The nine roots of effective leadership

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

When we first decided to create a leadership program to offer our clients at Newleaf Training and Development, we decided to proactively seek out different opinions on this vitally important subject.

We started with Alex. Alex is very different to me — at that time, he was under 40 and I was older. He wasn’t married whereas I was and, thankfully, still am. We had children — he didn’t. My work background was corporate, across Western Europe plus a two-year stint in the United States. His work experience at that stage was purely here in the states and always for non-profit entities. In a nutshell, his leadership experience and perspectives were very different to mine — or so we thought.

On our quest to identify effective leadership principles, we peeked into each other’s libraries. We found we had quite similar tastes — the works of Ken Blanchard, Warren Bennis, Stephen Covey, Marcus Buckingham, Ram Charan, Spencer Johnson and John Maxwell jumped out as commonalities between us. We also pondered on the consistent themes we could see throughout the thought processes of these best-selling authors on leadership. We started to see patterns through the many pages.

Alex and I then decided to seek opinions from others we admired, who although not famous and certainly not published authors, we personally knew them and knew they were respected as leaders in their chosen fields. We intentionally chose a good cross-section of people — male and female; under 40 and over 40; corporate folks as well as educationalists and leaders within major non-profit entities. Some of our respondents were people of faith; some we weren’t sure about and some we definitely knew weren’t. Some served as leaders overseas and others were right here in our backyard. We even got input from some left-handed people. OK, you get my point.

Then came the review process. We locked ourselves away in our offices here in Valencia for a few days and started to analyze our findings. Two patterns began to form.

The first pattern we noticed we categorized also into two areas — perceptions and behaviors. There seemed to be certain ways of thinking as it pertained to effective leaders as well as specific behaviors — what they said or didn’t say. What they did or didn’t do. Interesting we thought — how someone thinks drives his or her behaviors.

I had this distant memory as a schoolboy in England, hearing the words of William Shakespeare say: “As a person thinks, so is he.” Alex immediately jumped on this and retorted, “Billy Shakes must have stolen that from the Book of Proverbs as that says “As a person thinks in his heart, so is he.” I was aghast that Alex could so flippantly discount the great Baird by not only claiming he was a plagiarist but also calling him “Billy Shakes.” I mean, do these Americans have no respect for such a stalwart of the English language?

The second pattern that began to emerge was that some behaviors could be categorized in the arena of managing self and the others could be categorized in the arena of influencing others. Alex was so excited and enthusiastically verbalized that he felt we were on the verge of a breakthrough in that leadership is essentially managing self plus influencing others. Determined to get my own back on him insulting Billy, I pointed out to him that my father said to me when I was about 15 that I’d never been able to lead others unless I could manage myself. As we say across the pond, Alex was “gob-smacked” that my dad had said something 30 years earlier, than he’d “discovered” it. It seemed these leadership principles were almost, timeless.

Here’s where we went to work — knowing that some aspects were perceptions (simply put, ways of thinking) and some aspects were behaviors (what we say and do as leaders or don’t say and don’t do as leaders), we started to organize all of our findings under the category of managing self or influencing others.

After a many robust sessions over a few cups of tea and the occasional lightly buttered scone, Alex and I concluded we were done. In hindsight, I think Alex was “done” with the scones. We’d organized our findings into what we called the ‘9 Roots of Effective Leadership’ — four of them were self-management practices and the next four helped leaders be a positive influence to others. Any mathematicians in the house will add four plus four to get eight and wonder where’s the ninth? We found the ninth root helped sustain this level of effectiveness over time and, so visually and in practicality, it surrounded the other eight.

So after what seemed an eternity of analysis, what were the 9 Roots of Effective Leadership? Well, they say “Patience is a virtue” and so … you’ll need to be patient and wait for next week’s article.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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