A strong leadership philosophy is key to successfully running a team, organization, or business. When your leadership style is rooted in a strong set of values and principles, you’ll remain committed to your goals, and you’ll be more likely to motivate and inspire your employees on a regular basis.
Odds are good you already understand this. That doesn’t mean you confidently know how to develop your leadership philosophy statement. Thoroughly understanding how to cultivate a philosophy that provides a foundation for consistent success is often naturally challenging.
It has to be. By studying examples of leadership philosophy, you’ll more clearly understand what you must do to develop your own. First, however, it’s important to accurately know what a leadership philosophy consists of.
What is a Leadership Philosophy?
Studying personal leadership philosophy examples is a valuable activity. The philosophy you eventually cultivate for yourself shouldn’t necessarily be a perfect mirror image of the examples you consider. You need to remember that a leadership philosophy needs to be personal and unique. This is because it needs to be authentic. If you try to lead based on someone else’s philosophy, you’ll be less effective.
A leadership philosophy is essentially a belief system that guides your decision-making. It consists of your core principles, perspectives, and values. When you define what they are, and use them to shape a leadership philosophy statement, your behaviors and decisions will remain consistent.
You can simplify this idea for yourself by thinking about a leader as if they were a parent. Strong parents don’t want to be inconsistent in the way they raise their children. They understand they’ll be more effective if their approach to raising children always reflects their genuine beliefs and values.
The same concept applies to strong leadership. Those you lead will have more respect for you if they can clearly see you make decisions based on core principles that don’t change simply because circumstances have changed.
Personal Leadership Philosophy Examples Worth Studying
Relational Leadership Philosophy
It’s easy to become the type of leader who distrusts other people. This is particularly true in business. Regardless of your industry, achieving the status of a leader and helping your company grow requires embracing your competitive nature to some degree.
Unfortunately, some leaders become so competitive that they start to feel they can’t trust others. They become suspicious of everyone else’s motives. They may even consider their own employees to be potential threats. Thus, they may lead ineffectively, behaving too defensively to make the right decisions in all situations.
Other leaders adopt a different approach. They make the decision to “love” everyone they encounter on a regular basis. This love is not the type of love they would feel for a romantic partner, but it is similar to the love one feels for relatives and close family members. It requires a surrender to feel empathy for the other person, and do their level best to come to resolutions by regulation emotions.
Consider this example of leadership philosophy as you develop your own ideas about how to be an effective leader. Treating your team members (and even your direct competition) with care and respect can be very helpful in a number of ways – and is more of a relational leadership style. For instance, perhaps an employee who was once enthusiastic about their role has become clearly disengaged in recent months. A leader whose philosophy is rooted in defensiveness and competitiveness might assume this employee has turned against them for some reason. As a result, the relationship will suffer, and the worker may seek employment elsewhere.
On the other hand, someone who leads with love in a more relational leadership style would take the time to ask themselves what factors may have contributed to this employee’s lack of engagement. They can then more effectively determine what steps they must take to correct the issue. This yields very practical benefits. Engaged employees are more productive, and more likely to remain loyal to an organization.
Positive Future Vision Leadership Philosophy
Do you believe everyone has the potential to succeed in certain major capacities? Or do you think some people are simply more naturally talented than others, and only a few exceptional individuals can truly thrive in their careers and lives? If you begin with this positive view of the unlimited potential of every individual then you likely are exercising a positive future vision leadership philosophy.
Determining how you feel about this can help you determine your overall leadership philosophy. For instance, a leader who naturally assumes some people will always lack the potential to truly succeed will often overlook strengths in both their employees and themselves. However, a leader who is optimistic about everyone’s potential will constantly be on the lookout for qualities and traits they wish to cultivate in themselves and their team members.
Leading with an optimistic and positive vision of the future improves your chances of leading a successful team. Focusing on everyone’s innate potential gives you more opportunities to leverage the unique talents of your employees. This belief is summarized in a famous quote from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Thinking you and everyone around you can succeed may be an ideal leadership philosophy principle worth keeping in mind.
Co-Creator Leadership Philosophy
Your own personal leadership philosophy needs to be relatively consistent. It won’t help you make the “right” and most consistent decisions if it’s always changing. One way to ensure that you can remain strong in your leadership and vision, while also being agile enough to hear and incorporate the ideas of others is to be a co-creator leader.
