Today, December 15th, marks 125 years since the death of Sitting Bull. Holding an unprecedented position as leader of the Sioux, we consider his personal and team developmental leadership skills.

Leader of the Sioux Sitting Bull was killed in South Dakota in what was the culmination of 22 years as supreme chief of all tribes. Given the internal governance that usually pervaded within each individual tribe’s culture, to accept an overall leader was certainly unusual, but Sitting Bull achieved this through an ability to develop both himself and others. It was Plato that said that the ability to develop others should be a professional skill, but in this age of time poorness, the inclination to invest in team members can be lacking, indeed many leaders are even reluctant to allocate the time to their own personal development. Caring and generosity are key to developing followers, two qualities that it is said that Sitting Bull possessed in spades, it was these traits along with his embodiment of tribe values that pushed him forward to the ultimate leadership position.

Most established companies have an image, a level of quality (be it high, low or somewhere in-between) that places them in the market, this can be considered as fundamental to their positioning, and as brands expend significant effort on honing this image through their strategy and communications, it follows that they would actively or subconsciously promote leaders that are congruent with this image. And conversely, leaders who are comfortable with their company’s image are more likely to prosper in that setting. Their belief that they are aligned to the product or service gives a confidence and self-efficacy that motivates. For Sitting Bull, his personification of clan values coupled with his strong belief in his people and their goals made him the perfect choice as leader.

As a modern day leader, be clear that it is not self-indulgent to consider such issues as personal image as it is this that will enable or disable you from being recognised as the leader you want to be, aid promotion and opportunity prospects, encourage talent to your team, give greater influence with others and help you to create a more dynamic working environment. Consideration too should be given to alignment with the company that you represent, noting any areas of discord. If you don’t feel comfortable with the company and its image, is it really the company for you?

Sitting Bull was said to be revered for his character, his kindness and generosity to others. When it comes to developing others, supportive or developmental leadership can be seen as an aspect of transformational leadership, helping others to achieve higher order goals. Looking to Maslow’s hierarchy, we know that the basic needs come first such as physiological and safety needs, followed by belongingness and love. It is the top levels that are of most interest to a leader though, through self-esteem and self-actualisation, the former coming through self-respect from achievement and confidence, the latter through self-fulfilment and realisation of potential. Interestingly though, the satisfaction and fulfilment that can be gained through enabling others to reach self-actualisation can be beneficial to personal self-actualisation. Working with followers and seeing their progress, instilling confidence, and encouraging them to develop their skills and abilities in the workplace can all contribute to fulfilment as a leader.

The essence of Sitting Bull’s success as a leader came in his willingness to step forward and take responsibility, born of an internal commitment to group values. Sitting Bull believed so strongly in the clan, and its aims and objectives that his image and that of the clan became as one. To actively promote personal development shouldn’t be shied away from, as when personal development and group values coincide, strong leaders emerge. Sitting Bull’s other great teaching comes in his kindness and generosity to followers, yes time is precious but the results yielded far outweigh this. Carve time out of busy schedules to devote to followers; helping others develop helps us to develop too.


Luxury Academy London

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London,, a multi-national private training company with offices in London, Delhi and Vishakhapatnam. Luxury Academy London specialise in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for companies and private clients across a wide range of sectors. Prior to founding Luxury Academy London, Paul worked in senior leadership roles across Europe, United States, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.