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Relational leadership model

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exploring leadership
Susan R Komives
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 8 minuuttia.

Relational leadership model  

The Relational Leadership Model (RLM) is a dynamic framework centred on fostering collaboration and nurturing a sense of collective purpose within a team. It emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and valuing the diverse talents and perspectives of team members. By prioritizing inclusivity and recognizing individual contributions, the RLM facilitates a synergistic environment where everyone can thrive. This model isn’t merely a theoretical concept; it’s a practical approach that yields tangible results. By harnessing the power of relationships and leveraging the strengths of each team member, the RLM empowers teams to achieve their maximum potential. In the following discourse, we will delve deeper into the intricacies of the RLM and explore its practical applications within various team settings. Through real-world examples and insightful analysis, we will elucidate how adopting this model can enhance team dynamics and drive success. Whether you’re leading a small project team or overseeing a large organizational unit, the principles of the RLM offer invaluable guidance for fostering collaboration and achieving collective goals. 


RLM focuses on five primary aspects in the team dynamic. 

Ethics: Ethics encompass the values and morals upheld by the team, serving as the guiding principles that dictate behavior and decision-making. It involves adhering to a code of conduct that promotes integrity, honesty, and respect among team members and towards external stakeholders. 


Purpose: Purpose refers to the common goal or shared vision that unites the team and drives its efforts towards a desired outcome. It serves as the North Star guiding the team’s actions and decisions, providing clarity and direction amidst challenges and uncertainties. 


Empowering: Empowerment involves fostering a culture of trust and collaboration within the team by sharing responsibilities and leveraging individuals’ strengths. It entails assigning tasks based on each team member’s unique skills and competencies, thereby maximizing efficiency and promoting personal and professional growth. 


Inclusivity: Inclusivity entails embracing diversity and fostering an environment that values and respects individuals from varied backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences. It involves actively seeking out and incorporating diverse viewpoints, thereby enriching team discussions and decision-making processes. 


Process-oriented: Being process-oriented involves focusing on the dynamics and mechanics of how the team operates and collaborates towards achieving its goals. It entails optimizing workflows, communication channels, and decision-making processes to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, and overall team performance. 

Figure 3.1 relational leadership model  

(Susan R Komives 1998 , 97)

Doing, Being, Knowing 


Knowing: This aspect of DBK emphasizes the acquisition of pertinent information and the development of necessary skills essential for accomplishing the task at hand. It involves identifying the knowledge gaps and actively seeking relevant resources to bridge them, ensuring a solid foundation for subsequent actions. 


Being: Being involves self-reflection and introspection, focusing on one’s mindset, attitude, and personal contribution to the situation. It entails cultivating a proactive and adaptable mindset, fostering empathy, and understanding one’s role within the team dynamics. By fostering a mindful approach, individuals can better align their actions with the team’s goals and values. 


Doing: Doing represents the practical implementation of plans and strategies devised through the knowing and being phases. It encompasses the actionable steps required to translate knowledge and insights into tangible outcomes. From initial research and planning to execution and evaluation, the doing phase emphasizes taking decisive action and applying newfound knowledge effectively. 


(Susan R Komives 1998 ,99 )

The advantage of relational leadership  


Creating an organizational culture where every person feels valued and respected is crucial. This helps to build a friendly and supportive community where all employees can contribute effectively. When leaders focus on fostering positive relationships, it not only improves teamwork but also boosts overall employee well-being. People thrive in environments where their opinions matter and their efforts are recognized. This positive atmosphere leads to higher job satisfaction and employee retention, promoting a sense of camaraderie among colleagues. Prioritizing relationship-building also enhances teamwork. When leaders establish trust and inclusivity, teams work together more smoothly and efficiently. Leaders who are skilled at resolving conflicts help maintain harmony within teams, preventing potential disruptions. Moreover, leaders who value relationships support the continuous professional growth of their employees. By encouraging open communication and seeking feedback, they help identify and solve problems faster. Additionally, such leaders empower individuals to develop their strengths, boosting their confidence and ability to face new challenges. Ultimately, leaders who prioritize relationships not only create a harmonious work environment but also foster a culture of mentorship and leadership development. By recognizing and nurturing the strengths of individuals, they promote continuous improvement and empowerment throughout the organization.



