A brief video on the Exa-Leadership Model, the 6 Stages of Leadership, by the Italian Author and Consultant Dr. Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders“, with English subtitles

Transcript of the Lesson on Leadership, by Dr. Daniele Trevisani

held at the Master in Coaching & Counseling STEP, 2015



Well, let’s start with this second module of the morning



Theme: Communication and Leadership



Our Master Lecture on Leadership



Leadership is a very broad and wide concept



We can say that generally Leadership is the ability to “drive people” (but there are several ways in doing it)



Some interpret Leadership in a way that we can call “Primal Leadership” mode (Level 1 of the Exa-Leadership Model)



the “Leadership of the Leader of the Tribe” or Leader of the Pack



The Alpha Male, or the Alpha Female



That is to say: Who is stronger, leads



In this modality, the position of Leader is acquired by fighting



and is held and kept by fighting, since there is always someone that wants to get it, to grab it, to steal it, ok?



I refer to this, in the HPM Model, as “Primal Leadership”



Second modality of viewing Leadership is a Psychoenergetic Leadership (Level 2 of the Exa-Leadership Model)



That is, the superiority of Mental Energies



I like an example, Stephen Hawking, that is a leader in the field of Astrophysics



one of several leaders, an incredibly charismatic person,



he did incredible things,



he revolutionized the world of Physics



but he is paralyzed.



We cannot talk in this case of a Primal Leadership,



it’s not his body the source of inspiration for people, it’s his Mind



and mainly his capacity to continue working



in conditions in which 99.99% of other people would have quit



and would have quit not only today, but tens of years ago.



So, there is also a Leadership on the front of the Motivational Side.



The capacity to motivate themselves and auto-motivate others.



Than we have a third level of leadership, the Leadership of the Specialist (Level 3, Micro-Leadership Level in the Exa-Leadership Model)



So, if we have on example a Surgical Operating Room within a Hospital



you would see that in a Surgical Operating Room there is a specific time-frame that we can identify as “Leadership of the Anesthesiologist”,



in other words, the best in the team in doing anesthesia, leads. He drives the action.



Nobody can interfere with his decisions (on what to do and how to do his job as specialist)



because he is THE specialist.



Than, we’ll have a Leadership Phase of the Surgeon,



than, when you return in your room, there will be a Leadership Phase of the Head Nurse, and so on.



That is to say, the Third Level of Leadership is a Leadership Mode that is very focused on Micro-Skills, Micro-abilities (Leadership of the Specialist, Level 3 of the Exa-Leadership Model)…



…you have a Micro-Skill, you can do some things better than others



and you become the Leader, a Situational Leader, let’s call it this way.



4th Level.



Always referring to the HPM Model of Leadership



… it is a “Leadership of the Big Picture” (the capacity to see the big picture)



which is based on Macro-Skills (Level 4 of the Exa-Leadership Model)



What I am saying, is that it could be the case of a CEO,



who is not necessarily the best or most skilled of the company in the field of Marketing,



he is also not the best in Administration, or as Buyer, and in Logistics,



but he can coordinate all these Corporate Areas.



He must have a good knowledge of the various organizational areas,



without pretending to be the best in all of them.



So he has the ability to “cover” several areas and to “supervise” them.



This (Level 4 in the Exa-Leadership Model) is another and different Leadership modality, the capacity to “supervise” processes (Supervisory Leadership).



For coaching and counseling, this is very interesting, since a coach and a counselor can really be “supervisors” of client’s processes,



processes that the person can deal and bring ahead also together with other professionals,



on example, lawyers, supposing that in a marital separation there might be the need of a specific legal skills in some stages of the process….



… or processes that the person brings ahead with medical doctors, with other professional roles,



always keeping in mind that someone has to maintain a “helicopter view” of the whole process that the person is trying to carry out



And now, the 5th. The Fifth modality of looking at leadership is the Leadership of Project Management, the “Leadership of Projectuality”



What does it mean to be “Leader in Projectuality”?



