There are many in leadership positions with impressive titles and offices, but they are not necessarily leaders.  One of my mentors would say: “You are not leading if you have no followers. Otherwise, you’re just a manager.”

A decent manager can lead projects, but a leader can extract the very best effort from someone; their words can motivate others to volunteer their best effort on behalf of a mission, purpose or cause.

During this difficult period, many of us have time to reflect on our lessons learned. I thought of my experiences working alongside accomplished leaders around the world, and to use those observations for lessons that will help me be a better service designer.  After all, a service designer is not just required to manage design projects, they must also motivate others, communicate effectively and foster a shared working environment that spurs collaboration.  These abilities require a leader.

Managers are easy to spot because they manage projects, mostly involving people, process and technology, and driving forward while keeping an eye on deadlines, costs and performance.  Leaders, meantime, achieve the same results through individuals’ self-directed initiatives.

Some or all of my observations might align to what others have written in leadership books. I’ve not looked at those. My insights are solely based on my access to those who occupy the corner office, throughout my 25-year career (so far).

Real leaders are rare.  But so too are the organizations that recognize and prepare them.  Organizations I admire spend resources to groom leaders and nurture them through opportunities with increasing responsibility, including roles in company strategic planning and oversight.

Observations from the Deep Carpet

There’s no doubt in my mind there are natural-born leaders.  But there are many more who display the same characteristics and achieve the same result.

Effective leaders share these fundamental traits (in no particular order)

Leaders Set or Promote the Agenda

  • Leaders either establish or promote a vision consistent with the organization’s mission and purpose.
  • They consciously pass the vision along through any available opportunities., helping keep the vision alive and top of mind.
  • Additionally, once the vision is in place, the course does not change, even with obstacles along the way.

Leaders Serve as a Coach and Counselor

  • A leader fosters trust through confidentiality, by listening, and by recognizing the best in others.
  • They encourage others to grow professionally with greater responsibilities and tolerating mistakes.
  • Once an individual is assigned a task, the leader assumes it will be done.
  • They praise in public and admonish in private.
  • Leaders swiftly manage conflict and do so transparently between or among those involved.

Leaders Model Desired Behavior

Leaders are very aware that their every action is scrutinized, and so they turn that idea into opportunities to model desired behavior.

  • They treat everyone with deferential respect
  • Leaders listen carefully to each individual and take care to repeat back what they thought they heard. In this way, individuals know they have been heard.
  • They include others’ opinions, notably those with diverse backgrounds, thinking and perspectives, because they realize diverse opinions bring out the best ideas.
  • A leader takes the time, energy and resources to celebrate success.

Leaders Know How to Communicate

Leaders communicate clearly, succinctly and precisely. Their words foster a shared purpose, causing silos to fade away as individuals collaborate with each other and across teams. This kind of environment also stimulates creative synergy.

About Steven J. Slater:  Steven is co-founder of the International Service Design Institute. He has decades experience developing and improving Lines of Service (LOS) across almost every economic sector, with over $2B in traceable revenue.  Steven has held chief of staff positions at the management consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, at the U.S. Commission on Airline E-tickets, and as an assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, Pentagon.  Additionally, he has consulted with top Fortune-ranked companies in telecom, oil & gas, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), IT services, human capital management, financial services, and other service-based industries.

He has a business degree-M.S. Johns Hopkins; a public affairs degree-M.A. American University; and an international relations and communications degree-B.A. Syracuse University. He is also one of the early I.B. International Baccalaureate students at the International School of Geneva, Switzerland.

About International Service Design Institute

The International Service Design Institute (ISDI) is a Tampa, Fl.-based educational corporation, established in 2018.

Its purpose is to offer service designers career advancement through a knowledge base for developing, implementing and improving any services.  It fulfills its mission by creating and distributing a complete suite of service-design materials intended for service designers to use in practice—including individual skills assessments, salary surveys, e-courses, reference handbooks, and group exercises) for service design trainers.

To our knowledge, no other organization offers complete service design knowledge, from ideation through to performance measurement and service recovery education.

Steven is co-founder of the International Service Design Institute, a service provider offering service designers knowledge and skills to further their careers.  The Institute offers online courses and accompanying materials, workshops-in-a-box, and comprehensive handbooks, for learners, service providers and trainers.

The materials take learners through a sequential journey toward building services – from ideation, to determining and meeting user needs, to creating user journeys, service blueprints, touchpoints, plus prototyping, user satisfaction measurements, and service recovery.  Learners benefit from hands-on, self-paced, and real-use exercises.

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