Let me ask you a question. What kind of leader would you want to follow? What would you say are the desired qualities and skills of a great leader? Why not stop right here for a few minutes and make your own list of what makes a good leader and see what you come up with. 

When you finish your list, here are some examples of the traits that may also be on your list: We at Transformational Leadership think leaders should be caring, humble, consistent, compassionate, approachable, decisive, enthusiastic, teachable, a visionary, a good communicator, a good delegator, a good listener, and one who empowers people, has wisdom, has high integrity, and has a good sense of humor. I imagine some of these qualities are on your list, too.

Wouldn’t you want to follow a leader who had all these qualities listed above? If you exuded these qualities, wouldn’t other people want to follow you? We think the answer is a certain and sure yes. Perhaps your definition of a leader or the one we suggested above wouldn’t describe who you are now or any person you’ve ever known, so let’s begin by asking what the definition of the ideal leader really is and think about how to frame these qualities into a definition of an ideal leader.

Breaking Down the V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E.

What Is the V.S.T.T.E.?

The V stands for Vision. Leaders cast vision. An organization needs a clearly identified and compelling vision that people are inspired to follow.

The S equals Serve. After the vision has been cast, it is the leader’s responsibility to serve and to see to it that the followers are taught, trained, and equipped so that they can be empowered to accomplish their roles in fulfilling the shared vision.

The T equals Teach. Leaders are responsible for providing knowledge that the followers need to perform their roles in moving the organization toward the vision.

The next T is for Train. Leaders must train their followers, which means providing them with the experience they need to perform before fully giving them the responsibility to do it.

The E stands for Equip. To equip is to provide the tools necessary for your followers to perform at the highest level.

Before we move forward, let me clarify the difference between teaching, training, and equipping team members. Teaching provides new knowledge. Training provides experience. Equipping provides the actual tools to perform.

As an example, let’s say you want your people to be taught, trained, and equipped on how to use an iPhone as well as multiple iPhone applications. If you brought them into a room and presented a bunch of PowerPoint presentations and a manual to show them how to use it, that would be teaching. If an iPhone was given to each person and they were allowed to practice what they’re reading in the manual and seeing in the PowerPoint presentations, that would be training. If then after all the teaching and training they were sent back to work with an iPhone, that would be equipping.

What Is the E.L.E., the Remainder of V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E.?

The second E in V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E. equals Empower. When the follower has the knowledge (teaching), experience (training), and tools (equipping) to succeed, we are fully empowering them and they are ready to do the job. At times, we think we are empowering people when we’re merely delegating tasks. But if we empower people before we’ve taught, trained, and equipped them, we can get them and our organizations into trouble.

The Difference Between Empowerment and Delegation

Delegation is not the same as empowerment, but it is a precursor to empowerment. Delegation is a part of the teaching, training, and equipping. Let’s assume I have a new administrative assistant. He or she comes to work on Monday morning, and I tell the person that one of the responsibilities is to handle my calendar. I explain that on this Thursday I have four people coming in for lunch who will arrive at 11:30am. I ask my new administrative assistant to bring in three pizzas–a meat pizza, a veggie pizza, and a cheese pizza, Diet Cokes and Sprites for four people, and a couple of salads with some ranch dressing. I then provide the name and phone number of the pizza place. That is delegation.

What does empowerment look like? Let’s turn the clock forward 90 days. Over this time period, I have taught, trained, and equipped this person to know how to manage my calendar. On Monday morning, the person comes into my office and says, “I noticed on your calendar that you have four people coming in for lunch. Are there any special dietary needs?” I’ll thank them for checking, and soon after, my assistant tells me the lunch will be here at 11:30. Now that’s what empowerment is.

Later, perhaps the person will tap on the door, stick his or her head in, and say, “By the way, if you had put on your calendar that there were no special dietary needs, I wouldn’t have had to bother you.” You see, the training can go both ways to help us perform our jobs more effectively. When the relationship is strong, this sort of two-way training can happen.

The L equals let go. Once you have empowered the person who has the requisite knowledge, experience, and tools, you can confidently let go and allow the person to fulfill his or her responsibility, moving towards the common vision.

The final E equals Evaluate. At this point, the job of the leader is to evaluate the person’s performance in light of your clearly defined expectations and the vision for the organization. It is important that they know and understand how they are doing in their roles in relation to the shared vision.

V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E. Reduces Stress in Your Organization

Think about a time when you may have sent one of your team members to do something before that person was taught, trained, and equipped. It could have been your employee, your child, or someone else. How did that go? What was your stress level like during that experience?

Now, how about a time when you sent one of your team members to accomplish something only after you first taught, trained, and equipped that person for the task? Which experience was more productive? Less stressful?

Based on the V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E. model, how would you rate the quality of your leadership today? Then think about where you want to be as a leader. Are you a teacher, trainer, and equipper? Are you empowering? Have you been delegating before or after your people have been taught, trained, and equipped? If you’ve been delegating before the person is ready, you may be stressed, and your team member and his or her coworkers may also be stressed as a result.

As you lead, try using the V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E. model. When you engage V.S.T.T.E.E.L.E., leadership becomes much easier and less stressful because we build teams around us who are empowered through what and how we’ve taught, trained, and equipped them. Cast a compelling Vision. Serve. Teach. Train. Equip. Empower. Let go. Evaluate. As a result, you will become a highly influential, transformational leader who balances the need for good relationships in your organization with the necessary transactions that propel the organization forward. We all have influence, so we might as well make it a positive one.

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.