It means to be that person that is able to transform an idea into a “To Do List”



the list of things that have do be done



So, a person that transforms a dream



into a project and into a “To Do List”



defining “Who” “Does What” and “When”



There are people that are extremely able in intervening inside an idea or a project



they might not bring any real creativity, but are able to set times, methods, procedures



and in assigning tasks, delegation and responsibilities



This is a Projectuality Leadership (5th Level in the Exa Leadership Model)



This applies to any field. On example in a kitchen, a Project Leadership becomes the ability to know what ingredients are needed and when to use them



and very likely the dish or recipe might have been decided by others. Project leadership has nothing to do with “generating” ideas but in getting things done



Than we have the Sixth and higher Level of Leadership (Level 6 in the Exa-Leadership Model): “Spiritual Leadership”



I can cite as examples Gandhi, Buddha,



I could quote any person that someone can consider to be a “Charismatic Leader” for the value that he/she expresses



for the “Values” and not for his/her physical power or physical strength,



and not for a capacity in Project Management, but for the Values.



So, Spiritual Leaders are those in which we recognize values



we recognize ourselves in those values, we nourish ourselves with those values



those values inspire us in improving us



they inspire us in growing again, in changing the world, or in leaving a better human race behind us



This is a Spiritual Leadership



and now you imagine



That these 6 Leadership Levels



can be singularly present



on example, in having a Leader that has one specific strong trait among 6 highlighted (and might be weak on others)



and with that single strong trait, he will be able to do great things



or a Leader that has 2 strong traits, or 3 strong traits, or even more, up to 6



so we have a view of Leadership Styles based on the analysis of which typical “strong trait” a leader is using (within the Exa-Leadership Model)



so, if we look at Leader (among political Leaders) as Putin



you will see a Primal Leadership in action, a “bodily leadership”



expressed in the “walking style”, in the way to stare or look at the counterparts in the eyes, an almost “challenging mode”



a “Leadership of the Fighter” (ps. Putin is also a Judo Black Belt and his Martial past and history made an imprinting into his bodily style)



than. you will see in him also other Leadership levels in action, but this is a very typical case of Primal Leadership Style



If we went to analyze e.g. Gandhi, we could not talk about a form of Primal Leadership (Level 1), but instead of a Spiritual Leadership (Level 6)



If we observe a Master in Martial Arts,



we will very often see a leader in the Macro Skills (level 4) that are needed



and hopefully also in the Projectuality (Level 5), in the Skills that are needed to be able to take an athlete



and make him improve along the areas in which he has gaps and needs to improve



Clearly, however, if in a (Martial Arts) Gym happens that



the Master adopts a Self Perception of Primal Leader



that will mean that the Master will beat everybody in the Gym



he will attempt to show his power and his territory by “kicking everybody’s ass”



as the Alpha Monkey does within a tribe of Monkeys, where he – each now and then – attacks those who pass too close,



just to show that he is the Alpha Male and Leader of the Tribe



In another (Martial Arts) Gym, we could instead have someone who uses a Spiritual Leadership (level 6)



conducted by means of meditation session, reflective activities,



acting as Counselor and as Coach in helping his students



very probably without any need to demonstrate his skills



and even having much lower bodily skills of his students, it does not matter since his Leadership is on the Spiritual Side, not on the Body Side, he is the “Spiritual Glue” of his group



So leadership has a lot to do with the ability to let a group become what that grup might become



or in helping a person in growing, achieving his/her Personal Development and improve him/herself



and this is the really most profound meaning of Leadership

Copyright by Dr. Daniele Trevisani



From the book:

Semiotics for Leaders: The Exa-Leadership Model for Leadership and Human Potential Development

daniele trevisani

by Dr. Daniele Trevisani

“People travel to wonder
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars,
and yet they pass by themselves
without wondering ”

St. Augustine of Hippo

Semiotics, the science of meaning, codes and communication, is an extremely powerful tool that can help leaders to be ore effective by acquiring the most profound side of leadership: the building of sense, purpose, and vision, inspiration for the Self and for entire groups.

leadership concept map
In Semiotics, Leadership can be analyzed in two very different ways:

  1.  “Denotative Analysis” (or “Denotation”): examination of behaviors, communications, acts, relational styles, the external forms or “signs” used by leaders to build and convey their leadership, reinforce it, or simply “act” as leaders (clothing and dress codes, verbal style, non verbal style, the type of car, the painting on the wall, even the location chosen for a meeting, and literally anything that can become a “sign” of a personal way of interpreting leadership);
  2. “Connotative Analysis” (or “Connotation”): the personal interpretation of a sign, the internal representation of meaning, the “story” behind perceivable traits, the evaluation of behaviors as “good”/”bad”, of tasks as “easy”/”difficult”, of people as “active”/”passive”, and any other evaluation.

