Leading with Your Personal Philosophy and Best Practices

Leadership is difficult. It includes learning, growing, and very importantly, helping others. Acute daily focus and discipline are basic requirements for effective leadership. It is a tiring role, and every leader needs to find time to nourish and renew their leadership mindset in order to best serve their team. To renew, spend some time thinking about, clarifying and acting on your leadership insights. You can do that by developing a personal leadership philosophy and best practices. Following is a little background and some specific steps on how to do so.

A leadership philosophy is a personal belief system that influences your behavior and actions, and ultimately your results and fulfillment with life and work. It is a set of integrated perspectives and values that are most important to you when working with people, processes and systems. Leaders who are guided by their own strong values, particularly when working under stress, are more likely to think strategically, holistically, and make better decisions. Taking the time to develop and write your own personal leadership philosophy includes three simple, but not necessarily easy, steps:

  1. Identify, list and ruminate on the many commonly expressed leadership principles; e.g. courage, persistence, humility, collaboration, people-first, authenticity, accountability, integrity, strategic, communicative, commitment, visionary, emotionally intelligent, teacher, etc. Make a long list, and carefully consider the impact of each on leadership effectiveness.
  2. Choose the two or three principles that are most important to you in working with others – those that motivate and drive you, and are part of who you are or who you want to be. This may require several reviews of the list you prepared above.
  3. Summarize your two or three core leadership principles into a clear, simple, personal leadership philosophy statement; a couple sentences at most, that are meaningful to you, and that you can easily explain to others, e.g:

“I believe in and embrace the value of all team members, and always endeavor to listen to them, learn from them, and guide them, so we all can achieve results and fulfillment”

Similarly, leadership practices are a set of repeatable specific actions, skills or processes that help you execute your leadership philosophy. Combined with your behavior and working style these practices enable you to work with and lead most any situation constructively and effectively. Although there are many leadership skills a leader can learn, few people can absorb them all – there are no “perfect” leaders. However, most highly successful leaders “master” a few critical skills and behaviors, and they perform them consistently (even if such skills are not shared universally by all successful leaders). In other words, they master a set of skills that work best for them in achieving results and fulfillment. Here are three tips you can apply to identify and sharpen your leadership skills:

  1. Identify what you are really good at, i.e. your greatest strength or unique ability, and label it (e.g. listening, communicating, challenging, encouraging, visioning, coaching, etc.). 1a – Then, write three to five instructional bullet points on how you do that effectively. Save this as your personal guide to leadership skill “xxx”.
  2. Discover the most important leadership skill your team needs from you now (keep in mind that what they need may be different from what they want). 2a – Then, as above, label it and write three to five instructional bullet points on how you do that effectively. It is likely that this skill will be different from what you identified in step one. If so, you now have two key skills to master for your unique practices.
  3. Prepare an action plan (or expand your daily to-do list) for your weekly people connections where you will deploy your unique leadership skill(s) to improve conditions and help (lead) others. You should be doing this many times during a week. If not, you need to adjust your schedule to focus on more leadership connections, or perhaps learn a new skill!

For example: My unique ability guide – Listening

  1. Encourage others to speak
  2. Ask open ended questions
  3. Get input from all before speaking
  4. Don’t interrupt
  5. Summarize what you hear and ask for clarification

Finally, after you have documented your personal leadership philosophy and practices, you have one additional task. You must determine if they really support each other. That is, are you or are you going to walk (practices) the talk (philosophy)? Be brutally honest with yourself (feedback is recommended) as this is what leadership is all about.

To summarize, being a leader is difficult – but it’s also rewarding! Being a leader is a continuous adventure in change and learning; so embrace it, since how and why you lead will continue to change throughout your career and life. Developing your own leadership philosophy and practices, and renewing them periodically, will help you become an even better leader.

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