Leadership is one of those terms that is hard to define. One’s mind may go to a political or world leader. It can drift to a sports coach. It can easily go to a military general. Sometimes a fictional character from television, movies, or books can even be seen as a leader. But what about Bill who works entry level at his job with a local small business. Can Bill be seen as a leader? As mentioned, Bill works at an entry level position at a local business. He doesn’t have any official subordinates. He isn’t in any leadership position, at least in an official capacity. But by analyzing Bill using servant leadership theory and the three-skills model of the skill approach, even Bill can be thought of as a leader.
Servant leadership is a type a leadership where the leader aims to serve their followers so they can perform to accomplish the organization’s goals (Penn State, 2017). It has a focus on how a leader serves their followers in regards to honesty, trust, and the need to make one’s followers better. There are numerous characteristics associated with this theory. Some of these characteristics that Bill also shares are the ability to listen, empathy, awareness, and foresight. Bill listens first. When other employees come to him, he listens and feels for them (empathy). He works with his group in order to work towards their motivations, to develop them, and to work towards the organization’s goals. These characteristics, or servant-leader behaviors, allow Bill to put his followers first. It allows him to look at any situation, and lead followers to the desired outcome…which is organizational productivity (Northouse, 2016). For example, one time Bill stayed late to show another employee how to do inventory. That employee wanted to know how to do it, but never received proper training on it. That employee had aspirations to be a floor manager one day, but without that knowledge, he would have never been one. Bill listened to his issues and felt empathy for him. Bill ended up staying late, without pay, to show how a proper inventory was done. The other employee’s motivations were satisfied and the organizational goals were also accomplished.
In that example, it was Bill’s knowledge of work that led him to be able to lead his follower. Technical skill is also a facet of another leadership approach. It is one of the three skills associated with the three-skill model of leadership. The three-skill model discusses the three skills leaders can develop in order to influence their followers. These three skills include technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills. Technical skills are just that…skills developed via technical proficiency at the job. It is the mechanics ability to change a tire. It is the doctor’s ability to properly diagnose a disease. It is Bill’s ability to properly do an end-of-shift inventory. Human skills are what we often hear as “people skills” or just the ability to work with people. It is the skill to work effectively with people and groups in order to accomplish the company’s goals and vision. The last skill is conceptual skill. This skill is the ability to work with an idea. It is being able to take an idea and transform it to tasks and goals in order to realize a vision for an organization (Penn State, 2017). Bill’s technical skills and human skills allow him to effectively lead in situations where his expertise, empathy, and charisma can allow him to properly influence others to complete various goals. He is high in technical skill and human skill, which is usually associated with general supervisory levels. As his conceptual skill rises, Bill can move to middle management levels, then eventually to top level management where his technical skills would not be needed as much.
Again, leadership is and will always be a difficult thing to define. Our minds may always be drawn to coaches, Presidents, and military generals. We may always think of people we see in movies and television. But after looking at Bill, an entry-level worker at a small business, through the lens of servant leadership and the three-skill model. We can see how when Bill works to serve those around him, or when he uses his core three skills to train and accomplish goals, we can see Bill as a leader. He may not seem like he fits upon first glance, but Bill is a not only just a people person. He is not only technically skilled. He has more than a “people person”. Bill is a leader!
Northouse, Peter. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice. (7th Ed.) Thousand Oaks, California:
Penn State University. (2017). PSY532: Psychological Foundations in Leadership. Retrieved on
February 12, 2017 from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1834794