The Trilateral Leadership Ledger
One of the best books I have ever read on personal leadership and developing yourself is Launching a Leadership Revolution, by my good friend Orrin Woodward and his colleague Chris Brady. One of the key things I took from this book the first time I read it was something called the Trilateral Leadership Ledger. I had never heard of it before, but it made so much sense.
For leaders, growth cannot be optional. Continual improvement must be present or you will be left behind. The only way to keep pace with increasing responsibilities is through increased ability.
Personal growth must come before your influence with others because your influence stems from your personal abilities. The process of becoming a leader starts with a lot of effort, which results in internal improvements the outside world cannot yet see.
Because personal growth is internal, and results show up much later, it is helpful to have a way to self-assess and track progress. This self-assessment tool is the Trilateral Leadership Ledger.
Leaders can use this tool to measure their leadership abilities in three main categories; Character, Tasks, and Relationships. The left vertical measures the effectiveness of the leader in the three categories across the bottom horizontal. Effectiveness ranges from zero (worst) to ten (best). Every leader’s goal should be to grow in the mastery of each of category.
Three Categories of Personal Effectiveness
Orrin and Chris make a bold, yet accurate statement in regards to character; “Nobody lacking character will succeed in a meaningful way”. So those looking to be successful in something meaningful in their lives have only one choice, develop their character. For the purpose of using the TLL to gauge personal growth, character is considered to include:
- Proper values based on absolute truths
- A humble spirit
This category represents the ability to get things done. No leader can succeed without the ability to complete the necessary tasks to win. For assessing a leader’s effectiveness in the task category, the following should be considered:
- Acceptance of responsibility
- Work ethic
- Willingness to invest time
This category measures a leader’s ability to get along with, and form lasting bonds with people. Leaders cannot experience success alone, they must accomplish things through, with, and for people. Without the ability to build strong relationships, that accomplishment would be impossible. Leaders can asses their effectiveness in this category by looking at their abilities in:
- accepting people
- approving people
- appreciating people
- seeing the good in people encouraging people caring for and about people
- putting others first
- seeking win-win arrangements
- helping people accomplish tasks
- living the “Golden Rule”
To use the TLL you must first begin with an honest self-assessment. This will offer your starting point. You can then estimate your improvement with re-evaluations. This way, as a leader, you can keep yourself on track and be sure you are always in a state of improvement.
To get your TLL score, estimate yourself in each of the three categories and give yourself a ranking from 0 to 10. Then to get your overall score, multiply those values together. For example, character (3), tasks (1), relationships (2), would give you an overall score of 6. Character (4), tasks (2), relationships (1) would give you a score of 8. But be wary of overestimation, only when you confront the brutal reality of where you are, will you be able to achieve where you want to be. Asking a mentor’s opinion of your self assessment would be a good place to start to determine if you have over (or under) estimated yourself.
A perfect score on the TLL would be 1000 (10x10x10), which seems daunting considering the examples just given. But if the individual in the first example goes from a 3, 1, 2 to a 4, 2, 3, their score will increase from a 6 to a 24! Small improvements can make a huge difference when using this leadership tool.
It is important for leaders to remember to grow in all three areas, not ignoring their weakest points and assuming their stronger qualities will make up for it. If someone scored a 0 in the task category but was a 9 in character and a 7 in relationships, his overall score would still be 0. If they even increased that score from 0 to 1, their score would jump to 63! It is so important to grow in all areas of the TLL.
The compounding effect of the three categories is astonishing. Real leaders won’t let themselves stay ineffective in one category when it is holding back their overall influence. If honestly considered, a leader’s score can reveal their blind spots and identify an area that needs improvement. If there is an area that is holding them back, a plan for improvement can then be developed.
The ‘perfect’ score of 1000 is unattainable. We are imperfect humans and therefore we will never arrive at perfection. However, we should never end our pursuit of it. If we think we have arrived at a level that is ‘good enough’, we have already started to slip backwards. It has been said that if you are not improving, you are getting worse, there is no staying still. Continual improvement in all areas of the Trilateral Leadership Ledger is key to attaining success and becoming an influential leader in something meaningful.