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What is a Leadership Model? (And How to Build One)

A leadership model outlines the underlying values, capabilities, and competencies that are necessary for leaders to be highly effective in your organization.  The model also explains how these behaviors impact the workplace environment and the long-term sustained success of an organization.

  • From the leader’s standpoint, a leadership model serves as an essential guide to ensure that they are leading effectively and driving desired outcomes.
  • From a team member’s perspective, a leadership model offers transparency about the behaviors and values they can expect their leaders and team members to demonstrate in the workplace.

Why are Leadership Models Important?

Leadership models serve as a practical framework tool for developing more effective leaders.  A well-developed model gives leaders a guide to reference as they hone their skills and capabilities to inspire team members to achieve essential objectives and goals.

For example, if a manager experiences difficulty helping team members meet their quarterly goals, they may refer to their leadership model for insights and guidance to address and resolve the challenge. If you want to build a customized leadership development plan, CMOE can help.

How to Build a Leadership Model

Building or selecting the correct capability model for your leaders and team members requires four critical steps.

1. Assess Your Current Situation

Every team and organization is different.  Thus, the first step requires an in-depth analysis or assessment of the current culture, existing strategies, processes, and practices. This data helps gauge how or where leadership can make the greatest impact for the organization.  Performing this assessment will help you identify the most relevant elements of a leadership model.  It will also help you pinpoint strengths to maintain, weaknesses to address, and values to promote.

2. Define Model Elements

To ensure you’re not overlooking critical elements, review available models to benchmark or help spark your creativity and ensure you are considering relevant elements for your tailor-made model.

As you assess different prototypes consider the following factors:

  • Does this model align with the needs, challenges, strengths, and goals of our team or organization?
  • How might this model motivate and inspire people to do their best work?
  • What are this model’s possible drawbacks?  Are those drawbacks easily manageable?
  • How could this model be better to help fit our unique needs and goals?

3. Test Your Initial Model

Carve out time to test your chosen model with some opinion leaders and a few employees.  Be prepared to collaborate and refine the model. Before you rollout your model, make sure that you

  • Explain the model you’re testing to help team members understand the behaviors, skills, and knowledge required.
  • Understand how the model will manifest itself in the daily work environment.
  • Know how the model will impact each team member.

Help team members envision how the model will play out.  The more you communicate and make the process transparent, the more likely it is that individuals will trust the model and buy-in to the process.

4. Adjust As Needed

Measure and assess results and effectiveness.

Successful models and strategies require some fine-tuning or updating from time to time to reflect changes in your organization’s ecosystem.

  • Set a time frame to refresh your model and to analyze what is working and what isn’t.
  • You may need to add additional guidelines to your customized model.
    • Let’s say your model includes some servant leadership principles.  You find that while it has helped elevate levels of trust and collaboration among your team, some individuals are beginning to take advantage of the space and freedom the model provides. In this case, you’ll need to find a way to adjust boundaries and reset expectations to achieve a better balance between service and accountability for results.

There Are Differences Between Competency-Based Leadership Models and Values-Based Leadership Models?

If you elect to build your own leadership model, it is important to understand that there is a difference between Competency-Based Leadership Models and Values-Based Leadership Models.

  • Competency-Based Leadership Model – This is what has been outlined above. It provides a framework of the capabilities, skills, and behaviors needed to be an effective leader.
  • Values-Based Leadership Model – These models tend to focus on various styles or values that dictate how a person should operate as a leader in general.

Most organizations are focused on building a leadership model or framework that identifies those critical capabilities.  As you seek buy in from others, you may need to educate people about the difference.

leader writing on whiteboard during business meeting

What Are Some Examples of Values Based Leadership Models?

1. Servant Model

The servant leadership model takes the traditional hierarchal leadership structure, with team members at the bottom serving the leader at the top, and flips it. With servant leadership, the leader is at the bottom and is tasked with serving the team members above them by fulfilling the team’s needs. Rather than viewing themselves as a group’s authority figure, the leader acts as the group’s servant, prioritizing serving the greater good.


  • Can help the leader and team members develop emotional intelligence to better connect with colleagues.
  • Leaders are more inclined to make decisions that are in the best serve the team, the organization, and its customers.
  • Fosters inclusivity.


  • For inexperienced leaders, the group of team members may take advantage of the leader in their effort to serve others.
  • It takes time and concerted effort to build the servant leadership culture.
  • It can be challenging to make complex business decisions that are not in the best interest of those they serve.

2. Transformational Model

A transformational leadership model inspires change and innovation. It focuses on open communication to create a shared vision, team empowerment, and a culture of innovation and evolution.


  • Inspires purposeful change and transformation.
  • Develops mutual respect between team members and leaders.
  • Builds psychological safety.


  • May create unrealistic expectations if the leader doesn’t establish clear guidelines and offer some direction.
  • Can be challenging to measure and evaluate the model’s direct impact on business results.

3. Directive Model

Directive leadership is where a leader issues direct, detailed, and precise instructions in order to meet team or organizational objectives.  With close oversight, leaders assign roles and responsibilities, set project milestones, and retain most of the decision rights in the work being done.


  • Particularly helpful for tight deadlines and where critical decisions need to be made quickly.
  • Establishes a very defined process or structure for the team in how it will complete working assignments.


  • It limits the contributions and ideas of others and can display a lack of trust in the capabilities of their employees. This can directly impact morale.
  • Employees have less freedom and flexibility in how the work gets done.

Invest in Leadership Growth with CMOE

Building strong and talented leaders involves continuously investing in growth and development. Create a competitive advantage by developing a leadership model that serves your organization, its leaders and adds unique value within your operating environment. CMOE is here to support your efforts and help you achieve long-term sustained success with your leaders.

Learn about our Leadership Development Workshop and how to build organizational excellence in your business.  The CMOE team looks forward to helping you in building, creating, or revising your next leadership model and supporting the leaders it will serve.