How to be a relational leader  

Adopting relational leadership means leading by example to create a friendly and fair workplace. It starts with leaders changing themselves, focusing on relationships, and building connections to set a good example for their teams. When leaders show they care about building trust and working together, it encourages team members to do the same, making teamwork stronger and more respectful.

Besides showing relational leadership, leaders should also learn important skills that help the whole team. Improving how they communicate and understanding their team members’ backgrounds are really important. By building both work and personal relationships, leaders can better understand their team and support them better. Making a supportive workplace where everyone feels included and helps each other is key. Creating a place where everyone’s ideas are listened to and everyone celebrates success together makes the team feel closer and work better. Setting goals that everyone in the team understands and agrees with helps everyone work together toward success. It gives everyone a clear direction and makes sure everyone knows what they’re working for.

Using relational leadership not only makes leading easier but also makes it more rewarding. Building real friendships, working well together, and helping others grow become important parts of leading, making it feel really good. Though learning these skills needs self-awareness and being humble, the benefits—like having a team that feels like family—are huge, making leading a great experience.

(Madeline miles 2023 )

How to apply it in practice  

Exploring the application of the Relational Leadership Model (RLM) and how it was implemented in our project with the assignment provider PRIO (Peace Research Institute Oslo) offers valuable insights. Our task involved aiding individuals grappling with war-related trauma to express their narratives through art, culminating in an art exhibition. Given the challenging nature of the topic and our team’s lack of direct experience with war-related trauma, we devoted significant time to listening to survivors’ stories and understanding their perspectives. This process was profoundly enlightening, revealing the depth of sensitivity and complexity inherent in the subject matter. The exhibition we created provided an immersive experience, allowing attendees to interact directly with the stories shared. Our aim was to ensure that survivors felt truly seen and heard through the artistic expressions showcased. To achieve this, we implemented a variety of creative techniques that not only made the experience memorable but also added substantial value to PRIO’s mission. By leveraging the principles of relational leadership, we fostered an environment where empathy, understanding, and inclusivity thrived. Our commitment to building meaningful connections with survivors and attendees alike underscored our dedication to the cause. Through authentic engagement and a deep respect for the individuals sharing their experiences, we were able to create a platform that not only raised awareness but also fostered healing and empowerment. The success of our project exemplifies the transformative power of relational leadership in addressing complex societal issues. By prioritizing relationships, empathy, and collaboration, we were able to navigate unfamiliar terrain with sensitivity and effectiveness. Moving forward, we remain committed to applying the lessons learned from this experience to continue making a positive impact in our community and beyond.  

 how we implemented RLM using KBD


– Understanding the purpose we want to achieve, which is to create awareness about war-related trauma. 

– Recognizing the importance of giving voice to those who cannot speak for themselves through art. 

– Understanding the significance of maintaining an open mindset and empathizing with others’ perspectives. 

– Recognizing the need to create a project that not only informs but also evokes emotional responses. 

– Understanding the importance of empowering individuals with backgrounds in war to feel heard and understood. 

– Recognizing that knowledge is empowering and fosters understanding. 

– Understanding the importance of fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and self-awareness. 

– Recognizing the need to establish a safe space for communication within the project and team. 

– Understanding the importance of empowering team members to leverage their strengths. 

– Recognizing the importance of breaking down taboos surrounding trauma and war-related topics. 

– Understanding the significance of ensuring inclusivity in our workspace and creative processes. 

– Recognizing the importance of ensuring everyone in the team has a voice and can express their opinions. 

– Understanding the importance of being open to receiving corrections and feedback. 

– Recognizing the significance of being process-oriented to achieve the best results. 

– Understanding the importance of trusting each other to fulfill commitments and enjoying the process as a team. 



