Most leaders I know can clearly identify two or three, perhaps even ten or more, guiding principles. These are principles leaders aspire to, strive for and identify as instrumental to their success.
I have ten guiding leadership principles. Note that ten is not better than five, nor is fifteen better than ten. These principles are not all equal. Some I value more than others. Some I am better at than others. They also are not stand-alone principles. They influence, support and in some cases build on each other. For example, mastering team selection greatly influences organisational health.
My ten guiding leadership principles are:
Passion for the work and mission of one’s organisation is the fuel for a successful organisation. It impacts the other main principles in many direct and indirect ways. Without passion for the work you are doing and the work of the organisation, your success will be limited.
The ability to be honest with yourself about your strengths – and more importantly, your weaknesses – is essential to leading an organisation. Knowing your weaknesses helps you develop systems and incorporate the right people into your organisation to build compensating strengths.
So much of what organisations accomplish can be traced back to the selection of employees. Take the time to create the right process for bringing people into your organisation. Once in your organisation, monitor employees for fit and advancement.
Motivation is the driver of productivity, and empowerment is the fuel of motivation. Employees who are supported, encouraged and given autonomy become highly motivated to do great things for their organisation. Intrinsic motivation like autonomy and support for creativity will bring about better results than extrinsic methods like perks and rewards.
Never lose sight of what the organisation needs you for most. This will change from year to year, and it will be different for every organisation. Continually ask yourself the question, “What am I doing that someone else can do just as well?” Know what not to do, when to give tasks to others, and who to give them to.
People should like where they work. To achieve and maintain success, leaders must be vigilant and focus on creating and sustaining a happy and supportive work environment with high employee morale and satisfaction.
It is far more motivating to work in an organisation that is passionate about innovation than one that is sterile and stuck. Create a culture that embraces creativity and efficiencies. Empower your employees to be part of this process in all aspects of the organisation’s work.
Without productivity organisations become irrelevant and fail. Leaders should inspire productivity. A key aspect of this is the ability to clearly articulate what needs to be done. Then utilize the right people and processes to get there.
Visionary leaders think strategically about the future. They see opportunities before others, and identify challenges in time to navigate them by leading in the present moment. They lead with a focus on 1 to 10 years into the future.
Walk through life continually curious about the way things work. Read as much as you can; listen to new ideas; meet other people who are doing great things. Self-improvement makes all the other principles easier to obtain.
These guiding principles are not just mine. Most of you will also relate to them and identify with them as your own. These ten guiding principles have proven to be the cornerstone to our organisation’s success. However, this is not because we started out with all of them. In reality, this list has grown and evolved over time. Ten years ago when I started the ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership & Workplace Performance, if you would have asked me to identify the ten principles that would be essential to our success and growth, I would not have had the insight to name them.
In ten years from now I am quite sure these guiding principles will have evolved for me. Some new principles may emerge. I will have learned new lessons and made some mistakes. So these principles are just that, guiding principles. They are not exhaustive, set in stone or complete.
While the guiding principles are relevant to all leaders, their relative importance will vary from leader to leader. This may depend on the nature of your organisation and also on your own personality as leader.
I present these guiding principles to you with the realization that we are all on a different path, and also with the understanding that none of us have arrived.