The Leadership Pyramid 

Throughout time pyramids have been symbols of strength and stability, which is why the pyramid is the image that best depicts the qualities of effective leaders.

INTEGRITY forms the foundation of the Leadership Pyramid. Individuals with personal integrity have a strong moral compass. defines integrity as, “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” Sadly, too often we hear about leaders who have no integrity. Fortunately we have leaders who consistently demonstrate integrity in both their professional lives and personal lives. Leaders exemplify integrity in their professional lives by consistently “walking the talk,” leading by example, and being impeccably honest. Leaders who possess a strong moral compass (integrity) demonstrate it in their personal lives by never cheating or taking unfair advantage of anyone, and by showing respect, humility, and kindness to everyone.

TRUSTis the second tier of the Leadership Pyramid. While doing research for my PhD, I discovered that the word “trust” was used most often to describe effective leaders. defines trust as, “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, of a person or thing.” Note that this definition incorporates the word “integrity,” which is the foundation of the Leadership Pyramid. During many years of research and observation I’ve found that strong leaders are extremely effective in building trust with their peers, colleagues, subordinates, and other key stakeholders. Once trust has been established, almost anything becomes possible. 

VISIONis the third tier of the Leadership Pyramid. There have been numerous books and articles devoted to the importance of vision as a quality or characteristic of effective leadership. defines vision as, “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be; a prophetic vision; the vision of an entrepreneur.” I believe that Martin Luther King’s speech, “I have a dream,” best exemplifies an effective leaders vision for the future. Another example of a grand vision is the Declaration of Independence. Strong leaders have strong visions and effectively communicate their vision to others. Visionary leaders create a clear and compelling picture of the future. The vision becomes a “blueprint” of how to move the company or organization forward. Establishing a clear vision of the future is critical to creating a plan for the future.

INTENTION is the fourth tier of the Leadership Pyramid. defines intention as “an act or an instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.” Dr. Wayne Dyer states, “Our intention creates our reality.” Strong leaders state their intentions. Once they have formulated their vision, they clearly communicate that vision, and most importantly, they publically state what role they will play in moving the organization forward. Effective leaders state their intentions, creating a plan and a bridge to a brighter future.

EXECUTION is the top tier of the Leadership Pyramid. The best definition of execution is, “the carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.” Too often we hear about companies that spend valuable time and enormous expense creating strategic plans – only to put them on the shelf. According to Stephen Covey, “execution is the great unaddressed issue in most organizations today.” Execution is a disciplined approach to creating plans, goals, timelines, and responsibility to accomplish specific business objectives. The most effective leaders are good at creating a vision and are adept at execution and implementing the plan.

Sandy Cutler founded the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network and is President of BizCoach, LLC. He provides executive coaching in the areas of building trust, conflict resolution and leadership development.