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Leadership Benchmarks of outstanding leaders: A roadmap for creating engaged followers

Life wants to happen. Life is unstoppable. Anytime we try and contain life, or interfere with it’s fundamental need for expression, we get into trouble. … 

Partnering with life, working with its cohering motions, requires that we take life’s direction seriously. Life moves toward wholeness. This direction cannot be ignored or taken lightly. People do not respond for long to small or self-centred purposes. Too many organisations ask us to engage in hollow work, to be enthusiastic about small-minded visions, to commit ourselves to selfish purposes, and to engage our energy in competitive drives. …

When we respond with disgust, when we withdraw our energy from such endeavours, it is a sign of our commitment to life and to each other.


M. Wheatly and M. Kellner Rogers


Hey, Joseph here from The Coaching Room, thanks for checking out my article on the 7 key benchmarks for engaging your followers as a leader.

This article is about understanding what it takes to lead – from the being (attitude, way of being) and the doing (enactment, behaviours) of Leadership. 

The benchmarks here are originally from the work of Dr. L. Michael Hall from NLP and the field of Neuro-Semantics. Over the years we have made some simple updates and changes to this work, from our experience in coaching, training, and modelling some of the world’s most powerful leaders and have been training leaders across these qualities for almost 2 decades.

Level 6 on the benchmarks is the highest expression of the benchmark behaviours, and level 1 on the benchmarks is the lowest expression.

As you read this article, you can self-rate your leadership. You can also ask others to rate their experience of your leadership against these benchmarks, if you so choose.

 A word of caution, these benchmarks aren’t so much about identifying what level you are at, as much as helping to identify what’s next for you personally.

 Our offer for you is to be ruthless about what’s really true for you, so that you may identify what’s next (the level above where you are will be an outstanding indicator).


The 3 being benchmarks (attitude, way of being)


These benchmarks rate the leader’s interior (approach, attitude, view of reality). 


1. Authenticity

Being and then acting from one’s true self without masks or personas, being real or true to oneself, to one’s gifts, talents, values and vision. 


(6) The Leader is willing to pay the price to live up to their highest values and visions, and not follow the path of least resistance. They are willing to stand out from the crowd. They are comfortable with, and confident about themselves. They point to the truth in every situation.


(5) The leader takes a stand on unpopular issues, speaking with energy, emotion and enthusiasm about the things they care about and are willing to have it cost personally and/or professionally.


(4) The leader mostly speaks and acts congruently; they speak from their true opinions, even when in conflict socially/politically/with peers.


(3) The leader occasionally speaks and acts in ways that reveal their true heart and views. They are mostly trying to please others, fit in and or conform.


(2) The leader speaks and acts in ways that hide the truth, they sometimes don’t sound believable because of tone or volume, and their style sometimes doesn’t match the content of words.

(1) The leader uses personas to trick, acts as a ‘yes’ person to whatever is socially, professionally or politically useful/correct. They lack the ability to confront or be in conflict, and hesitate when in such a circumstance.


2. Congruence:


Applying key principles to self, so that one walks the talk – internal alignment (congruence).


(6) The leader is constantly talking, inquiring and exploring how to apply improvement to self. They eagerly invite feedback and explore feedback when given (unprompted). The leader consistently is open to, receives/pursues coaching/mentoring for personal alignment.


(5) The leader applies most things to self first (rarely asks others to do what they won’t) and is constantly seeking to continuously learn, develop and improve. The leader has few incongruences and searches for feedback.


(4) The leader applies many things to self, asks about how one can apply things to self better, receives some form of coaching/mentoring and seeks some feedback from others.


(3) The leader applies a few things to self, but is mostly focussed on what others are doing or are not doing. Some incongruence exists in lifestyle/work ethic.


(2) The leader thinks about how something might apply to self, but shows no evidence of applying such.


(1) The leader never talks about or applies anything to self, talks only about what others should apply to themselves.


3. Integrity:


Being as good as one’s word, impeccably honest, true and fair-minded.


(6) The leader comes through on promises even at great personal/professional expense (resources – financial resources, time, energy etc.).


(5) The lifestyle, work ethic and actions of the leader are in alignment. The leader immediately makes amends or communicates well about a challenge when not able to come through on their word.


(4) The leader mostly does (acts on) what they say they will do 75%+ of the time. The leader is mostly open to correction and feedback when making amends.


(3) The leader comes through on 50% or more of what they say they will do, as well as acknowledging misalignment between words and actions, sometimes making excuses, sometime get defensive.


