Expert review: the ACT of leadership how to develop sustainable, effective leadership for everyone

Jefferson Cann

Extraordinary Leadership

Leadership is not a “style” that can be adopted, a set of behaviours that can be assumed at specific moments. Leadership emerges from a person’s Being, and is unique to every one of us – we have all been as energised and motivated by the quietly spoken, unassuming leader as we have by the charismatic, dramatic leader.

There is much talk at the moment about the need for a new sort of leadership to meet the unprecedented challenges that business and humanity as a whole faces in the coming decades. And yet … you only have to look at the shelves of an airport bookshop to see that there is already a plethora of perspectives and advice on leadership. As in so many challenges that humanity faces , it is not lack of knowledge or tools relating to leadership that is the problem, it is how we put – or fail to put – that knowledge and those tools to use.

Extraordinary Leadership’s extensive experience of leadership development around the world led us to understand that leadership lacked a unifying framework that enabled all those involved in leading and leadership to understand how all the different tools, schools, models and psychologies fitted together synergistically. 3-Dimensional Leadership provides that framework, and represents a uniquely comprehensive approach that enables leadership development to be tailored to each individual, team and organisation, effectively and sustainably.

The being of leadership

As we have said, leadership is not a “style” that can be adopted. Leadership is a state of being, that involves all aspects of the human being – PHYSICAL, MENTAL, EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL:

Physical Leadership is the ability to manage your physical state, to be able to move from a state of potential stress or fear to a state of dynamic relaxation, or “flow”, for optimal performance

Mental Leadership is the ability to remain clear-sighted and rational without losing the ability to connect at the human level for the benefit of the greater good.

Emotional Leadership is the ability to acknowledge your emotional reactions, understand their purpose and integrate them into emotionally intelligent, Adult-to-Adult interactions in all circumstances, rooted in the present without regret for the past or fear for the future.

Spiritual Leadership is knowing the purpose of your actions, and how this purpose fulfills your personal sense of meaning and the purpose of those your actions affect, from family to team to “world”.


Leaders do things, and enable others to do things.

Most importantly, leaders do and enable other people to do things that have never been done before in circumstances that have never previously existed. In other words, leaders act, and ACT stands for AWARENESS, CONNECTION and TRANSFORMATION.

The Leader is aware of and connected to himself, to those whom he leads and with the situation in which he and they find themselves. The quality of his awareness and connection determines the level of transformation that can occur – through and for the mutual benefit of all involved.

“There is much talk at the moment about the need for a new sort of leadership to meet the unprecedented challenges that business and humanity as a whole face…”

The Dimensions of Leadership

The ACT of leadership represents the dimension of the leader’s BEING. Leaders also ACT in TIME and SPACE.

Figure 1: Leaders ACT, which stands for AWARENESS, CONNECTION and TRANSFORMATION

The ACT of leadership takes place over three time periods – the NOW of the present situation, the desired FUTURE to which the leader wishes to progress, and the WAY or the path between now and the desired future.

The cornerstone of leadership is leadership of SELF, the first space of leadership – if you cannot lead yourself, you cannot truly lead anyone. This expands into leadership of OTHERS, or the team, and then into leadership of the WORLD, in the form of the organisation, the community it affects and increasingly crucially, the world as a whole.

These dimensions of time and space create nine Forms of Leadership.

Figure 2: The Nine Forms of Leadership

In each Form, 3D-Leaders ACT: they are Aware, they Connect and they Transform, captured in the third dimension of Being. Enhanced awareness and connection are themselves transformational, and they also determine the level of intentional transformation that the leader can effect at any time in any circumstance.

Extraordinary leaders are therefore able to lead themselves in the four aspects – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. They are aware of and connected with their current situation, their vision of their future and the path in between. They are aware of their people – their circumstances, their hopes, fears and potentials – and connect with them through the right language and concepts. They are aware of the effects of their actions on the broader world of which they and their team / organisation are a part. The extraordinary leader uses all this awareness and connection to effect a beneficial transformation for the benefit of the greater good.

Leaders may be relatively strong or weak in each of the nine Forms of Leadership. They are not alternatives: leaders can be fluent in all of them, and the best leaders are. The first step is to become aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a basis for your development.

A brief description of the nine forms

“Present Leaders are congruent, their values and behaviour align, they walk their talk.”

