Introducing leadership capability patterns

In April 2014, I was invited to speak at a conference about becoming an accidental leader, when you find yourself leading because it has to be done rather than by design or agreement. In preparing for the talk, I considered all the ways we can show leadership, and what that could look like. As the structure of the talk developed, it became clear that I was talking about patterns of leadership, and this evolved into a framework of capabilities and levels. There was a fair amount of interest in this at the conference, and subsequently online, so I committed to writing a series of articles that explored these capabilities.

Note: this is intended as a collaborative discussion, to continue the development of these patterns into an open resource available to everybody and contributed by anybody. 

A framework for leadership capabilities

davidjcmorris-leadershippatterns-framework The framework consists of five pairings, around which patterns of leadership evolve that lead to success:

Each of these pairings deal with different areas in which there are opportunities to show leadership. The links will take you through a short series of articles on each pairing, describing some of my experiences in each area, what those guiding me suggested, and what I have discovered on the way.

Levels of leadership capability


The levels correspond to increasing capabilities in leadership rather than a sequence or path in which they might be learned or experienced.

  1. task-focus, people-centric, competence
  2. project-focus, process-centric, leading
  3. organisation-focus, strategic, proactive
  4. culture-focus, behavioural, managed
  5. connectivity-focus, power-centric, aligned

I would love people to engage with this and contribute to developing this further.



  • Matthew Hodgson (@magia3e)

    The framework posits an interesting set of competencies that make up a 5 factor model to define what makes a good leader. Why a 5 factor model? Does the literature support this? Was there research conducted to propose this hypothesis?

    Much of the science (psych) literature on leadership in the last 50+ years shows that the only real predictor of success as a leader is bound up in the ability to correctly assess a situation and apply the most appropriate leadership style (or perhaps pattern).

    There’s a lot out commentary in management/leadership patterns from the USA (management and leadership styles) but most are culturally bound and rarely apply outside of the USA.

    Some considerations:

    1. Internal reliability: Do these factors measure what you think they measure?

    2. External reliability: When these factors are used over time, do their measurement yield the same results (within an acceptable margin of error).

    • David Morris

      Good questions, thanks.

      The factors are those that I have uncovered and interpreted as I have developed the ideas over the last 10+ years. They are based in part on McKinsey 7S, Four-Frame Model (Bolman and Deal, Reframing Organizations, 2013), Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Patrick Lencioni), Leadership Styles (Kurt Lewin), 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey, 1989), and many others. I referenced some of these factors in a team assessment model which I co-developed and some I have discovered and explored subsequently during my master’s research. I’m now retuning them to focus on leadership.

      I love your point about the only predictor of success being the agility to assess and apply the right pattern. That’s where I’m aiming. My starting point has been a framework and levels as a mechanism for identifying and codifying the patterns.

      I’m less interested in measuring and metrics, and more interested in giving people access to interesting and though-provoking material. As I develop this further, I will be keen to explain these factors, describe the patterns, and provide links to other resources that help provide more depth.

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