Overview of three levels of leadership model
The model is intended as a practical tool for developing leaders’ leadership presence, knowhow and skill. It aims to summarize what leaders have to do, not only to bring leadership to their group or organization, but also to develop themselves technically and psychologically as leaders. The three levels referred to in the model’s name are Public, Private and Personal leadership. The model is usually presented in diagram form as three concentric circles and four outwardly-directed arrows, with personal leadership in the center. The first two levels – public and private leadership – are “outer” or “behavioral” levels. Scouller distinguished between the behaviors involved in influencing two or more people simultaneously (what he called “public leadership”) from the behavior needed to select and influence individuals one to one (which he called private leadership). He listed 34 distinct “public leadership” behaviors and a further 14 “private leadership” behaviors. The third level – personal leadership – is an “inner” level and concerns a person’s leadership presence, knowhow, skills, beliefs, emotions and unconscious habits. “At its heart is the leader’s self-awareness, his progress toward self-mastery and technical competence, and his sense of connection with those around him. It’s the inner core, the source, of a leader’s outer leadership effectiveness.” (Scouller, 2011). The idea is that if leaders want to be effective they must work on all three levels in parallel. The two outer levels – public and private leadership – are what the leader must do behaviorally with individuals or groups to address the “four dimensions of leadership” (Scouller 2011). These are: A shared, motivating group purpose or vision.
Action, progress and results.
Collective unity or team spirit.
Individual selection and motivation.
The inner level – personal leadership – refers to what leaders should do to grow their leadership presence, knowhow and skill. It has three aspects: Developing one’s technical knowhow and skill.
Cultivating the right attitude toward other people.
Working on psychological self-mastery.
Scouller argued that self-mastery is the key to growing one’s leadership presence, building trusting relationships with followers and enabling behavioral flexibility as circumstances change, while staying connected to one’s core values (that is, while remaining authentic). To support leaders’ development, he introduced a new model of the human psyche and outlined the principles and techniques of self-mastery (Scouller 2011). The assumption in this model is that personal leadership is the most powerful of the three levels. Scouller likened its effect to dropping a pebble in a pond and seeing the ripples spreading out from the center – hence the four arrows pointing outward in the diagram. “The pebble represents inner, personal leadership and the ripples the two outer levels. Helpful inner change and growth will affect outer leadership positively. Negative inner change will cause the opposite.” (Scouller, 2011). Public leadership
Public leadership refers to the actions or behaviors that leaders take to influence two or more people simultaneously – perhaps in a meeting or when addressing a large group. Public leadership is directed towards (1) setting and agreeing a motivating vision or future for the group or organization to ensure unity of purpose; (2) creating positive peer pressure towards shared, high performance standards and an atmosphere of trust and team spirit; and (3) driving successful collective action and results. Public leadership therefore serves the first three dimensions of leadership mentioned in the overview section. There are 34 distinct public leadership behaviors (Scouller, 2011), which break out as follows: Setting the vision, staying focused: 4 behaviors.
Organizing, planning, giving power to others: 2 behaviors.
Ideation, problem-solving, decision-making: 10 behaviors.
Executing: 6 behaviors.
Group building and maintenance: 12 behaviors.
Leaders need to balance their time between the 22 vision/planning/thinking/execution behaviors and the 12 group building/maintenance behaviors. According to the Three Levels of Leadership model, the key to widening one’s repertoire of public leadership behaviors (and the skill with which they are performed) is attention to personal
leadership. Private leadership
Private leadership concerns the leader’s one-to-one handling of individuals (which is the fourth of Scouller’s four dimensions of leadership). Although leadership involves creating a sense of group unity, groups are composed of individuals and they vary in their ambitions, confidence, experience and psychological make-up. Therefore they have to be treated as individuals – hence the importance of personal leadership. There are 14 private leadership behaviors (Scouller, 2011): Individual purpose and task (e.g. appraising, selecting, disciplining): 5 behaviors. Individual building and maintenance (e.g. recognizing rising talent): 9 behaviors. Some people experience the powerful conversations demanded by private leadership (e.g. performance appraisals) as uncomfortable. Consequently, leaders may avoid some of the private leadership behaviors (Scouller, 2011), which reduces their leadership effectiveness.
Scouller argued that the intimacy of private leadership leads to avoidance behavior either because of a lack of skill or because of negative self-image beliefs that give rise to powerful fears of what may happen in such encounters. This is why personal leadership is so important in improving a leader’s one-to-one skill and reducing his or her interpersonal fears.
Personal leadership addresses the leader’s technical, psychological and moral development and its impact on his or her leadership presence, skill and behavior. It is, essentially, the key to making the theory of the two outer behavioral levels practical. Scouller went further in suggesting (in the preface of his book, The Three Levels of Leadership), that personal leadership is the answer to what Jim Collins called “the inner development of a person to level 5 leadership” in the book Good to Great – something that Collins admitted he was unable to explain. Personal leadership has three elements: (1) technical knowhow and skill; (2) the right attitude towards other people; and (3) psychological self-mastery. The first element, Technical Knowhow and Skill, is about knowing one’s technical weaknesses and taking action to update one’s knowledge and skills. Scouller (2011) suggested that there are three areas of knowhow that all leaders should learn: time management, individual psychology and group psychology. He also described the six sets of skills that underlie the public and private leadership behaviors: (1) group problem-solving and planning; (2) group decision-making; (3) interpersonal ability, which has a strong overlap with emotional intelligence (4) managing group process; (5) assertiveness; (6) goal-setting. The second element, Attitude Toward Others, is about developing the right attitude toward colleagues in order to maintain the leader’s relationships throughout the group’s journey to its shared vision or goal. The right attitude is to believe that other people are as important as oneself and see leadership as an act of service (Scouller, 2011).
Although there is a moral aspect to this, there is also a practical side – for a leader’s attitude and behavior toward others will largely influence how much they respect and trust that person and want to work with him or her. Scouller outlined the five parts of the right attitude toward others: (1) interdependence (2) appreciation (3) caring (4) service (5) balance. The two keys, he suggested, to developing these five aspects are to ensure that: There is a demanding, distinctive, shared vision that everyone in the group cares about and wants to achieve. The leader works on self-mastery to reduce self-esteem issues that make it hard to connect with, appreciate and adopt an attitude of service towards colleagues. The third element of personal leadership is Self-Mastery. It emphasizes self-awareness and flexible command of one’s mind, which allows the leader to let go of previously unconscious limiting beliefs and their associated defensive habits (like avoiding powerful conversations, e.g. appraisal discussions). It also enables leaders to connect more strongly with their values, let their leadership presence flow and act authentically in serving those they lead. Because self-mastery is a psychological process, Scouller proposed a new model of the human psyche to support its practice. In addition, he outlined the principles of – and obstacles to – personal change and proposed six self-mastery techniques, which include mindfulness meditation.