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November 11, 2013
6 essential dimensions of great leaders

Increased demands, overstretched budgets, stressed out workers, flat business performance, and poor leadership role models—combined with a leadership model that tends to reward short-term results—have created a “growing gap between the leaders we have and the leaders we need,” says author Bob Rosen.

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business leadership book Rosen (, who is CEO of Healthy Companies International ( and author of several books, including his latest, Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World (November 2013), uses an analogy to describe the current pressures leaders are facing. He says leaders are like “trees in the middle of a storm, and their branches are being blown by the winds of change. The winds of change are uprooting them.”

“The world is changing, and we need different kinds of leaders,” he says. “Our leadership model is broken.” That’s because the focus tends to be on what leaders need to do to get ahead “and not nearly enough on who they are as human beings.”

“There’s a disconnect between what people say and what people do,” he continues. “Actions don’t follow words, and most leaders haven’t fundamentally changed [despite the new demands], and that’s a real problem.”

In his book, Rosen identifies six essential dimensions that he says must be nourished and supported to develop great leaders. The dimensions are:

1. Physical.

“This is how you live,” says Rosen. “We need leaders who are agile and have stamina.” Great leaders have a “deeper awareness of mind and body,” they know how to manage their energy, and they live a “peak performance lifestyle.” He adds, leaders are “running 24/7 and dealing with the speed of the market. They have to be physically fit and be able to bounce back in the face of adversity.”

2. Emotional.

“This is how you feel,” he explains. Leaders need confidence and self-awareness, and they need to exhibit positive emotions, such as forgiveness, compassion, love, and generosity. “Uncertainty is the new norm. We need someone who is comfortable with uncertainty. We need someone who is emotionally healthy.”

3. Intellectual.

Leaders need critical thinking skills. “The world is much more complex with information overload,” Rosen says. “We need leaders who can be confident with that complexity” and leaders who are constantly learning.

4. Social.

Leaders must have strong interpersonal skills, be transparent, and be able to “build mutually rewarding relationships,” he says.

5. Vocational.

This dimension focuses on how leaders perform, deal with competition, and maintain balance between finding meaning in their job and fulfilling their need for success. “Competition is so intense,” he says. “Leaders need a drive to succeed but not be hijacked by stress.”

6. Spiritual.

“This is how you see the world,” Rosen says. “Do you have a bigger purpose above yourself?” Leaders who think globally see how they fit into the world, for example, by making their organizations more socially responsible.

While the focus of leadership development is often on competencies, actions, and skills, more attention needs to be paid to the character and attributes of a leader, Rosen says. “Who you are drives what you do.”

Although many leaders live their lives according to the six essential dimensions of great leaders, Rosen says many leaders do not. “Many work in unhealthy organizations, where they are rewarded for other kinds of behavior.”

However, there is a growing recognition of the connection between “healthy leadership and high performance,” Rosen says. Employers that recognize and embrace that connection will reap the benefits. “Healthy leaders create healthier companies, and healthier companies outperform their competition.”

Why? Healthy leaders have a higher purpose, engage people in the process, share direction, foster great relationships, unleash human energy, grow and innovate, and drive performance, he says. “The healthier the leaders, the healthier your culture is and the higher performing your company is.”

So what can you do to address what Rosen describes as the current “leadership development crisis”? Rosen suggests focusing on who your leaders are; changing the way you assess, select, develop, promote, and reward them; and helping leaders see themselves in a different light.

“The secret is to help people see themselves and other people differently. A lot of people walk around with blurred perceptions of themselves.” To lead better, leaders need to have open minds and pay attention to their positive emotions, he says. “The return on investment is huge on how leaders operate.”

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