How to determine your personal leadership philosophy

If you make your way through the leadership section of a bookstore or the blogosphere, you’re going to find a maddeningly vast spectrum of different leadership philosophies and styles that all seem to either contradict each other or, in many cases, say the same thing but make it seem like they’re “different.” Most of us are slightly nervous about our leadership skills and will find a character that resonates with us and try to emulate their behavior in an attempt to replicate the results.

But that doesn’t work, and you can find that out the hard way or the easy way.

This emulation isn’t truly authentic to who you are, and it can create imposter syndrome in your own mind as you put on a mask that you think is going to help you. Others in your organization can see through this straight away, and they can start to question your leadership abilities. Is this person actually deserving of the title that they have? When this happens, you’ve lost the battle because once the trust is gone, you don’t have influence anymore.

That’s why it’s so crucially important that you develop your own personal leadership philosophy that taps into your unique characteristics and leverages what makes you, you.

So, how do you do it?

Let’s run through a tried-and-tested plan for figuring out what your leadership philosophy should be:

Step 1: Find a good list of values and write down those that resonate with you.

Everything starts from your values. These are the underlying beliefs that guide who you are and how you see the world. By introspecting on these and identifying the ones that mean something to you, you’ll gain a much better understanding of the type of leader you should be working towards. Don’t censor yourself here, be as honest and vulnerable as you can; there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” value. The goal is to pour yourself out onto the paper.

Step 2: Categorize your values.

Now that you have all your values on paper, you can start to work through them. At this stage, you should look to categorize the values you have according to their priority to you and the environment you want to build as a leader. Which ones are must-haves? Which ones are high wants? Which ones are you indifferent to? And so on.

This is important because you can’t focus on too many at once. You want to zero in on those values that make the biggest impact for you and your desired environment. To help you with this process, you might want to use a Likert scale or something similar to help you work through your thoughts.

Step 3: Assess your behaviors.

The next step can be challenging because you have to be really honest with yourself. You need to assess your own behavior and evaluate whether they actually support the values that you espouse, particularly your must-have values. Humans are remarkably adept at identifying when behaviors and values are misaligned, and so you need to do all you can to get that right. Hopefully, by making your values vivid and well-articulated, you’ll be in a better position to align your leadership principles and behaviors with them now and going forward into the future.

Step 4: State your values and invite people to give feedback.

We can’t do it all ourselves, though, because we all have our blind spots. It’s important that we seek objective feedback from others so that we know where we can improve. Just by telling a few people: “Here’s what I am, here’s what I am about,” and then asking for feedback and constructive criticism, you’ll discover a world of insights that may have been invisible to you but are patently obvious to everyone else around you. This is where you will find out if your values are actually lived values and not aspirational values.

Why does this exercise work?

We’ve done this particular exercise with a range of different clients over the years, and it works because of two main principles:

Awareness precedes choice. Before you can make any changes to your behaviors or your results, you have to be aware of how you’re currently operating. It’s only when you acknowledge the current reality and see yourself in it, that you can then choose to behave differently when in a new situation. Sticking your head in the sand is a surefire way to stagnate exactly where you are.

Structure determines performance. Borrowing from behavioral economics, installing a structure, and measuring its effects will drive performance improvement. Words are cheap, and motivation is short-lived, but with the right structures and accountability in place, you can make the sorts of changes that you’re hoping to make, understand whether the decisions you’ve made are on track toward your goals, and course correct if necessary. It’s only through this sort of intentional effort that you can grow.

We can help!

We’re well aware that going through this process is much easier when you have someone experienced that can guide you through it. That’s why, here at One TEAM Partners, we run value exploration sessions with our clients that help them to walk through this framework and tease out the insights and ideas that can really help them on their journey.

Not only that, but we’ll help you to create an action plan that takes those findings and transforms them from theory into something that you can implement in the real world. Taking the time to determine your own personal leadership philosophy is something that will continue to compound in value over time and when done well, it can help you escape the imposter syndrome, stress, and poor team dynamics that might be plaguing you.

But you have to make the choice to tackle it head-on.


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