Denotative Analysis should be as much as possible “objective”, non-judgmental, descriptive, sensorial, refer to perceived signs without any attempt to judge it, while Connotation, on the contrary, is and must be the judgmental side, seeking to extract the “sense” of any sign, evaluate it, confront its essence with values, beliefs, and even personal norms.
The work I conducted during 30 years of research and practice identifies the 6 main “vectors” that leaders use in generating both their internal world-views and their external communication.
The Exa-Leadership models derives its name from the word Six (Exa) in Greek language. In this model, Leadership is a holistic spectrum that can arise from:

  1. higher levels of attribution of meaning to physical power, which produces external communication signs or “power display”, acts, behaviors, or symbols used to display power and control others, show force superiority, ability to generate fear, and seek group-member’s need for a powerful group protector or Alpha Leader (Primal Leadership),
  2. attribution of meaning connected to the display of superior mental energies, superior motivational forces, being energetic and smart, motivated and mentally tough, an attitude perceivable in communication and behaviors, such as lack of fear, display of courage, determination, resistance and resilience, lack of anxiety, drive to action (Psychoenergetic Leadership),
  3. higher meanings attributing to managing the overall picture, showing a high level of skills across very different areas and fields of knowledge (Macro-Leadership),
  4. higher meanings attributed to being extremely good in highly specialized tasks, without need to getting the whole picture (Micro-Leadership),
  5. higher meaning attributed to display power and ability in managing the perfect execution of a task (Project Leadership), and
  6. higher level of meanings attributed to values, wisdom, and spirituality (Spiritual Leadership).

primal leadership power profile
Any company places expectations and very often lots of money on shaping public opinion’s views about how it wishes to be perceived.
Perception Engineering is really the effort of shaping and manipulating perceptions by scientifically placing and choosing the right “Signs” that can convey the right “Perception” in a given target audience, or change it strategically.
Any Leader and any company derives its specific Leadership Style and Behaviors from a unique mix of one or more of the six factors.
The “Power Profile” that emerges shows graphically the type of Leadership style.

Primal Leadership has to to with our animal side, the most basic instincts of survival, sex, reproduction, food, defence and attack, which require strength and fighting.
The external signs of this leadership attitude are everywhere and depict a historic stage of humanity where the animal side of humans is still the grounding force of external communication acts, even in the business environment, despite any tie or effort to acquire a higher status as “enlighted” species.
This can be the seen clearly in how western sports (as Soccer or Football, Volley or Basket) still contain a very high dose of combat and aggressiveness. Even more, combat sports, as seen in western MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) adopt a “Primal Style” of Martial Arts: external signs are filled with strong bodies, tatoos, and muscularity, behaviors as confrontation, aggression, and visually, lots of blood. For those who adopt this view, if there is not enough blood, the fight has not been good enough. Instead of showing the deep respect of the adversary in the pre-match confrontation, athletes are expected to practice “trash talk”, offend each other, show disrespect, and “fire up” the atmosphere, very likely to enhance viewer’s smell for blood. Everything is loud, from the music to the public screaming and the level of aggressiveness.
This is a completely different way of interpreting the meaning of the word “Martial Art” if we confront it with oriental cultures and practices, such as in Karate, Judo, Aikido, Wushu, Taekwondo, and many others, where the “Signs” use are much more clean, minimal, there is no unneeded aggressiveness whatsoever except for the focused action, participants are expected to behave with great composure and respect, atmosphere is permeated by mystical forces, deep inner strength, search for spirituality, no need for excessive external strengths display. The enphasis is on the search for inner energy (the “Chi”, “Ki” “Qi”) that needs no external demonstration, even when Martial Arts (as for Samurai or Ninja warriors) became a matter of life and death.
The same distinction holds true for Leadership Style. We can have an “externally powerful” Rambo-like leadership style, based on show of power, aggressiveness, status symbols like huge cars, building, private airplanes, behaviors of “boldness” and power, or a “Chi-based” style of leadership emphasizing inner strengths, based on remaining humble and internally powerful without any need to “overshow”.
These two distinct styles can be analyzed deeply by means of Denotative Analysis (what external and perceivable signs and behaviors leaders use) and Connotation Analysis (what meaning are conveyd by specific signs and behaviors). So, the Tao symbol becomes not only a graphical display, but the symbol of an entire worldview of the search for harmony and inner energies. And on the contrary, a “Death Skull” symbol becomes the sign of bravery, the lack of fear and love for fight. A storm can be used to visually “suck” the meanings associated to rapidiy, flash action, power and devastating energies.