– Being purposeful in our efforts to create awareness about war-related trauma. 

– Being empathetic and open-minded in our interactions with others. 

– Being creative and innovative in developing a project that evokes emotional responses. 

– Being inclusive and supportive of individuals with backgrounds in war. 

– Being knowledgeable and informed about the topics we are addressing. 

– Being accepting and self-aware in our interactions within the project and team. 

– Being present and engaged in creating a safe space for communication. 

– Being empowering and supportive of team members’ strengths. 

– Being courageous in addressing taboos surrounding trauma and war-related topics. 

– Being inclusive and respectful of diverse perspectives within our workspace and creative processes. 

– Being open-minded and receptive to feedback and corrections. 

– Being organized and process-oriented to achieve the best results. 

– Being trusting and collaborative in working together as a team. 



– Creating awareness about war-related trauma through various channels and mediums. 

– Giving voice to those affected by war through art and storytelling. 

– Maintaining an open mindset and engaging with diverse perspectives. 

– Developing a project that informs and emotionally resonates with audiences. 

– Empowering individuals with backgrounds in war by providing platforms for expression. 

– Sharing knowledge and information to empower understanding. 

– Fostering acceptance and self-awareness within the project and team. 

– Establishing communication channels and protocols for a safe space. 

– Empowering team members to leverage their strengths through appropriate tasks. 

– Breaking down taboos surrounding trauma and war-related topics through open discussion. 

– Ensuring inclusivity and diversity in our workspace and creative processes. 

– Encouraging everyone in the team to express their opinions and ideas. 

– Being open to feedback and corrections to improve our work. 

– Following established processes to achieve the best outcomes. 

– Trusting each other to fulfill commitments and enjoying the collaborative process as a team. 


The value the model brought into the project.  

Implementing the Relational Leadership Model (RLM) has greatly enhanced our project experience, allowing us to gain deeper insights and work more effectively together. Through this framework, we have been able to leverage our individual talents and skills for the benefit of our collective effort. Instead of simply going through the motions, we have strived to infuse our project with a tangible essence, aiming to evoke emotions and foster connections among our audience, especially those who may not have direct exposure to immigration or war-related trauma.

In a world saturated with depictions of hardship in the media, we recognize the danger of becoming desensitized to the struggles of others—where we see without truly feeling. Our mission has become clear: to spark empathy and engagement. Reflecting on Kevin Carter’s famous photograph of the vulture and the little girl, we grappled with the delicate balance between raising awareness and respecting sensitivities. This introspection led us to the thought-provoking work of activist artist Ai Weiwei, whose art serves as a powerful medium for challenging authority and amplifying silenced voices.

Our exploration has underscored the essential role of creativity and art in communication and expression, particularly during times of conflict when artists have historically faced suppression or persecution. As business students, we have embraced the intersection of art and commerce, recognizing their mutually beneficial relationship. Immersing ourselves in stories of survival and resilience, we have gained profound insights into the universal impact of war, transcending boundaries of ethnicity, gender, and age. Guided by the RLM framework, our team has generated innovative concepts for our art exhibition, drawing from our diverse perspectives and the wealth of firsthand accounts we have encountered. RLM has facilitated inclusive leadership, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued—an experience that has transformed both our project outcomes and personal growth.



In conclusion, the Relational Leadership Model (RLM) serves as a powerful framework for fostering collaboration, inclusivity, and collective purpose within teams. By prioritizing relationships, valuing diversity, and empowering individuals, the RLM enables teams to thrive and achieve their maximum potential. Through its practical applications and guiding principles, relational leadership transforms organizational cultures, enhances teamwork, and drives positive change. By adopting relational leadership practices, leaders can create supportive work environments where individuals feel valued, respected, and empowered. Moving forward, embracing the principles of relational leadership offers immense potential for organizations to cultivate cohesive teams, foster innovation, and achieve shared goals.


Susan R Komives 1998 exploring leadership  

Mary Uhi Bien 2006 relational leadership theory.  

Madeline Miles 2023  


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