The Power of a Good Leadership Philosophy: Who Needs One and What Should It Say
A personal leadership philosophy does more than just describe someone’s unique management style. It serves a very specific purpose by laying out the high-level guiding principles leaders use to run successful departments, teams or organizations. And good leaders always hold themselves accountable to these same principles, living by example and using their philosophy to set the tone for the company culture.
Leadership philosophies are developed over time, with experience, and are not role- or company-specific. They are both deeply personal and always professional, conveying not only priorities, expectations, and communication style but also values and morals.
Find out if you need a leadership philosophy and, if so, what it should contain:
Why is it important?
When you create a leadership philosophy, you have to think about and evaluate the core values that are most important to you. In doing so, you make yourself and your colleagues accountable for these values. The leadership philosophy serves as a kind of ethical and professional compass that everyone on your team or in your company can look to and hopefully model in their own interactions with others.
Who needs one?
Of course, anyone in a leadership position needs a philosophy. However, even if you’re not managing teams or departments just yet, the process that you’ll go through when you’re creating your leadership philosophy – thinking about your priorities and what drives you, articulating your most fundamental personal and professional principles – is a valuable professional exercise that everyone should undertake.
And, if you’re not in a leadership position yet but you want to be, figuring out exactly what your value set is as a leader will actually help you to become more self aware, more confident, and grow into the role that you want.
What should it say?
It’s a good idea to write out your leadership philosophy, even if it’s just a series of bullet point ideas; of course, you’ll know it by heart and be able to rattle it off without hesitation, but initially you should approach it as a serious exercise and give it the time and effort that it deserves.
Leadership philosophies also shouldn’t be too long. A good leadership philosophy can be explained in just a few minutes or less. In fact, you should be able to sum up your leadership philosophy in just a few words, but also expand on it and discuss at more length when appropriate.
You’ll want to list a few principles that are most important to you and that you feel will motivate your team and keep them on the path to success – things like honesty, clear communication, or acting with integrity are common elements of leadership philosophies. Then, when you’re communicating this to your team, you’ll want to give a brief description or example of what you mean by the term, why it’s important, and how you expect everyone to adhere to it as well.
Leadership philosophies are not just lip service from managers. Your leadership philosophy defines your reputation and your character in your organization and beyond. It’s all well and good to tell your team members or employees that you want them to be forthright and reliable, but if you don’t lead by example and also bear out the qualities you articulate in your leadership philosophy, then you can’t expect your team to abide by them either.
Don’t over-complicate it. The best leadership philosophies are succinct, clear, and easy to understand (and communicate). Being able to effectively communicate your philosophy is key if you want it to be a powerful and impactful professional tool, so make sure that your ideas are concise and to the point.