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Are You a Six-Dimensional Leader?

Are You a Six-Dimensional Leader?

Six dimensional leaders are insightful, flexible and connected. They listen, motivate and inspire. Is this you?
By David C. Miller

In their book, The Hands–Off Manager, authors Steve Chandler and Duane Black state that the number one reason for quitting that employees cite in exit interviews is "my manager."

Today's business environment is demanding professionals at all levels become transformational leaders. In this article, I explore six dimensions that a leader must operate in to produce transformational results.

Dimension One: Leading Yourself

As a leader, you must walk the talk and model the way. Your words will fall on deaf ears if people don't see you living out the values you talk about.

It may seem obvious, but many leaders fall short in this area. You may have observed examples of incongruent behaviors such as these:

  • Bob wants the people in the organization to work well together, but he's a renegade and prides himself on getting his own way and making things happen, even at the expense of his peers.
  • Susan preaches the value of performing the most important tasks first, but she's too busy to spend the time equipping her people with the tools they need to do their jobs well.
  • Bill has mentioned that it's critical his team beat the aggressive sales goal set by the company, but he's known as soft–spoken and afraid of rejection.

Make no mistake about it: your team is watching what you do. The number one quality people look for in a leader is integrity. You must model the way to be a masterful leader.

Dimension Two: Leading Your People Upwards

There's a quote by Antoine de Saint–Exupery:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather the wood, divide the work and give out the orders. Instead teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

The place to start when leading others is to help people connect with their compelling vision–that reason that inspires them to choose to grow–to move beyond their limitations for the sake of the adventure or the experience or the relationship. They have to be hungry for this result before the knowledge you impart makes sense and becomes something they will use.

Training that equips people in areas like time management, priorities and goal–setting is honorable–but if someone's heart's not in it–if he or she hasn't been inspired by a compelling vision of what's possible in his or her life–any efforts on your part could likely be a total waste of time!

A recent Gallup Management Journal survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees showed that 71 percent describe themselves as disengaged or actively disengaged from their work.1

In addition, a recent Accenture survey of more than 500 full–time middle managers in the United States revealed that one in five is either currently looking for or plans to look for another job.2 These statistics don't bode well for retaining the team you have.

Inspire Your Team

As a leader, you have to help instill that compelling vision–you have to emotionally connect to people–make them want a better future. Once you achieve that, they'll be hungry for the training and development solutions you bring to them. They will be more than willing to do the work to grow, achieve and reach their potential.

Six–dimensional leaders strive to inspire their people rather than motivate them. Motivation is oftentimes fear–based: "Do this or you won't get a nice bonus."

Inspiration invites people to focus on what they're meant to do. It's a calling that comes from playing a bigger game, being involved in something larger than themselves.

Dimension Three:

Leading Your Team To Responsibility

When I work with leaders in organizations, I teach them how to coach. I find that it's more effective to demonstrate coaching than to describe it, but let me give it a try:

Coaching is a collaboration where you help your team members find the answers that are right for them. And it's in everyone's best interests if you do this in a way that increases their awareness and their sense of responsibility and ownership.

If you've ever tried to train and develop someone, you probably know this to be true: A transfer of knowledge does not translate into changed behavior.

Did you know that 80 percent of what a person sees is based on information he or she already has? What that means is that we're locked into the beliefs that developed out of past experiences. This makes it difficult, but not impossible, to modify our behavior.

What microbiology has shown us is that you cannot direct a living organism; you can only disturb it. This is done all the time in a coaching relationship (challenging assumptions, making someone present to their patterns, etc.) in a way that raises self–awareness.

Coaching also does this in a way so your team members own the problems, the challenges and the solutions. Leaders often default to a directive style that inhibits a person's growth and causes him or her to be dependent on the leader for the answers.

Coaching is about empowering, raising awareness and keeping concepts and ideas alive long enough so they take root in the individual. It's the medium in which growth and change occur.

Dimension Four: Leading Deeply

When I speak of leading deeply, I'm referring to going beneath the surface to really understand people and the issues they face. The key to doing this is to become a masterful coach. It's not enough for leaders to utilize the process of coaching. They must become proficient coaches.