Authentic Leadership

Self-Aware, self-Connected and self-Transformational: we use self-awareness to include thoughts and feelings, strengths and weaknesses, values and purpose. Authentic Leaders are congruent, their values and behaviour align, they walk their talk.

Journeying Leadership

Journeying Leaders are committed to self-transformation in order to be more effective. They notice themselves and sense they are changing, in fact they realise that not changing is simply not possible. They are aware of at least some of their own weaknesses and they are working on them. They have connected with a deeper sense of who they are, what we call the “continuing self”.

Inspired Leadership

Inspired Leadership has purpose and meaning. Inspired Leaders deeply sense future possibilities. Inspired Leaders can give themselves to a higher purpose, because they know that the Self plays only a partial role in the whole, the only question is how well that role is played. Inspired Leadership includes awareness of the as-yet unrealised self, and knows that greatness is for all.

Adult Leadership

Adult Leadership connects with others in an Adult-to-Adult way. In terms of Transactional Analysis, there is no need to adopt either the Parent or Child ways of behaving. The Adult Leader is aware, connects and transforms people. Connection includes having good relations with others. Transformation gets the best for them, from them. The Adult Leader transforms from a place of true perception.

Coaching Leadership

Coaching Leadership sits in the middle of the matrix, connecting team with potential team, self with world, and present with future. Coaching Leaders enable others to succeed. They know that it is “not about them” and work through and for the benefit of others. They connect the team’s hopes and fears, and enable them to get past hurdles, and clear obstacles out of the way. They are the true enablers.

Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational Leadership reminds others of their own greatness. Inspirational leaders take people out of themselves and into something greater. They take people into a version of their own future. As the Inspirational Leader causes you to sense more of your potential and that of other people, your team, your organisation and the world, you are inspired!

Grounded Leadership

Grounded Leaders work with things as they are: they are Aware of, and deeply Connected with, the world as a basis for transformation. Freed from the urge to judge, Grounded Leaders are open to more hypotheses and hide from nothing, always working to see things as they are. They know there are always different ways of seeing things.

“Inspired Leaders deeply sense future possibilities.”

Challenging Leadership

Challenging Leadership works with the unfolding world as it emerges in the moment, “navigating the rapids”: the Challenging Leaders’ primary focus is survival. Their task is to keep the ship afloat on the ocean of the transformational journey, constantly challenging for further progress. They sense possibility and danger. They know that most obstacles are imaginary or avoidable and most of the rest are temporary. Nothing gets in their way.

Visionary Leadership

Visionary Leaders see what does not yet exist, they connect with that vision and bring it into reality. Their vision of what does not exist is much more interesting to them than what does exist. They spend time in their imagination, articulating what may be imagined and trusting that it may be turned into reality.

Which are your three strongest forms of leadership? Which are your weakest? You now have a map for your own development that automatically indicates the best developmental interventions for you.

Have a great Journey!

About the author:

This article was written by Jefferson Cann, co-founder of Extraordinary Leadership, and was commissioned by PiR Limited.

Jefferson has been providing leadership development at senior levels in many sectors for the past eight years, following a successful, 23-year career in pharmaceuticals. He co-founded Extraordinary Leadership with Nigel Linacre, with whom he co-authored “An Introduction to 3-Dimensional Leadership” . They also co-founded the “Extraordinary Leadership Journey”, which places clients in rural Kenyan schools, and helped set up “WellBoring”, a charity which provides sustainable water solutions for African communities.

Extraordinary Leadership the focuses on:

• Developing leadership of self, teams, organisations, and the world they affect

• Developing Awareness and Connection to enable Transformation at all these levels

• Establishing a common language, a common conceptual framework and a common experiential base of leadership throughout organisations

PiR is a brand synonymous with providing innovative senior resourcing solutions to life science organisations. As a result of our exclusive focus on the sector, we have an understanding of many of the issues faced by pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostic and medical device companies in the 21st century.

PiR offer a range of resourcing services, core to these are senior permanent and interim staff.

• Permanent Resourcing Solutions

• Interim Management Services

• Talent Identification

• Board Evaluation &amp, HR services

PiR’s expertise is particularly evident across functions in high demand. These include Medical, Regulatory, Programme Management, Supply Chain, Market Access, Health Economics &amp, Outcomes Research (HEOR), Pricing &amp, Reimbursement and senior level Commercial roles.

Email: Phone: +44 (0) 844 880 4340


What are your three strongest forms of leadership?