The 3 Principles of Leadership–Where Are You?

The 3 Principles of Leadership–Where Are You?
photo by Pressman for Pexels

If there’s anything that our partially dismembered, pandemic reactive business cycle has demonstrated it is the value of leadership–and the consequences of its lacking. The key elements to success for businesses who have been allowed to operate have been their adaptability, particularly in technical resources and employee disbursement and their leadership. Of course things like their digital presence and employee quality have shone through as well but nothing mattered more than leadership.

A quick search on the topic, if you think you can learn it from a list or a Wikipedia listing will reveal all kinds of personal styles from democratic to autocratic and plenty of “C” words like communication and clarity, coaching and character and yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the academic understanding of Leadership, I teach all those things myself, but their value is minimized without the context of principles behind them. Everyone knows how to read instructions to assemble an IKEA unit but there’s a reason some people get it done right and some people find out when they think they are done that they put one side in upside down. The following three leadership principles will hopefully keep your leadership from having to undo it when you thought you had it.

PRINCIPLE #1 — To thine own self be true…but know what that is.

The variations in style are rarely all purpose all the time. In truth there are times to be autocratic, times to be democratic and times to delegate. Knowing which to use when can be the art of leadership but knowing where you are comfortable, where you excel and where you are deficient is the main focus of this principle. It does not mean that if you aren’t good at delegating you should adopt a non-delegating style, quite the opposite. The better leaders count on their strengths but know enough to develop their weaknesses. Situational leadership calls for leaders to adapt to the need and not for the need to be met by a single style where one may be “better.”

Self-awareness and self-honesty are paramount to developing leadership. One’s character is also challenged in the tougher times so a single uncontrolled character flaw can undo mounds of leadership learning and experience. Recognizing how you react to stress and, more important, how you diffuse or create stress will have as much impact as any order you give or any charge you delegate. Confidence shouldn’t come from knowing you can do anything or everything, it comes from being able to tell the difference and understand how to manage the gaps.

PRINCIPLE #2 — Knowledge is useless with a vision.

Leadership without vision is like traveling without a destination. Sure, you’ll get somewhere but is it where you want to be or your company needs to be? While there is no substitute for experience that doesn’t mean you can’t lead without it. The substitute, however, has to be knowledge. Understanding your company, its culture and character. Knowing your industry, who are the leaders and why? Knowing your customers, what do they want and reject? This is where a combination of an academic approach, read relevant current news and history, study the insights of others as well as the opinions of others, merges with the lessons of experience.

Peer networking in this regard can be an enormous benefit to your education. Like any good salesman knows, you have two eyes and one mouth, use them in that proportion. When you’ve absorbed enough knowledge and or experience you are ready to develop your vision. Write it down, add complexity as you go and don’t be afraid to create goals with as much emphasis on your eraser as your pencil (sorry, your delete key as much as your alpha keys, ’cause what’s a pencil?)

PRINCIPLE #3 — “Vision without action is merely a dream…” Joel A. Barker

Let me finish Mr. Barker’s quote, “Vision without action is merely a dream, action without vision merely passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” Or at least your little corner of it. Applying knowledge to a vision and turning the vision to actions and delivering it within an effective leadership paradigm is really the whole point to leadership and ultimately how it is judged. When you assess your leadership try for a point to not consider what you earned, what your company grossed, how many people seem to love you, etc. Instead assess to what degree you have gained knowledge, created a vision based on that and enacted with goals and disseminated and discharged with a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness.

That might sound a little summarily simple but effectiveness is often overshadowed by results. If we hit our number we must be doing something right, right? Wrong. Think of the businesses that were killing it before the pandemic and then were getting killed after it. I’m not talking about where there was no control. Even those with little control over their destiny have winners and losers. A client who was very successful doing event entertainment was challenged when events practically disappeared but his ability to create virtual alternatives not only kept him in business but has opened up new markets as he is no longer constrained by how far his entertainers have to drive thanks to virtual alternatives.

I’m not one to regularly quote old Maggie Thatcher but I have to conclude with a deep agreement with something she said, “Leadership is about having principles. A leader must have a vision and principles that will endure for all time and must always be true to these principles, applying them to changing circumstances.” While those principles are more intended as moral compass points it is equally applicable looking at the principles used to develop your leadership. Find the path, have the plan and as Mr. Miyagi said brusquely,  “There is no try, there is only do or do not.” As a leader I hope you do do. (That may be a quote from Bart Simpson : )

©2021 MyEureka Solutions LLC. For help developing your LEADERSHIP, strategy or other BUSINESS THERAPY insights follow or contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter @TomFoxTrainer, or check out My current book: Business Therapy: Ideas and Inspirations To Help Build Sales, Leadership, Management, and Personal Performance is available on Amazon.

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