In the past several years I have taught numerous “Advanced Leadership” workshops to groups of senior leaders from $20 million to $1 billion+ organizations. At the beginning each session I always ask the attendees how many of them currently have a written list of their key leadership values, i.e. their own “personal leadership philosophy,” that they use to guide their decisions and behaviors on a daily basis. Out of a typical group of 100 to 150 executives, only one or two will raise their hands, prompting me to wonder how in the world the others successfully lead their organizations. I just have a hard time believing that if you’ve never taken the time to truly think through what kind of leader you want to be, what your leadership values are, what sort of leadership legacy you want to leave…and then write those things down so that you have a clear and focused guide for your self-leadership…that you would be a truly effective leader of others.
One of my very favorite quotes comes from Walt Disney,
“When values are clear decisions are easy.”
Put another way, in relation to what I just wrote above,
“When values are not clear decisions are difficult.”
So, for those of you who have not yet written down your personal leadership philosophy, I challenge you to take a few hours and thoughtfully develop a focused and concise list of the key attributes, characteristics, values and behaviors that you personally want to model in order to be a living example of the kind of leader you aspire to be.
To give you some examples, based on more than 15 years of teaching my advanced leadership seminar to thousands of people all over the world, here are some of the things I hear over and over again when people describe what they feel are the most important characteristics of an “Ideal leader.”
- Honest / integrity/ character
- Highly competent
- Excellent communicator
- Team player/collaborative
- Innovative/risk taker
- Fair and supportive
- Creates clear goals and direction
- Personally accountable
- Proactive/action oriented
- Customer/quality focused
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should serve as a good benchmark of what other leaders have identified as their key leadership ideals and competencies. I hope you will use this list to develop or refine your personal leadership philosophy and then use your philosophy as a touchstone to guide your actions, comments, focus and behavior.
Remember: People judge you by your actions not by your intentions and what you are speaks so loudly that they can’t hear what you say.
As a leader you live under a microscope, nothing is small, and to be effective you need to consistently lead based on your values, the organization’s values and what is in the best interests of your employees, customers, vendors and community. I believe creating a solid personal leadership philosophy will allow you to do all of that and do it well.
I very much look forward to your comments and feedback on this blog and if you find it of value I hope you’ll share it with your network.
Thanks so much – John