Listening Beneath the Words

There are certain skills that will help make you a masterful coach and leader. They're not complicated, but if you don't know them and don't practice them, your leadership will be ineffective.

For example, one of the foundational skills in coaching is deep listening. As human beings we are great at broadcasting, but not good at listening.

Listening at a deeper level requires maintaining a sharp focus on your team members. Listen beneath the words and the content, attending also to body language and voice tonality. Periodically paraphrase, summarize or reiterate to ensure clarity and understanding.

The Power Behind a Question

Another core coaching competency is asking powerful questions. Powerful questioning is the ability to ask questions for the maximum benefit of your team members and the organization. These are typically open–ended questions that create greater clarity, possibility or new learning. They evoke discovery, insight, commitment or action.

For example, let's say one of your direct reports comes to you with a certain challenge. He feels that there is only one course of action to overcome this challenge.

You might typically ask, "Have you thought about doing ________?" This is a "yes/no" question that doesn't encourage ownership.

Alternatively, you could ask a more powerful question like, "What other possibilities are there that would give us an even better result?" This question will send him to a more creative and resourceful place. If he draws a blank, invite him to brainstorm a variety of options. Powerful questions often lead to collaboration between you and your team which will help create higher quality answers, while at the same time provide the space to develop leadership skills.

To lead deeply means to delve deeper in conversation to better understand, inspire and develop your team.

Dimension Five: Leading Each Person Uniquely

As a leader, a key skill to develop is your ability to positively influence people around you. The best way to influence someone is simply to find out what they need and give them that.

This may sound simple, but there's one problem: not everyone is like me; not everyone is like you either. Wouldn't it be great if everyone was just like you and in turn you would clearly know and understand what everyone needed?

But that's not the way it works–people are unique. As a result, we need to lead them differently. And as simple as this sounds, it's amazing how often we default to leading people the way we like to be led.

Not Everyone Is Motivated In the Same Way

If we had a user's manual on what makes people tick–what their motivations, goals and fears are–we could be more influential.

Good news! This "user's manual" actually exists. We've known for over 2600 years (from the time of Hippocrates, Aristotle, Plato, etc.) that there are four basic behavioral styles. Each of us tends to gravitate to one of them, defining our "preference" or our "comfort zone."

The formula for mastering Dimension Five has three parts:

  1. We need to discover our own style. We need to know what makes us tick. What are our goals, motivations and fears?
  2. We need to master reading other people and be able to identify their styles or preferences–not in a stereotypical way, but in a way that enables us to understand their tendencies.
  3. We need to be able to adapt our leadership style to better relate to the styles of our team members.

The truth be told, many, if not most, of communication mishaps are due to style differences rather than real differences.

Leaders who haven't incorporated Dimension Five may dismiss people who have different styles. They believe "these people just don't get it." What happens? Their core team turns out to be people just like themselves. As a result, the team is one dimensional and not nearly as effective as a style–diverse team.

Value the Differences–The Story of Jane and Bill

A six–dimensional leader strives to learn to appreciate and value the differences of each person and have impact on four times the population.

Let me give you an example.

Jane is the leader of a sales organization whose style can be characterized as very "results–driven." Her motto is: "Just get out there and do it." She's fast–paced and very decisive. If the decision turns out to be wrong, Jane will simply correct it and move on.

As a result, Jane has built a very strong track record for personally bringing in the business. However, she struggles when it comes to leading certain people. You see, Jane's two biggest fears are losing control and being taken advantage of by others. She's not crazy about having revenue goals that force her to depend on other people to produce like she does. This causes some angst, especially when she works with people like Bill.

Bill is all about teamwork and harmony. He's not big on change and is motivated by stability, harmony, cooperation and appreciation. He has less experience selling, but has shown great promise. The company is counting on Jane to mentor Bill to be even better at bringing in revenue.

Jane finds herself regularly frustrated with Bill because he seems so slow to act. Jane has meetings with Bill and advises him to "just get out there and take action. You'll figure it out as you go." But Bill never seems to respond well to this advice.

