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credibility is the foundation of leadership

Recently I was asked to delve deeper into ‘relationship building’ as a priority of an emotionally-intelligent corporate leader.  What amazed me was I unconsciously drew upon a model (four styles of interaction, by Ron Kaufman) that years before I had applied in action-based service training, and not ever perceived in the light of leadership. What are the parallels between the ‘four styles of interaction’ Service Model and Leadership?


One Shot Deal

The first level of interaction is described as the One-Shot Deal, typifying behavior of ‘take it or leave it’, based on a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ mentality. Whilst this may serve for a roadside hawkerstand for tourists in the depths of Africa, it does little to forge or sustain followship for corporate leaders, with outcomes of lack of trust and commitment from both sides, no interest in achievement or progress, no buy-in or care for an outcome and the concept of survival impinging on all behavior.

Interestingly the first stage is also underpinned by the words ‘Caveat Emptor’ – let the buyer beware!  How many of your past corporate leaders would you willingly seek out to join forces with for a repeated relationship?


Transaction Satisfaction

The second level of interaction is described as Transaction Satisfaction.  It looks at breaking down one interaction into smaller touchpoints, recognizing that each touchpoint has a possibility of creating a positive or negative response. In service, the goal would be to maximize the positive and minimize or negate the negative.  Imagine corporate leaders who are so attuned that every interaction with their team comes with an effect and that a sensory mechanism (grown from reflection, called connection) would steer a leader’s every interaction, ensuring positives every day for all parties.  Afterall, research shows that each person needs repeated positive feedback, and those in excess of negative feedback, to build confidence.  Leaders would be satisfied with team members, and team members would willingly work for the leader, jumping onto projects with abundant commitment and dedication.


Reliable Relationships

The third level of interaction is described as Reliable Relationships.  It recognizes the goodness from a previous interaction and seeks to draw upon that for ongoing good.  With dependability, consistency and reliability as bi-products, loyalty may be emerging, yet still in its infancy and can be broken at any time. What makes for a great leader in the eyes of a follower? Did Ghandi consistently follow his dream and was Mandela able to be depended upon for solutions?  Were messages clear, always available and of a serving nature? Would followers or team members be assured of a thriving future when following this leader, and willingly engage with projects rather than simply turn up to work to be there! 


Powerful Partnerships

The final level of the interaction model is described as Powerful Partnerships, whereby repeat business and increasing loyalty is cemented in the form of long-term commitments.  This is driven by mutual gain and growth for all. As a very simple example in business, this would be defined as a ‘win-win’ relationship whereby a supplier offers his contacts as aligned and future suppliers to the client and the supplier himself may be rewarded with a better rate.  Essentially both parties gain from look longterm commitment with greater two-way return..  In a corporate environment, this may translate as succession planning, development of corporate culture ambassadors and willingness to represent the company as an industry ambassador – all three being worth more than any money advertising could buy!




Commonly discussed is that leaders have an opportunity to display a responsibility mindset, which means service to all equally and for the greater good.  Leadership is service not only towards achievement but fulfillment too.

What was not previously enunciated was that leadership is about ‘becoming’ and growing more focus, value, presence and connectivity as demonstrated in the ‘powerful partnership’ style, rather than just dependability and reliability – and really is there any better way to gain credibility….and afterall, in the words of Kouzes and Posner (The Leadership Challenge), credibility is the foundation of leadership!

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