A Leader of Leaders Culture

Written by Dr. Kelly Whelan

Dr. Whelan is the Founder and CEO of Belem LLC. She specializes in partnering, empowering, and positioning executive leaders and teams for success by helping them design strategies that create stakeholder impact.

October 10, 2020


The Secret Language of Leadership by Denning suggests that we are in the age of leaders, which stems from global economies and faster than ever innovation. With the world stage watching your every move, the need for extraordinary leadership and the need to continuously grow leaders is more crucial than ever.

The higher up the leadership ladder you go, the more effective your soft skills must become. Strengthening those soft skills takes consistent and purposeful development through practice and application.


Managing the culture of an organization through a partnership of equals approach is key for 21st century leaders.


To be an effective leader and provide stakeholder value, leadership must serve, grow, and bring their people into the leadership fold. This does not happen by chance, or from the hard skills many leaders have. It happens through intentional design.


A Partnership of Equals

Some may think leaders and followers are not congruent with a partnership of equals however, when you become a leader of leaders one cannot flourish without the other. In this shared-leadership model, there are dispersed responsibilities; leaders and followers (co-leaders) become “relational partners” with complementary roles. This means less “telling and directing” from the top and more shared responsibility throughout the design.


Collaboration within the walls of your organization should be the expectation and demonstrated from the top.


Therefore, the “leader” in this model is responsible for:

  • bridging the gap
  • creating open dialogue
  • modeling behaviors
  • keeping a keen eye on needs and concerns, as well as,
  • encouraging and empowering their co-leaders

By doing so, expectations are clear and co-leaders can follow, emulating the leaders actions.


Relational Partners

Professionals are looking to become peers to their leaders and managers. When this is communicated, co-leaders become more effective and performance peaks in this cooperative environment. This does not mean that leaders are void of their “leadership” role. They must continue to keep their pulse on the vision and organizational goals. However, incorporating co-leaders in the planning process, based on skill level and talent will encourage fit with purpose.


Communicating Effectively

In a leader of leaders model, it is up to all leaders to be engaged and communicate effectively. The onus lies on everyone in the organization regardless of level. Likewise, acknowledging and removing any barriers to communication will provide greater communication performance. Barriers to communication come in many forms to include:

  • emotional distress
  • national cultural differences
  • technology
  • distractions
  • lack of transparency
  • absence of listening
  • psychological safety is not practiced


Creating a Learning Environment

Fostering growth is one aspect that has great importance when growing relational partners. Leaders should be focused on building other leaders, which goes past modeling behaviors and into offering the proper environment that fosters mentoring, training, and development programs to include professional coaching, that advances individual learning. As individuals advance in skill, organizations become that much more fruitful. Co-leaders will achieve greater satisfaction by their ability to advance into opportunities within the organization. This creates greater self-esteem, self-worth and self-actualization.

Here are 5 quick tips to grow leaders in your organization:

  1. Offer incentives for mentors/mentees/coaching engagements
  2. Discuss and establish career goals and advancements
  3. Meet your co-leaders and assess their strengths
  4. Get the right training and development for the right people (senior leaders included!)
  5. Track results and reassess throughout the building process

By becoming a leader of leaders you transform individuals and the organization through effective communication, setting clear obtainable organization goals, believing in the power of your people and creating a learning environment.

When you the leader encourage, empower, and inspire growth in your organization, you and your people win together.

Are you ready?


Be sure to tune in to our podcast CONVERSATIONS For Leaders & Teams, or on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform!

Click here to purchase your copy of Leadership Excellence By Design: Strategies For Sustainability & Strength on Amazon!

Leadership By Design. Book by Dr. Kelly Whelan.








Baldoni, J. (2003). Great communication secrets of great leaders.NY: McGraw-Hill.

Denning, S. (2007). The secret language of leadership.(1sted.). San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

Hackman, M. & Johnson, C. (2009). Leadership a communication perspective(5th ed.). Longrove, IL: Waveland Press.

Kerfoot, K. (2002). Leading the leaders: The challenge of leading an empowered organization. Nursing Economics, 20(3), 133-4, 141. Retrieved from https://0-search.proquest.com.library.regent.edu/docview/236932118?accountid=13479

Kerfoot, K. (2005). On leadership: Establishing guardrails in leadership. Nursing Economics, 23(6), 334-5. Retrieved from https://0-search.proquest.com.library.regent.edu/docview/236937179?accountid=13479

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