We frequently hear the word leadership associated with exemplary individuals and organizations. Success is often attributed to an organization’s “leadership,” referring to the decision-makers and higher-ups. But it’s important to recognize that leadership as a quality can be found and cultivated at every level. This is because leadership is a lot more about the example you set than how many high-level decisions you make.
That being said, it’s not enough to say, “I’d like to be a better leader” without defining what that really looks like in practice.
The following list is from The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® Model which I studied a few years ago in a four-year leadership program.
Often referred to as MICEE (“Mickey"), this list represents a core set of themes found among recognized leaders around the world. The MICEE model was designed after conducting thousands of interviews where individuals described examples of great leadership. These pillars are consistently confirmed by top leadership assessment studies to be positively correlated with effective leadership and engaged followers.
Model the Way
A great leader understands that actions speak louder than words. It’s less about what you say to others and more about what you do for their benefit. What can you do today that improves someone else’s work experience? How you treat people at all levels of your organization sets a standard, so it’s worth the effort to make it one of excellence, equality and authenticity.
Leaders also understand that a mission statement is lifeless unless it is lived by those within the organization. Own the mission and measure your activity against the goals of the organization. Then look beyond your own to-do list and see how you can help others achieve wins or eliminate roadblocks. The way you approach challenges will inspire collaboration and selfless action.
Inspire a Shared Vision
Whether or not you hold the decision-making authority in your organization, you always have the ability to make a positive difference. Trust that your goals, ideas and solutions have value, and focus on enlisting supporters. Through sharing, listening and honest persuasion, you can get others on board with your idea and start to bring it to life. Whether it’s your business partner, team members or board of directors, inspiring a shared vision leads to a stronger and more aligned organization.
Challenge the Process
In any role, you will be presented with opportunities to innovate. It may look safer (read: easier) to stick with the status quo, but leadership involves taking initiative and experimenting with ways to make things better. Leaders acknowledge that challenging the process involves risk and inevitable failures. Embrace these occasions as learning opportunities and continue to create positive change. Whenever possible, leave things better than you found them.
Enable Others to Act
Ultimately, being a leader is not about you; it’s about including, empowering and supporting others. If you have studied servant leadership, this will sound familiar. Enabling others to act is about making sure others understand how capable, trusted, and valued they are so they can live and perform at their best. Build a culture grounded in mutual respect and hold yourself accountable for strengthening these values in every interaction.
Encourage the Heart
Would you be able to write a job description outlining the responsibilities of every individual in your organization? It’s easy to forget just how much each person is tasked with and how much work it takes to meet their goals and deadlines. Take the extra step to acknowledge the efforts of your coworkers and celebrate their successes. With practice, this won’t be an “extra step.” Instead, this act of encouraging others will be as important as any other item on your task list.
Putting people first is not only a benefit to your business, but also a defining characteristic of leaders. When was the last time you made someone you work with feel like a hero? Try it out and I guarantee you’ll feel pretty great, too.
These five pillars of the Exemplary Leadership Model (MICEE) bring the steps to effective leadership into focus. Being a leader has almost nothing to do with your job title and everything to do with who you are and how you treat people.
Unfortunately, too many people get so caught up in worrying whether or not others see them as a leader that they forget to actually do the work of being a leader. As Austin Kleon cleverly puts it, “To be the noun, do the verb.” In other words, to be a leader all you need to do is lead. And now you have five core tools to get you started.
As a purpose-driven organization, we love hearing and sharing stories about people who are acting as a force for good. Tell us your favorite leadership stories in the comments! Bonus points if you “Encourage the Heart” by sharing this post with a great leader in your life.