tao flash skull symbols

The choice of any symbol will denote not only a graphical choice, but the appreciation or belonging of the individual to an entire world-view.
Semiotics is not just visual, it is poli-sensorial. The way you shake hands can convey meanings (gentle, strong, or agitated), what you eat and the way you eat it, even the way you walk and your posture.
The same holds true for the choice of a manger of a specific dress-code, the verbal and nonverbal signs used, the parfume he/she will use, the place where he/she will want to set the next meeting or the painting on the walls.
The Exa-leadership model attempts to grasp which variable is most active in a leadership style, and what generates strong leadership as opposed to weak leadership.

by Dr. Daniele Trevisani


Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

Energy and Awareness: A new form of Insiprational Leadership

When you are inspired by someone, very probably you see a special energy shining from that person, and a form of awareness: the clear sign that the person is understanding “what is going on”.

This double presence is a highly valuebe form of Leadership, and when these two forces join, it becomes a Leadership masterpiece.

For any artistic masterpiece, a special energy and knowledge is needed.

As seen in this semantic map, energy is linked to vitally, to vigor, it can take form of physical states as muscularity, it can a scientific concept connected to the laws of thermodynamics (as free energy in a system) up to becoming a state of mind as “vitality”.


Leadership regards inspiration. The artist needs inspiration, tools, know-how, the wish to express a thought, spread a message, or fulfill a dream. The ability to inspire people is of the uttermost importance in today’s societies, that seem so empty in spiritual values, up to the point that we see higher suicidal rates in richer countries than in very poor countries.

Firms without inspiration are like empty souls, walls and computers surrounded by nothing. Athletes without inspiration will find any training boring, and will soon give up. Leaders unable to inspire are not providing real energy.

From the following semantic map, we see a very interesting connection with the spiritual side of inspiration, something seen as almost a divine guidance, intangible skills as intuition, and tangible acts such as inhaling, breathing in, the intake of air. This is not a casual correlation, but a real strong connection between what inspiration is on the “material” side and the immaterial act of inspiring energies. To be inspired, we must (metaphorically) breathe, inhale values, good beliefs, hunger for justice, hunger for results.


The same need for “fresh air” is true about the art of bringing Humans to shine at their full potential, or teams and organizations to work at their best.

Over 30 years of research combined with practical work on clients, brought the necessary knowledge and experience to highlight which are the six “main vectors”, the key-variables, or “core-cells” that contain the energy storage necessary for winning this challenge for life.

The Exa-Leadership model owes its name from the Greek word for “six” (Exa) and is also a tribute to the enormous heritage that Greek and Latin culture generated for western civilizations.

Leadership and self-leadership are like driving. Driving requires direction, a destination, but if you try to climb a steep path, you will also need a strong engine. Empowering our internal engine is our mission.

This freedom comes from knowledge of how your human system works, from the ability to recognize lies that have been told you on what your limitations are, how permanent they can be, what you cannot achieve, and start instead to become a researcher of truth and knowledge.

Semiotics is the science of coding and decoding, the search for meanings, the search for “truth” and definition of hypothesis.

We are the very first targets of our individual battle, the battle for decoding what values have been instilled in us by education and society, family and friends, and start seeing how we use those values in leading people and projects.

And when we see that some value is really a fake value, or simply is not more what we believe in, we must have the courage to throw it out of us.

VERITAS vows liberality

The truth shall make you free

This is true for the Self, and also for Organizations, since humans are the living engine of every organization.

As for any fuel-cell, our work aims at helping people to find the right fuel (input) before asking the machine to perform hard tasks (output).

For those who know what anxiety and depression is, how it makes you feel, how it blocks your future, and makes your present a nightmare, it is important to know that not only something, but a lot, can be done.

We need to fix a few things in our internal engine. By knowing how our human machine works, we will be able to set free its potential, we will be able to detect what stops a healthy “breathing” of the engine, to open the flow of air that is needed, and to restart our trip in even better shape.

For people who feel already well, and are looking for their best performances, the work on Human Potential is also essential. Before jumping into action we need to fine-tune the engine, and if you are going to race amongst giants probably you will have to do much more than a fine-tuning. You will have to fully empower your engine.

