pdf_buttonThere are a great number of leadership models and assessment tools on the market. We believe a number of these share a common underlying structure, which points to something more fundamental. The commonality starts with the fact that these models look at dimensions of behaviour. This contrasts with other models – such as the MBTI – which look at baseline personality traits.

Definitive research by Professor Walter Mischel of Stanford University into the relationship of personality and behaviour shows that personality explains less than 10% of the variance in an individual’s behaviour. As humans, we are much more flexible and adaptable than our personality predicts. The drivers of a person’s behaviour, he observed, are in fact the situations in which we find ourselves.

This is illustrated by a simple example: – Imagine that your personality profile highlights that you are highly extrovert, you make decisions intuitively and you trust your feelings more than your senses. Now imagine you have been captured by Dr Evil and put in a dungeon with a ticking bomb that can only be disarmed by solving a logic puzzle (like in an IQ test). You have 5 minutes before the bomb goes off. Are you going to stick to your personality type and die with aplomb or are you going to behave against your natural preferences and live?

For those of you still alive, you will agree that we can be very flexible in our behaviour based on the situation we find ourselves in. For this very reason, we at Leadership Mastery prefer to look at behavioural leadership models. Examples of these are:

  • Competing Values Framework
  • DISC
  • Hay Group Management Style Questionnaire (Daniel Goleman’s Primal Leadership)
  • Situational Leadership

What we found when comparing these models is that they map the same four basic dimensions of
leadership behaviour: Create – Compete – Control – Collaborate


The terms above are from the Competing Values Framework. Please have a look at the diagram above to see how the other models map onto each other. The picture also includes two additional models:

  • The four fundamental human needs
  • The four basic physiological needs

So we find a great degree of overlap between models developed in quite different spheres. Of course you will have noticed that Situational Leadership is not on the picture. This is because it only maps onto the left hand side – onto the two dimensions of Collaborate and Control. This lack of coverage probably explains why the model quickly lost its popularity, whereas DISC and the Competing Values Framework are still widely used. For those of you familiar with the Hay/ Goleman model, you will notice the absence of the Coaching Style from the picture. The Coaching Style require flexibility across all four dimensions.

Notwithstanding these exceptions, the level of correspondence between the 5 models is clearly pointing to a common, underlying structure in the dimensions of human behaviour.

We can even take this a step further and simplify the model for the organisational context:


The immediate insight from this simplified version is that leadership behaviours are either performance enhancing or performance sustaining. Systems (structures, processes, procedures, incentives, KPIs etc.) can be either performance enhancing or performance sustaining. For example, Business Process Re-engineering fell squarely into the top right quadrant. The reason it failed to produce sustainable results is because it neglected the other three quadrants entirely.

This simplified version also makes it easier to look at what is required of you as a leader in the workplace. If your team/organisation needs to lift performance, focus on the right hand side behaviours. After a while change fatigue will set in and performance sustaining behaviours need to take over before people start to get exhausted or leave. If the company/leader spends too much time exclusively pursuing performance enhancing behaviours, eventually performance will actually decline.

As a leader, you should ask yourself in which of the 4 quadrants you spend most of your time and why. All leadership development starts with increased self-awareness and getting a good grip on your core behavioural preference in relation to the 4 fundamental leadership behaviours is an insight every leaders should have. Refer back to Diagram A and carefully mull over the words in each of the quadrants. You will typically have more affinity with 2-3 of the 5 words offered in each, which is fine. They all describe the same fundamental concept.

Now spend a few minutes looking back at what you do over the course of a typical day. If you spend a lot of time talking to people with the aim of building and maintaining relationships, this clearly falls into the top-left quadrant. If you thrive on making decisions, getting results fast and competing, then you are in the bottom-right quadrant.

No particular quadrant is better than the others, it is only appropriate or inappropriate for the situation and culture you work in. The real test of leadership is how effective you are in achieving the outcomes the organisation is expecting of you.

As with all behavioural leadership models, what is interesting is NOT what you are already good at. In order to become a more well-rounded leader and to enhance your ability to deal with people and situations you don’t like, you have to focus on the quadrants that you are not naturally good at. Learning what doesn’t come naturally to you takes effort, is uncomfortable during the learning phase and you are likely to make mistakes along the way.

Typically, you will struggle most with the quadrant diagonally opposite from your own preferred behaviour. So that’s where your biggest potential for improvement is. Finding yourself a role model or coach when experimenting in a new quadrant will cut the time it takes to master the behaviour and reduce the discomfort of engaging in behaviours that do not come naturally to you.