Attributes of an Inclusive Leader

I would like to discuss and compare some fundamental leadership theories between Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, Belbin’s experimentation with leadership abilities and Adair’s Action Centred Leadership Model. Why? Because I want to better understand how to develop leadership skills and attributes and with this build an action plan based on critical questioning of the appropriateness of the outlined theories and how it can personally be applied in practice.

Wooden, identifies an inclusive leader as a leader who has 15 defining attributes, which are classified in a hierarchy, creating what he calls, “The Pyramid of Success”(Wooden, p.16). Industriousness, enthusiasm and loyalty are a few of the fundamental attributes needed to take the first steps towards successful leadership. Attributes that he considers the most “essential (…) and most challenging” (Wooden, p.31) for many leaders to completely satisfy are: self-control, initiative, intentness, skill and team spirit. Filling the bulk of the centre of the pyramid, many leaders find it hard to have full control over these attributes as they require skills “more from the head than the heart” (Wooden, p.40). The two critical skills required to reach the top and achieve “competitive greatness” (wooden, p.52) are poise and confidence. One has to have the faith and self-belief that all decisions made are for the greater good of the team, even if many may criticize this. Having won 10 national championships and 4 perfect seasons, Wooden has proven that his leadership framework is a good basis to follow.

Another, more straightforward, framework states that there are three attributes that a leader must have – trust, basic dominance, and strong moral commitment. Belbin (2010) has given a much more general outline, though through experimenting he found that many leaders also possessed a mixture of different abilities from self-discipline, enthusiasm, composure, through to being a realist.  On comparison, Wooden’s framework is much more detailed; however, both have similar attributes, such as discipline, enthusiasm, and commitment,  that they consider essential. Unlike Wooden, Belbin states that most people elected as leader did not have “high mental abilities” (Belbin, 2010, p.50), which is necessary to reach the top of Wooden’s Pyramid. Discovering this, Belbin states that a leader is someone who is “tolerant enough always to listen to others but strong enough to reject their advice” (Belbin, 2010, p.50). In other words a positive, reflective, lively and dynamic person, who uses constructive criticism and advice from the team to form solutions.

Adair’s ‘Action Centred Leadership Model’ (1970s) touches on many of the leadership attributes mentioned by Wooden and Belbin. Creating a partly overlapping, three-circled diagram he states that the task, team and individual are the main responsibilities that the leader has to account for. Stating only the responsibilities within the circles, Adair adds that there are necessary attributes for a leader to be able to tackle responsibilities (Businessballs, 2010). Planning, initiative, control, and being reflective are attributes that Adair, Belbin and Wooden have in common. Adding to this, Adair suggests that support and being informative are as vital as the rest in order to achieve the set responsibilities in his model.

From the theories outlined above it can be concluded that to be an inclusive leader one must have several different defining attributes. Initiative, discipline, confidence, commitment and reflection are attributes that Wooden, Belbin and Adair all highlight as being fundamental.  Other attributes are ranked, defined and referred to differently according to each theorist.

But is it possible for unborn leaders, like myself, to gain all these attributes and become an inclusive leader? Surely Wooden’s 15 attributes, Belbin’s three defining abilities plus the mixture of different abilities and Adair’s list of responsibilities plus the extra attributes needed are too much for one person to accomplish in a lifetime? According to the theories I am far from being an inclusive leader, lacking three of the five main attributes, namely initiative, confidence and discipline.

However, Adair originally demonstrated that “leadership is a trainable, transferable skill” (Businessballs, 2010) rather than a born ability. This stance argues that everyone has the chance and ability to develop and become an inclusive leader. As stated earlier, Belbin describes an inclusive leader as someone who can listen, reflect and reach a decision for a team, which from past experiences I personally have done.  Two of the five main attributes being strong and three being weak gives me a good starting point for the journey to inclusive leadership. Belbin stressing that leader’s have a mixture of different abilities and Wooden’s 15 steps to success means that apart from the main five there are other smaller attributes, which add to the success of an inclusive leader. Analysing them has shown me that many of the lesser attributes I already posses -for example,, loyalty, friendship, and intentness. These smaller attributes should help promote the development of the three main attributes.

Improving discipline can be dealt with in a variety of more creative, non-leading ways. Writing out a list of different commitments and developing a routine –  for example, jogging every morning –  is a good start to getting into a habit that will “generate long-term results” , even if it may “create short-term discomforts” (TheSalesBlog, 2010). Discipline is a must in order to achieve the extensive list of different attributes leaders must have. Without discipline, the desired attributes will never be achieved.  One must learn to “love the routine” and remember that the discomfort is there to develop “something greater in the future” (TheSalesBlog, 2020).With discipline, the two other lacking attributes can be tackled.

The responsibilities drawn up in Adair’s ‘Action Centred Leadership Model’ are guidelines which will enable me to develop and train my three lacking attributes. Commitment to practicing the responsibilities during group work and sports practice will be constructive ways in which I, as well as others, will be able to monitor, support and adapt my developing attributes. The very fact that many of the responsibilities involve taking initiative will directly boost my confidence and initiative skills, as well as further improving discipline, thus covering all three lacking attributes.

To be an inclusive leader one must have a variety of different attributes. Many are not born with the level of attributes needed to succeed as a leader. However, as the theories highlight, all necessary attributes as well as minor attributes can be develop in order to become an all-rounded inclusive leader.