Fixing things is not enough. We look for the form of Art that can emerge from any human that achieves his/her potential, Art in a very broad sense, since a father or a mother can be Artists in their role, a teacher can be Artist in his/her role, Sports Athletes and even Managers can become Artists in the way they build a better future.

Perceivable human performances are just the external outcome. Optimal inner functioning and well-being is the real internal victory.

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

There is no Power without Knowledge. Wisdom and “Noesis” for Climbing the mountains of life

Even small tasks like making a phone call or going into a bar and interact with someone, can become huge mountains to climb when we are empty of energies. And very often we give up even before trying reaching the first step.

Our view is that it is always worth trying to improve ourselves, we can become alchemists of our personal growth, alchemist for organizations or clients, and deeply inside, researchers.

Researchers do not just look for data. Researchers look for knowledge, meanings, truth, getting rid of fake perceptions. The result of a good research into the truth is “Noesis”, the generation of new patterns of thought, new light, new knowledge that replaces fake or unreal assumptions and truths.

Been rooted in ancient European philosophical texts, we will often pay a tribute to Latin Wisdom, phrases that explain, much deeper that modern “fast and easy” manuals, deep meanings for leadership.

Qui audet adipiscitur

S/he who dares wins

The art and science of accessing and opening the vast amount of hidden human energies has just begun.

Fortunately, a new Science of Human Factor is rising, a science of what Humans can do, achieve, and generate, when functioning at their best.

Any science is based on knowledge. As the following semiotic map depicts, knowledge or “Noesis” is strongly related to Power. Cognition, knowledge, and therefore training, study and research can generate Power

map 01

Having “Power without Knowledge” is like giving a gun to a 1 or 2-years old baby, that will use it as a toy, very likely killing someone by mistake, generating severe damages. Knowledge, instead, can become the instrument for developing and improving the world we live in.

For functioning at our best, we need to take into account the fact that we are made of physical matter (bones, muscles, tissue…) but also have dreams and feelings.

Our intangible states, emotions, our levels of consciousness, our values, desires, memories, assets and skills determine the performance we can achieve, the life we can have, the mountains we can climb, the oceans where we can swim, the landscapes that we will be able to see.

The HPM Exa-leadership Method derives its name from the primary objective of Modeling, giving “shape” to Human Energies, generating power and “crafting” intangible possibilities into real life and real action, as much as an artist gives shape to its distinctive and unique form of art starting from a vague idea.
Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

“Powerfulness”, the deep sense of being and feeling powerful

Knowing how many energies we really have, opposed to an out-of-focus picture or distorted perception, is a precious piece of information.
To learn that, we have to acquire new special skills, the skills of “self-focusing”, installing a “mental radar” that scans our deepest “signs” of internal energies, and their flow.
Semiotics therefore is not only a science for external signs, but also a discipline for self-listening and self-improvement.
The “Psychophysiological Flow”, as Ikemi points out, is a concept created by Carl Rogers, founder of the Humanistic Psychology approach, to describe the ‘sensory and visceral experiences’, or the flow of internal sensations that the individual can perceive, experiences that are sometimes aware and sometimes denied from awareness.
We often do not see the signs of stress that our body is giving us. We do not see the level of energies in people around us. We do not perceive the active values in others, they mental maps, despite the many “signs” that we could learn to perceive and interpret.
One of these experiences, in our approach, is the ability to read our “potential energy” as opposed to “supposed energy”. Our perception is distorted by so many external messages on what we can do and we cannot do, that we stop listening to what our soul wishes for us.
Rogers stated that there is an ongoing flow of experiencing inside every human being and that the ability to connect with this flow (become aware of it) and to provide correct labels for the perceived sensations and emotions (process called by Eugene Gendlin “Referencing”) has a direct impact on emotional wellness. A person can turn to it and discover meaning from those experiences.
He also articulates the relationship between words and this flow of experiencing which can be used as a ‘referent’. Matching words and the referent ‘encourages a further flow of the experiencing’ .
As this semiotic map shows, the search for power is a search for potency, effectiveness and strength, but also an opposition to a miserable state of “powerlessness” that ruins so many lives and organizations when faced with really sever challenges.

For this analysis it is important to introduce a new concept: “powerfulness”, the deep sense of being and feeling powerful when confronting our hopes and lifes challenges, feeling a powerful to overcome obstacles, and training every single day to improve our own inner power.