Being a co-creator leader means you set the vision of what you are trying to accomplish and create consistent exercises for your people to make the vision come to reality by coming to THEIR own conclusions on how to get their with YOUR guidance. Starting by doing the exercise on your own is a great way to show your commitment to your vision and the exercise itself. Be sure to be as direct as possible about what the exercise is. For example, if you want specific and simple financial projections that implements your vision around “customer-first” then the exercise should specify, “Create a simple, financial project that is simple and elegant for customers.” Then provide an example. Any adjustments to what you are provided should be given in the form of feed-forward – or advice, so they can be successful in your exercise.
Be sure to facilitated the exercise within a short period of time – don’t wait a week. If you can, do it in real time, and provide real-time feedback as to how they can do it better and meet your expectations. If it is spot on, then you have achieved one of the dreams of a co-creator – an amazing team who are smarter than you are!
It is crucial to remember that the way in which you approach your day-to-day operations likely will change over the years. This has become quite clear in the digital transformation age. The rise of new technologies has disrupted numerous industries at a faster pace than ever before. Leaders across these industries have had to adapt in order to stay competitive and effective.
Not all have been successful in doing so. Those who have managed to change with their industries tend to be the types of leaders who assume everyone including themselves has the capacity to continue learning new skills over the years. They also tend to be leaders who perceive constant learning as its own virtue.
Being a Co-creator as a leadership philosophy has major value in fields where disruption is common. You can’t expect the way you and your team members operate to remain the same throughout your entire career. Change is inevitable. If your leadership philosophy is rooted in the belief that constant learning is both important and possible, you may adapt to these changes with relative ease.
Solutions-Oriented Leadership Philosophy
All leaders encounter challenges. This is true in all industries. The way in which you think about these challenges will play a major role in your potential for continued success.
Leaders who believe challenges represent stressful problems often become pessimistic. Every time a new challenge arises, they lose energy. Over time, this leads to frustration. Sadly, if you’re stressed and frustrated as a leader, you’ll struggle to motivate your team.
Other leaders feel almost enthusiastic about challenges. They don’t focus on the problems. Instead, they focus on challenges as new opportunities to develop unique solutions. They also understand that being forced to develop new solutions helps them and their team members cultivate new skills that will be applicable later.
For example, when the United States committed to sending humans to the moon, the scientists who tackled the project set up a major challenge as a major opportunity. Yes, they struggled, but the solutions they developed over the course of the Apollo program helped them achieve other major goals later on.
You may not be responsible for sending a person to the moon. However, your work will involve challenges. Consider inspiring yourself and your team members to overcome them (and grow) by focusing on solutions instead of problems.
Humor-based Leadership Philosophy
This final example of leadership philosophy may seem to be less valuable than the others listed here. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing it! This personal leadership philosophy example can in fact be much more helpful than you might initially assume.
Again, challenges are unavoidable. When they arise, it’s not uncommon for team members to lose enthusiasm for their work. It’s easy to be excited and optimistic when everything is going right. During times of struggle, it’s equally easy to start losing faith in one’s own abilities.
You need to guard against this. Your team will be much less effective if pessimism and cynicism are allowed to fester. That’s why it’s important to cultivate a working environment in which people feel joyful and at ease. In other words, you need to cultivate a working environment in which laughter plays an important role.
Hunter “Patch” Adams is the perfect example of a humor-based leader. He uses humor and compassion to lead medical departments, and also create his own non-profit Gesundheit Institute to provide palliative care to patients with terminal illness. As he told me in a personal interview, “There’s no place where loving, compassion, fun, creativity, understanding, generosity are not needed in the world. It can benefit every single environment, from churches and prisons, to hospitals and legislative halls, to city streets and elevators. There’s no place where I haven’t done it that it hasn’t obviously added something.”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t take challenges seriously. On the contrary, your team can only thrive if you approach problems with the understanding that they need to be addressed. And, when these challenges present themselves, you need to find ways to prevent unnecessary stress from creeping in. Leading with a sense of humor and levity will help. When your team members see that you don’t allow problems to worry you, they’ll also be less worried.
Writing Your Leadership Philosophy Statement
You should feel empowered now to take ideas from each of these leadership philosophies and be an alchemist of your own! Take these base metals and merge them into one leadership philosophy YOU can define. Brainstorm the name of your leadership philosophy – what would you call it? Based on your personal experiences why did you come to the conclusion of your new leadership philosophy?
Leadership philosophies are intensely personal and specific to your conditions and circumstances. Your leadership philosophy must authentically reflect your actual values and the situations of different employees.
However, by considering examples when writing your own leadership philosophy statement, you’ll have a much better understanding of what questions you should ask yourself to develop a philosophy that’s true to your beliefs.