Great Leadership: It’s About the Climb

In order to scale a business, its founder(s) must scale their leadership skills. This is where I started last week’s blog post as well which, in turn, led me to revisit the Six Domains of Leadership Model (“SDL”), developed by Duke Professors, Sim Sitkin and Allan Lind, maybe because it is depicted as a pyramid!

As much as we would all like to race to the top, we know that a foundation must be built first.

So, let’s start with Personal Leadership.

Personal Leadership consists of: Authenticity, Vision, and Dedication, resulting in Credibility.

Authenticity — Beyond a Buzz Word

Personal Leadership = you are a person (duh!), a human being. Be you, the real you.

Authenticity is powerful. It has been shown that people connect with those that show the same range of emotions as they experience. People want to be led by people, not a title.

Find a leadership style that fits your personality. Share with your team what matters to you; your personal values, your mistakes and vulnerabilities, and what makes you tick.

Remember you are not only your words, but your actions and your tone of voice (I make lots of random sounds!), sense of humor, favorite expressions (“wonky”), body language, etc. Be you, but ….

Here is my sticking point with the buzz around “authenticity”. As a leader, it is only your starting point. Authentic leaders demonstrate that self-improvement is important to them. They practice self-awareness, developing the pieces of their personality that make them a better leader, and work to control the ones that are not so pretty!

For example, if you value money, power, and fame, you probably need to tone those down, check yo-self. Impatient, quick to judge? Give cringe-worthy feedback?

Similarly, saying what you feel and/or acting on it, unfiltered, without taking a beat, is not always a good idea. For a stunning example of this, read my post about the downfall of Rachel Hollis, Part II — You’ve Changed.

Articulate the Vision

What is your vision for the business and your team? Where do you want the team to go? How are you going to get there? Where’s the roadmap?

You must have a clear vision that gives direction to their work. Then you must translate the vision into goals for them, into priorities and milestones.

Credibility is built on a belief that you have the experience and knowledge to lead. You demonstrate that you have applied your expertise in understanding the challenges to execution and in identifying the opportunities.

Basically, you know what the hell is going on and you have a plan, — a good plan, to get to the destination.

A great leader sees where the team is at, any challenges they are facing, potential issues/events/opportunities on the horizon, and how to come at them in new and innovative ways. They are willing to let the status quo and apply fresh eyes.

It’s the concept captured by the well-known and often-cited quote from Rosalynn Carter, “[a] leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

Dedication & Digging In

A great leader does not preach from Mount Olympus this grand vision and then sit back and watch the team spring into action while they frolic about (frolic another fav of mine!).

You build credibility, forge bonds, find alignment with your team and it’s values by getting in the trenches with them. You personally engage. A tough problem that can’t be solved, get in there and brainstorm with the team. Tight deadline and the team’s working around the clock, roll up your sleeves sometimes and order the pizza. Do they see your commitment? Your passion?

Investing your time and energy in the team is dedication. Allocating the resources they need to do their jobs, rather than padding the bottom line (or your pockets).

Don’t act from a place of self-promotion and personal benefit but work for the greater good of the team and organization as a whole. See above — power, fame, money hungry — not a good look for ya!

It’s about aligning your values with your team’s values. Sure, your leadership style and personality, in the form of words and behaviors, will set the tone for your culture, but those values have to be aligned with your team to scale successfully.



I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kate Carney

I help women entrepreneurs scale businesses. I am a business consultant and legal advisor.