The search for Human Performance has to be connected to higher values, a fight against impotence, powerlessness, conditions of poverty, misery, suffered. In this sense leadership achieves a strong and solid emotional meaning for those who engage in this search and strong ethical values.
The tasks we are able to perform in life, are really deeply linked to the energy level we are able to access and generate.
Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)


A new light for observing what Performances really are

Getting rid of anxiety, depression, sick moods, is important and is a strong achievement for a good work on Human Potential. But it is not enough. After “cleaning” your machine from any unwanted burden, after fixing it and removing the dust, you might want to race with it, or use it for a wonderful trip to any destination.

The race of life or the trips of life as an opportunity are so many, and the time so little, that it is really worth trying to get rid of any unnecessary dust and burden that are cluttering our energies.

A human potential model aims at reaching positive conditions, as feeling good and full of energy, and considers this condition as a sacred destination for all Human Beings.

The following semiotic map shows that performance can have two very different set of meanings

  1. A demonstration, a sort of “presentation” or show
  2. A form of expression, a contribution.

Our approach is solidly grounding into the second area: performance and leadership as a field of self-expression rather than a mere “packaging”, nice to see but deeply unuseful and empty of values.

performance 2

Leadership has to do with the ability to unveil full Human Potential in the people that work towards a goal and in an organization.

Full Human Potential is a goal to achieve for mankind and for every free soul.

This dimension is not only practical, it becomes spiritual, it goes beyond the individual and reaches families, teams and organizations, or even entire nations and areas. When positive leadership unveils, we see a huge wave of positive energies coming out, projects, advancements, energy that busts the fog that blocks the sight of the positive destiny that every soul was born for.

Every Human Being derives power and performances from the ability to generate the right level of energy for the task – not more (it would be a waste of energy), not less (the task would not be accomplished).
Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)

Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)


The conceptual network of Human Power

Power is the capacity of reaching a goal or get something done.

Reaching a goal, heading towards a vision or fulfilling a task requires energy. One of the highest skills of leaders is that of activating people’s power and energies towards a goal. To activate means to put those energies into a flow, a flow that can build or destroy almost anything.

Power to act and to generate changes makes the difference between life and death. Think of how important leadership can be in managing a fire brigade team, or coordinate a rescue team, and you will find easily how leaders need not only external signs of leadership (e.g. uniforms) but really internal set of tools and values that make them special people.

Several “semantic maps” (a Semiotic tools) will be used to show the meaning connections among hot topics of leadership.

As this first semantic map shows, ability and power are closely connected to skills acquirement, to mental faculties, to knowledge, and leadership.

map 01

This map shows connections among concept from WordNet® an official database from Princeton University[1].

Given this complexity a working model that deals with the ambition of helping humans in reaching their full potential in leadership should really be holistic and pragmatic.

  • Holistic (in this approach) has the sense of encompassing the large variety of disciplines that enter the field of real leadership, such as management science, biology, psychology, linguistics, communication, neuroscience, and several others.
  • Pragmatic” in our view, means “practical”, focused on “what works”, what can be useful, centered on the real-life possibilities of applications and the will of finding really working paths of improvement.

A holistic/pragmatic approach to Human Potential does not make a clear line between pathological conditions and “normal” condition, sick or fit, white or black, but considers instead any human as a “system” whose energies can vary along a continuum, a system whose possibilities can unfold given proper stimuli, starting from any condition and state.

The holistic/pragmatic approach therefore becomes useful both for counseling interventions and for coaching, for research purpose and for management of HR interventions, for sports athletes and for high performance teams in any field.

There is no limitations to what can be achieved by a good work on Human Factor, since wherever we have a Human Being, any form of improvement will be possible given the right will and the right knowledge.

Knowing how humans function enables almost everything.

Ipsa scientia potestas est

Knowledge itself is power.

The clinical area is not marginal. It also concern the psychosomatic improvement, the mental condition, or the advanced frontiers of human understanding.

A solid work on Human Potential, Performance and Leadership must comprise the Mental State in which humans work, as well as that mental state is the right one for the goal, and how to improve it. It must also include a strong foundation, teaching values and forcing them to be appliedby leaders into everyday behaviors and everyday decisions.

