As leaders, we each have our own approach to leadership.  An approach developed through experience, as well as a little blood, sweat and maybe a tear or two.

While we each bring our own stamp to how we lead, there are common attributes to most successful leaders:

Vulnerability (be human)

Integrity (be honest)

Transparency (show your work)

Accountability (own your outcomes)

Empowerment (grow others)

The acronym is VITAE.


Components of the VITAE Leadership Model

What is Leadership VITAE™?

A CV, or Curriculum Vitae, is a resume.  A CV captures our “work life.”

Leadership VITAE is about defining our “leadership life.”  How we each live leadership – the traits we value most.

More than what we’ve done, where we’ve done it, and what we’ve accomplished, our Leadership VITAE is about how we do it.

Components of Leadership VITAE

Leadership starts from within. 

If we cannot lead ourselves, we cannot lead others.  Looking inward, we can each determine where we are in our leadership journey and identify the challenges keeping us from achieving our goals.

Leadership is about what we value. 

VITAE is about living leadership values, but is also an acronym for five values that are common to successful leaders – in leading themselves and others.

While the VITAE values are universal, each leader must decide what he or she values most – those traits that they strive to live every day in every interaction.  The values become his or her leadership “brand.”

Leaders lead up, down and around.

We must embody leadership traits in our interactions with our teams, peers and our own leaders.  We are not being genuine if we have one face for ourselves and another for the world around us, or one for our team that is different for our boss.


Identifying Leadership Values

Leadership VITAE begins with identifying our core values.

To determine what we value, we need to begin within – What do I value in myself?  Then, looking outward – What do others value in me?  What do I value in others?

Another option is to start with writing down the words we associate with successful leaders.  Ones that resonate with how we aspire to lead.

As we find themes or complementary traits, such as integrity, honesty and trust, we can group them together with the word that best represents our aspirations.

The goal is to develop a manageable and memorable number of traits, such as 3-5.  Having an acronym is completely optional!


Creating A Leadership Story

Once we have our most important 3-5 leadership traits, we must think back to why those traits are important.  The answer should not be because a zillion leadership books say so.  Our individual experiences are what makes them important to us.

Each story is part of our respective histories…our Leadership VITAE.  They are the stories that helped shape each of us and our leadership brands.

Some stories may be about a win and others a learning experience, but they all shaped our leadership approach.  They all influenced how we do what we do.


Living Our Leadership VITAE

Now that we have our leadership values and our story, what’s left?  We need to live them.

The best leaders show versus tell.  It’s not enough to say we value listening.  We actually have to listen.  We have to reflect on whether we did what we said we were going to do (such as listen) and decide what to do to improve if we fall short.

The same is true of whatever we value, which is why it’s important to have a few critical traits we can focus on each day.  Reflecting back on each day provides an opportunity to measure progress on our leadership journey.  We might ask ourselves:

  • Vulnerability – Was I willing to ask for help or say “I don’t know”?
  • Integrity – Was I honest in my dealings with others without doing harm?
  • Transparency – Did I show my work, providing context for decisions or ideas?
  • Accountability – Did I own my mistakes?  Did my people own theirs?
  • Empowerment – Was I focused on on tasks and solutions or on outcomes?

If we feel good about these answers, we might consider what can be improved the next day.  If we don’t, we need to consider how to address the gaps.

Remembering that living leadership begins from within, each day we can look to ourselves to address our opportunities.  Once we look inward, only then can we look outward for any assistance we might need.


What is your Leadership VITAE?  How do you live leadership each day?  I would love if you could share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going.