“What makes a good leader?” I was asked across a dinner table. To answer this you need to understand what makes a serving leader. You need to acquire the qualities and character that make people want to follow you over “the top of the trenches”.
My interest in leadership stemmed from a chance encounter with the book “Shackleton Way” by Margot Morell and Stephanie Capparell[i]. I created a model that described Shackleton’s successful leadership. I then studied other leaders of the past and noted that their success or failure were predicted by the model.
Subsequently, this model was amended as a result of a leadership think tank. It emerged that it is imperative to separate those leadership behaviour traits that need to be in your DNA from those skills that can be learnt. In the think tank we came up with eight behaviour traits that need to be in your DNA and fifteen skills that can be learnt.
[i] Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell, “Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer", Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2003
Shackleton is arguably one of the greatest serving leaders ever and provides the backbone of this simple leadership model. He looked after the comforts of the team. He was a mother hen. He genuinely cared for his team members as if they were his own flesh and blood. He saw a leader as one who served rather than one who was served. He dutifully took his turn performing the most menial of chores and expected his leadership team to do the same. He was “a Viking with a mother’s heart.”
Having studied these leaders I realized that one is unlikely to succeed unless you have built your foundation stones well enough, learned the lessons and put into practice the traits of a serving leader.
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