confidence, give them the opportunity to try and fail, all so that they could achieve more than we could ever imagine for ourselves.”

        1989        The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People                Stephen Covey

        1989        On Becoming A Leader                             Warren Bennis

        1990 The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization                                                     Peter Senge

        1992 The Deming Management Method                  Mary Walton

        2001 Good To Great                                                             Jim Collins

        2002 The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership Daniel Goleman

        2004 Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership                                             Bill Torbert and Associates

        2005 Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change                                               Don Beck, Christopher Cowan

        2011 Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action                                                                      Simon Sinek