Two Leadership Models

In leadership, there are two distinct organizational models. Since few things are quite so black-and-white, we might consider them to be two ends of a continuium, with a virtually limitless number of stops between the two. But at their core, the distinction between the two comes down to one question: who in the organization produces the value?  Who does the real work of the organization?

Practitioner Leadership

In one corner, we have what my brother calls Practitioner Leadership. Modeled after a law or physicians office, this model has one or a very few people responsible for delivering the product or service provided by the organization. They are the expert; they have the training and their activity is the most valuable and most scarce in the organization.

Every other person in the organization supports this "leader" in performing their service. If you're the leader and you see everyone else in the organization as your helper, you fit in this model.

Servant Leadership

In the other corner, the servant leader is the leader who recognizes that the people in the organization, those closest to the customer, create the value of the organization. A leader in this organization serves the people who create the value, working to make them more effective at delivering value and enchanting customers, whether internal or external. Leaders in this type of organization see themselves at the bottom of the org chart, supporting, enabling, sometimes correcting, encouraging and coaching people to create more value so that the organization can prosper.

Every person in the organization supports the people who create the value.

The Time Test

Over time, the Practitioner model runs out of gas or at best, simply stagnates. Regardless of what anyone in the organization does, there's little opportunity to change your position or move "up". Unless you go to school or miraculously prove you are as smart as (or smarter than) the leader, you will simply never measure up. You'll always be the second fiddle.

But over the same period, the Servant model creates new energy and life. As the organization grows, the number of people creating value grows. People who do a great job creating value begin first to self-equip and self-learn and eventually go on to support others in the same role. So leaders are developed with the expectation they will support the position they know. A Servant Organization grows and develops more servants, both on the front line and in the support roles. These organizations create their own "type" of people and fuel their own growth.

Who creates the value in your organization? Do you create the end product or service, or do you support those who do? The answer to that one question says much about your organization, your leadership style, and the future of both.


Photo © marilyn barbone -

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