(2) The leader talks about coming through on promises or ideas, but evidence little to no behaviours that match words. The leader breaks agreements without making it open or explicit.


(1) The leader’s behaviours show no relationship to their words, promises or commitments. No mention of the difference between words and behaviours. The leader offers lies and deceptions, presenting themselves in ways that do not fit reality.



The 4 Doing Benchmarks – enactment


These benchmarks rate the leaders exterior (actions, behaviours, communicating).


4. Contributing:


Giving of one’s self to others, serving from the organisation’s values and principles.


(6) The leader leads out in new ventures, contributing discoveries back to the organisation, making internal networking possible, creating new routes to market, new products and/or services.


(5) The leader regularly contributes to work groups, participating in coaching/mentoring programmes, helping out on specialised projects, monitoring work groups, and sharing ideas and best practices.


(4) The leader contributes by writing posts/blogs/articles, offering ideas, suggestions, referring people for professional development, networking with others, starting development groups etc.


(3) The leader promotes the organisation and principles, occasionally participating in work groups, trainings/events, networking with a few others.


(2) The leader shows no indication of promoting the organisation other than perhaps writing one or two posts/blogs/articles a year, showing up for some training events, or not.


(1) The leader shows no indication of having given anything back to the organisation. Holding back from giving ideas, generally not available to invest energy into projects, programmes etc.


5. Communicating:


Sharing and disclosing in ways that are appropriate, clear, precise, engaging and compelling.


(6) The leader is able to create crystal clear images and visions for the mind – that move people to take action, succinctly & precisely with regard to their next steps or call to action.


(5) The leader is able to effectively match and pace people, call them into a forum, mostly able to get to the point, be succinct, with precise descriptions.


(4) The leader is able to put into words the hopes of others and get close to making their point, not 100% clear or precise in use of words.


(3) The leader’s oral and written words are partly focused on a vision, still half or more about ‘self’, very talkative, and inspirational.


(2) The leader uses a moderate amount of words, suggesting a vision or dream; communication is mostly vague, fluffy and undefined.


(1) The leader uses no or few words or communications that lead forth to anything new or different, mainly complaints or dislikes.


6. Pioneering:


Leading or moving out into new areas in thought and vision.


(6) The leader consistently sets frames for solving problems, setting forth a vision of a new possibility, inviting and inspiring others to share the dream and co-invent solutions.


(5) The leader takes steps to work on a solution, inviting others into the process, looking at what works and what doesn’t, writing posts/blogs/articles about such, networking with others, setting up a project to explore such.


(4) The leader explores market gaps with lots of solution-focused questions, inviting people to brainstorm about solutions, researching what solutions have already been explored or developed etc.


(3) The leader explores, talks, questions about a problem gap that needs to be addressed, asking problem-focused questions about it.


(2) The leader talks about new directions, but does nothing, talks about needs, problems and complaints.


(1) The leader shares nothing, pioneers nothing, gets by doing only what is necessary, keeps to self.


7. Collaboration:


Operating as a team player, co-operating with others efficiently and effectively to an agreed outcome.


(6) The leader adds value to a team, creating a sense of teamwork and cooperation, forming/performing as part of a high-performance unit.


(5) The leader follows the lead of another, supporting them in a project, and contributing ideas that support teamwork and cooperation.


(4) The leader forms part of a team project, assisting a team, coaching, and helping a group to become a cohesive team.


(3) The leader is supportive of others in a project, collaborating with them on something that contributes to their own success.


(2) The leader talks about collaborating but does not get around to doing such, mostly keeps things (eg. information) to self, and does not share.


(1) The leader does not participate with others, keeping completely to self-other than being highly directive, criticising others and what others are trying to do.


So where do you benchmark on these levels? What are your strengths and opportunities?


In my experience, these highest expressions of Leadership are the difference that makes the difference.


Next Steps


If you have identified an area or 2 to work on, ask yourself these simple questions to help identify the keyframes (beliefs, values, identity) that are maintaining the status quo.


  1. What do you value or believe that keeps you at this level?
  2. If there was a positive intent for operating from this level, what could it be?
  3. If you are ready to shift levels, but are unsure about it in any way, what’s stopping you (if anything)?
  4. Do you have the support you need to identify the changes you need to make in engaging and leading others?
  5. How committed are you really to constant growth and development as a leader 1 through 10? (1 = not, 10 = fully committed).


Well, that’s it from me, if there are areas that you have identified that your Leaders could work on and would like some help, book a 20-minute obligation-free chat with one of our Trainers.





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