Finally Jane has a frank discussion with Bill about his performance. During this conversation, Jane can feel herself getting more intense, attempting to motivate Bill, who gets quieter and less responsive throughout the discussion. Jane wonders if Bill really has what it takes. Bill wonders if he needs to work for someone who is more supportive.

The relationship isn't working because both people are frustrated. Both people are misunderstanding and misinterpreting each other due to style differences.

If Jane was operating in Dimension Five, she would understand that getting intense with Bill will only shut him down. What will work with Bill is to slow down and develop a step–by–step plan for success. With this plan, Bill will most likely achieve outstanding results.

It all comes down to the ability to recognize different styles and adapt your leadership style accordingly.

Dimension Six: Leading Each Situation Uniquely

Just as we need to adapt our leadership style based on personality preferences, we also need to vary it based on the situation.

Now what do I mean by the term "situation?" Ken Blanchard discusses four stages a person goes through to master anything in his book, Leadership and The One Minute Manager.

First, we must assess where a person is on the developmental continuum. To do this, we need to understand two things:

  • What is their level of competence?
  • What is their level of commitment?

Competence means you have the knowledge and skill to accomplish the goal or achieve the task in question. Commitment is a combination of confidence and inspiration.

Blanchard defines four stages of the developmental continuum:

Stage 1: The Enthusiastic Beginners

  • Low competence.
  • High commitment.
  • These people are new to the job and have much to learn, yet they are highly inspired and excited to succeed.

Stage 2: The Disillusioned Learners

  • Some to low competence.
  • Low commitment.
  • As these people's skills grow, their confidence and motivation often drops, realizing how much more there is to learn to do a really good job. The more they learn, the more they discover how much they don't know. This is the time where these people realize the discrepancy between the expectations they had as enthusiastic beginners and the reality of the current situation.

Stage 3: The Capable but Cautious Performers

  • Moderate to high competence.
  • Variable commitment.
  • These people have developed the skills to perform their jobs at a high–level. However, some days their commitment is high and some days it's low.

Stage 4: The High Achievers

  • High competence.
  • High commitment.
  • These people are confident and self–motivated as well as skilled and experienced.

There is No "One Size Fits All"

Six–dimensional leaders will abandon a "one–size–fits–all" approach and vary their leadership style based on where their team members are on the developmental continuum. The less competence a person has, the more direction he or she needs. The less commitment, the more support the employee needs.

Directive behaviors involve clearly telling people what to do, how to do it, when to do it and then closely monitoring their performance. This involves putting on the pure trainer hat–the "let me tell you step–by–step what to do" approach.

Supportive behaviors involve listening to people, providing support and encouragement for their efforts and then facilitating their involvement in problem–solving and decision–making.

You can see the problems that can occur when you mismatch your leadership style. For example, try being directive with high achievers. They will feel micro–managed and become demotivated very quickly.

To make things more complicated, a person's developmental stage varies by the task. For example, a person may be a high achiever when it comes to technical work, a capable but cautious performer when it comes to making presentations and a disillusioned learner when it comes to managing a staff. Depending on what task their working on, you may use a different leadership approach. Your leadership must vary by the situation as outlined in Dimension Six.


To be a six–dimensional leader, you must hone these six leadership competencies:

  1. Lead yourself–you must model the way.
  2. Lead your team upward–connect people to a compelling vision.
  3. Lead people to responsibility–coach, empower and raise awareness.
  4. Lead deeply–listen at all levels.
  5. Lead based on personality preference or style– value differences.
  6. Lead based on the situation–different situations demand varying actions.

Remember, great leaders build great organizations. Practice being a six–dimensional leader and watch your organization thrive.

David C. Miller, MSCC, PCC, is a professional certified coach. He can be reached at 215.968.2483.


1 "Getting Personal in the Workplace," by Steve Crabtree, Gallup Management Journal, June 10, 2004.
2 "Harnessing the Power of an Engaged Workforce," by Susan Cantrell and James M. Benton, Outlook Journal, February, 2005.