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Crafting Your Own Personal Leadership Philosophy

By Deb Calvert (1625 words)
Posted in Leadership & Teambuilding on January 12, 2014

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“Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare

The truth thou hast, that all may share.

Be bold. Proclaim it everywhere.

They only live who dare.”

 - Voltaire

 

To be effective and inspiring as a leader, you must do what Voltaire describes in this quatrain.  Developing a Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) will empower you to declare YOUR truth and stand tall within it, to operate from a position of strength that ennobles you. 

 

It is a common practice in all branches of the U.S. armed services for top-ranking officials to develop and declare their philosophy of leadership. The leadership program at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania includes an advanced course called “The Philosophy of Leadership.” A prerequisite to that class is called “The Philosophy of Command.” In other words, what seems like a long article here is just the starting point – you could take intensive classes about this very subject.   

 

Before sharing and modeling your own PLP, you’ll first need to do some of the work done in those classes to consider and craft a meaningful and genuine philosophy. This article will walk you through the steps needed.  

 

First, a definition of this thing called leadership philosophy. Philosophy is defined as:

 

  • An integrated, comprehensive view of life.

  • Your personal foundation or belief in human nature.

  • A particular system of thought.

  • A system of principles for guidance.

  • An activity people undertake when they seek to understand fundamental truths about themselves, the world in which they live, and their relationships to the world and to each other.

  • Love of wisdom

 

From these definitions, you can extract some important ideas about the PLP you’ll construct:

 

  1. Philosophy is personal. There is no right or wrong.

  2. Philosophy is something you choose. You can make a choice that is deliberate, intentional, based on reflection and determinations. Or, if you don’t do that, you can have an accidental philosophy… one that is vague and unclear to others and, quite possibly, vague and unclear to even you.

  3. Philosophy is meant as a foundation. Getting a solid core means you have clarity to guide decisions and a focus for sorting out all the competing inputs you get in a given day.

 

Here’s one description of what it means to have a PLP. Please note the bolded verbs – we’ll be using them as the five action steps in building your PLP. 

 

“Successful Leaders know their Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) and communicate it by living it passionately every day in all they say and do. They have taken the time to determine who they are, their values and priorities. They know their course and have set their internal compass, which gives them greater self-knowledge, greater self-confidence, and improved effectiveness as a leader. This is accomplished by writing a Personal Leadership Philosophy, which states the core values you live by, what you expect of your people, what they can expect of you, and how you will evaluate performance. ”

 - Ed Ruggerio, The Leader's Compass: A Personal Leadership Philosophy Is Your Key to Success 

 

The action words in bold type are the steps we are going to follow so that you can craft your philosophy and effectively communicate it to others. 

 

5 Action Steps To Building Your Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP)

 

STEP 1: Define Your PLP

…They have taken the time to determine who they are, their values and priorities…

 

Don’t jump ahead. Until you work through these questions and have absolute resolve about your own values and priorities, you cannot develop a meaningful PLP. This is the most important step in our process. Take your time in reflecting on these questions:

 

  • What do you truly believe?

  • Which values do you refuse to compromise?

  • How comfortable are you with who you are?

  • What causes you to have these core values?

  • What is the single most important thing to you?

 

STEP 2: Write It Down

…This is accomplished by writing a Personal Leadership Philosophy, which states the core values you live by, what you expect of your people, what they can expect of you, and how you will evaluate performance. 

 

No shortcutting on this step either. These are the benefits of putting your PLP in writing: 

 

  • Putting it in writing provides clarity, objectivity. 

  • Putting it in writing implies you are serious. 

  • Putting it in writing makes a commitment. 

  • Putting it in writing keeps it consistent.

  • Putting it in writing causes you to self-reflect, to be sure you mean what you say. 

  • Putting it in writing makes you accountable.

  • Putting it in writing makes it easier to share. 

 

These benefits are primarily for you. It’s you initially who needs clarity, commitment, consistency and accountability. Also, the process of putting something in writing forces us to take a step back and evaluate it more objectively. This leadership philosophy isn’t something you want to do with emotion alone – you want thought and analysis to go into it, too. Writing it down will help it to be more balanced. 

 

 

STEP 3: Get To Know It

Successful Leaders know their Personal Leadership Philosophy (PLP) and communicate it by living it passionately everyday in all they say and do. They have taken the time to determine who they are, their values and priorities. They know their course...

 

Isn’t this interesting? After all this reflection and writing, there is a wholly separate step related now to KNOWING your own personal leadership philosophy.  Don’t gloss over this!

 

You have to know your own PLP so well that you live and breathe it. If it is to guide your actions and provide examples to others of who you are and what you stand for, then you need to be intimately familiar with your PLP. This can’t be an occasional thing that you bring out when it suits you… It needs to be a constant expression. 

 

When you know your leadership philosophy, you also know your course of action. It’s this knowledge that guides your decisions and choices. 

 

These are the outcomes of knowing, in your bones, what you believe in and what you stand for:

 

  • Authenticity

  • Credibility

  • Consistency

  • Confidence

  • Believability

  • Trustworthiness

  • Clarity

  • Self-Assuredness

  • Determination

 

STEP 4: Use It To Guide You

…have set their internal compass, which gives them greater self-knowledge, greater self-confidence, and improved effectiveness as a leader…

 

Once you determine, write down and get to know your own PLP, you can set yourself to live by it. 

When you’ve done that, it’s just as powerful as it sounds – imagine that you are no longer going to get lost in the woods and that you will always be able to find and navigate by a bright north star. Think of the confidence you’ll project when you know exactly where you are going and no doubts about how you are going to get there. Others will notice, be inspired by this and be more willing and eager to follow you. And you will have fewer qualms about leading them. 

 

What would it be like for you to have this level of clarity and confidence? You’ll have:

 

  • Discernment (to uncover what you already know).

  • Clarity that points toward your truth.

  • Assurance that you won’t get lost at crossroads.

  • An abiding ability to find your way.

  • Persistent confidence.

  • Inspiring effectiveness that others will want to follow.

  • Clear direction.  

 

STEP 5: Communicate It

communicate it by living it passionately every day in all they say and do…

 

The first four steps helped you to craft your leadership philosophy. This step is equally important. But before you communicate your PLP, you must first take those set up steps so that you don’t begin communicating before you are clear and certain in what you stand for. Your PLP isn’t something that should change very often, so give it time to take shape and get it to a point where you can live with it for a good long time. 

 

Our description is pretty clear in saying that the way you communicate your PLP is by living it passionately every day in all you say and do. That’s a very high standard. But that’s what it takes to be credible as a leader. 

 

It all starts with getting clarity, first, for yourself so you can later communicate with clarity, conviction and credibility to others. 

 

 

{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 

 

Do you have a question for Deb?  Please visit our Senior Manager Community, she will be happy to help: Ask an Expert 

 

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