[1] George A. Miller (1995). WordNet: A Lexical Database for English. Communications of the ACM Vol. 38, No. 11: 39-41. Christiane Fellbaum (1998, ed.) WordNet: An Electronic Lexical Database. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leaders” (see in Amazon more details about the book)


Semiotics for Leadership book cover thumb© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leadership” (see in Amazon more details about the book)



“People travel to wonder
at the height of the mountains,
at the huge waves of the seas,
at the long course of the rivers,
at the vast compass of the ocean,
at the circular motion of the stars,
and yet they pass by themselves
without wondering ”

St. Augustine of Hippo

Semiotics is the Science of Signs, Symbols, Meaning Communication, the science of secret Codes, the science that aims at uncoding reality.
Semiotics, also called Semiology, analyzes the functions of signs and symbols in human world and in any other system, and is the foundation of any modern communication science and Systems Science.
The roots of Semiotics can be traced back to Aristotle analysis of persuasive messages, to ancient Latin and Roman thinkers that tryied to decode how persuasive speech functioned and European philosophers from the medieval age onward.
Considered a part of philosophy, barely knowm even by academics, it has been neglected by modern psychology and management science, considered too exoteric, alchemic, and strange.
Its roots, based on a “search of meanings”, are disturbing for the narrow-minded short term-based companies cultures, and in modern eras dominated by hard data. In “fast and easy” mental diets, that search seemed too hard to be achieved.
But than, deep “crisis of meanings” arrived. The collapse of giant Multinational corporations like Enron, the “Too-big-to-fall” companies financial collapse of the Junk Bonds era, the “fall of the Giants” in the Internet Golden Age, Corporate Scandals like Volkswagen diesel engines crisis , huge catastrophes like Chernobil, Fukushima, Three Miles Island, just to mention a few.
In all of these Crises, the underlying root-cause problem was the Leaders’s lack of values, its behavioral consequences, the loss of meaning of what wise and good Leadership really is. A Value-Baesed Leadership, a Wisdom-Based Leadership mentality, was lost.
Well, when we look at any type of crisis, organizational crisis, personal crisis, and human factor crisis in a broad sense, meaning is not just something. It is everything.
Without a sense of meaning in what we do, we would not even wake up in the morning. Organizations that perceive no more meanings in what they do, dissolve quickly. Leaders whose words seem just empty talk, lose power quickly and get caught fast as bureaucrats or fake leaders rather than charismatic leaders.
From public speaking, to leadership behaviors, up to the ability to reveal codes and mysteries of mankind, semiotics is the basic discipline that can shade light where other cannot.
Its applications are so widespread that any field of human life is potentially explorable as a system of codes, signs and meanings, external behaviors and deeper intentions, external representations and inner values. And we can remember, just to mention some, that Semiotics is the science behind any type of Secret Code decoding. Therefore, it can be very useful to unlock some Secret Codes of Leadership.
This work aims on Semiotic for Leadership is the search of a new contribution to some of the yet unexplored areas of Leadership.
In a Semiotic view, it is important to identify which communication systems leaders employ to define their leadership, and therefore, a Semiotics of Leadership can really be seen as a science of the different Leadership Styles and different communication styles.
Every leader learned a different set of signs, to convey different sets of meanings and underlying values.
The Semiotic Exaleadership Models identifies the “6 Primordial Models” used by leaders to establish their status and communicate. We will get to them very soon.
As a preparation, think of symbols as “denotators” (signifiers) of some deeper and sometimes hidden meanings. Semiotics takes care of this special relationship between external symbols, signs or emblems, and deeper meanings, up to the level of what effect they can produce on people.
Can the use of a given word be persuasive? Or is it better to find another word. How will a given body language sign be interpreted by the audience? Can that uniform really convey respect? What do you have on your desk or at the walls of your house? Are you aware of the interpretation that people give to them?
Symbols can be representative of a whole world-view, such as the swastika used by the Nazis Party, or the hammer and sickle of the Communist Party. But also the body of a bodybuilder in a Gladiators movie, a symbol of power, strengths and courage. Even objects can be used to convey meanings. A luxury car or a fancy house can be used as a symbol of status, and this attempt can have the desired effects of depicting a positive image, or instead become a boomerang on relationships.
Even the red light that you see at the traffic light is a sign with much deeper meanings (stop, danger, blood).
A semiotic analysis of Leadership must therefore look at the associations between Leadership and its significant connections, such as power, status, leadership communications, understanding and misunderstandings, ability to convey powerful messages, human energies, and how they are brought out at their best, not only through words but with an entire set of tools.


© Article by Daniele Trevisani, from the book “Semiotics for Leadership” (see in Amazon more details about the book)