Guidelines for Developing Personal Leadership Philosophy

Tue, Dec 9, 2008

Strategy and Execution

(Source: Academic Leadership)

1. Start by defining what you think an effective leader looks like

On a piece of paper, make two columns – BEST and WORST. Think of the best leader you have ever worked for and list that person’s characteristics in the BEST column. Think of the worst leader you have ever worked for and list that person’s characteristics in the WORST column. Consider the following example of my BEST and WORST leaders.

Leads instead of directing Lack of focus
Friendly Preach something and practice something else
Encourages new ideas Showoff
Gives and seeks feedback Does not take a stand; lacks courage
Sensitive to others Indecisive
High energy Wasting time

Compare the columns and write a short paragraph describing what makes a good leader and what makes a bad leader.

For example:

A good leader is one who leads or inspires and not directs people to do what he/she wants them to do. He/she helps people stretch there imaginations and abilities by showing them what they are good at, by making them answer series of questions to get to the root of the problem. A good leader does not provide solutions but questions, which eventually leads people to solutions.

A good leader is friendly; he/she believes in working with people collaboratively. A good leader is a friend of all followers; someone they can talk to about their problems, fears, even new ideas without any hang ups about hierarchy, status or fear.

A good leader encourages his/her people to learn new skills and contribute innovative ideas. He/she ensures that people work on what they like and enjoy.

A good leader is a good coach. He/she listens to people when they have problems and helps them find a solution.

A good leader is sensitive to people’s feelings, culture, and viewpoints. He/she respects people both inside and outside the organization.

A good leader has high energy to learn and perform to make the organization successful. He/she encourages people especially in bad times and keeps them cheerful and positive.

A good leader sets high standards of ethics and performance. He/she sets examples for people to follow by practicing what he/she preaches.

In summary, a good leader:

* Learns from others experiences
* Leads by examples; practices what he/she preaches
* Is sensitive to people, culture and ideas of people
* Helps people work on things they enjoy
* Acknowledges people when they achieve something and guides them when they commit mistakes
* Has high energy for work and adapts to changes in business conditions
* Is a good listener
* Asks for help when required and works on feedback received from people constructively
* Sets performance standards and builds a learning culture
* Involves others in decision making and encourages team work

A bad leader:

* Is unsure of what he/she wants from others
* Lies or cooks up stories to save face or get things done
* Works for selfish interests and manipulates people
* Dictates terms for people
* Does not respect people
* Does nothing to contribute for the success of the organization

2. Self-analysis

Using the above description and list, examine which characteristics do you have? How are they important to you? To others? Pick the top three or four stated or implicit values and articulate them in writing, as if explaining them to someone else.

Example: Values of a leader

Respect: A leader respects people’s feelings, ideas, and values; listens to their concerns and doubts, and is helpful.

Communication: A leader communicates his/her goals and standards of performance; lets people know what he/she wants and what is expected of them.

Principles: A leader practices his/her moral principles in a way that is good for others. He/she walks the talk and is consistent in behavior even when it is unpleasant.

3. Leadership principles

Using above values, write the leadership principles you want to model and see in others. They may be in the form of ‘I will’ or ‘I am’ statements; they describe what you aspire for.

Example of Personal Leadership Principles:

My responsibility as a leader is to inspire and lead people in order to accomplish shared organizational goals. My personal goal is to create value for customers by providing satisfactory and employees by empowering them to work on what they enjoy. I will provide an environment for people to become successful in professional and personal lives. I will not hesitate in abiding by my principles even when the consequences are tough. I will take complete responsibility for all my actions. I will expect others to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. I will be honest in all my actions and expect others to do the same. I will communicate good and bad news to people and expect others to do the same. I will seek help when I am not sure what the right thing is. The best way to learn is through timely feedback. I will actively seek feedback and inputs from people to continuously learn and grow. I will give feedback and my views to people when they take unethical actions or make mistakes. Time is the only constant in life. I will provide all help to finish work on time and honor promises. I expect the same from people and if they run late, they should intimate in advance such that arrangements can be made to deliver on time. Cooperation is desired for healthy working relationships. We must help each other in good and bad times. Coaching not punishment should be the first step in correcting errors. I will coach and seek coaching as and when the situations demand. I will maintain transparency in my dealings with people. I will communicate important decisions and actions regularly. When in doubt, anyone can walk up to me and ask questions and I will answer to the best of my knowledge. I expect others to be transparent about their work and actions.

4. Personal idiosyncrasies

The leader needs to explicitly inform his people what his/her quirks are. This helps them know what is expected of them and what will not be tolerated. It lays a common code of practice. In this step, write down your personal likes and dislikes, your ‘hot button’ issues. For example:

* Respecting time including meetings and deliverables
* I will fire you if you lie, steal or misuse company/client information or assets
* Don’t be afraid to say ‘I was wrong and you were right’
* Don’t fix the blame, fix the problem

5. Describe your favorite leadership story

We all have our role models who inspire us. This journey of self exploration continues into who has inspired you the most as a leader. Who is your role model? Whom do you admire and wish you could become like him/her?

Think through these questions and write a short note; include the leadership traits you appreciate and are relevant to your situation.

6. Define your personal development plan

Learning is a continuous process. We can’t stop learning. A leader has to acquire and hone skills continuously to succeed in leading people. Refer Step 1 and 5, write down the qualities that you lack as a leader. Take two to three qualities at a time and describe how you are going to develop them. This exercise will further increase your self awareness and inspire your people to improve their skills.

For Example…

Two qualities I want to work on:

* Increase energy to perform more tasks: I have to learn to manage myself better such that I can utilize my time more effectively. This includes responding to emails within 24hours, reading 3 magazines/week, 2 business related books/month, watch movies on weekends! Etc.
* Lead with questions: I know leaders should ask questions and lead people to discover answers to their problems themselves. Unfortunately I give too many answers and now people are used to it; it’s like spoon-feeding them. If I want to create a talent rich organization, this will certainly not help. I need a style-shift as soon as possible. I am going to practice this by asking a question for every question that I get.


Leader’s Compass by Ed Rugerro & Dennis F Haley

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