Developing a Personal Leadership Philosophy
Defining a personal set of beliefs, values and principles is essential for any developing leader. A well-defined personal leadership philosophy fosters trust, communication, and alignment within a team while supporting the leader’s own development and resilience. It is a foundation for effective leadership and will positively impact both the leader and their team.
A leadership philosophy provides clarity and focus by defining a leader’s purpose, vision and values. It serves as a compass to guide a leader’s decisions, actions and priorities, especially in challenging situations. Crafting a personal leadership philosophy is like creating a roadmap you will need when navigating ethical questions and difficult decisions. By defining your values and beliefs, you can better align your actions with your core values.
A written leadership philosophy statement is also a communication tool for articulating your expectations, values and vision to your team. When employees understand their leader’s philosophy, they can better align their efforts with that philosophy. This alignment can help foster a shared sense of purpose throughout an organization.
Tips for Creating a Personal Leadership Philosophy
Developing a leadership philosophy is an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth. It is a chance to evaluate your beliefs, values and behaviors to seek opportunities for improvement. It is a powerful tool for identifying areas for development and learning to continue sharpening your leadership skills.
Creating an effective leadership philosophy will take some time and reflection. It should not be a simple, pithy statement crafted quickly. To be an effective tool for guiding decisions and actions throughout your career, it will require some contemplation. Your leadership statement should be unique to you, and there is no right or wrong way to format it.
To craft your own personal leadership philosophy, start with the following tips:
1. Identify your core values.
List your top five values by thinking about what matters most to you. Spend some time thinking about the attributes of people you admire and those you do not. Imagine your ideal world and what values it would embrace. Some leaders value honesty and integrity; others value self-reliance and sustainability.
It can also be helpful to reflect on your most meaningful experiences. Think about the moments in life that have been the most fulfilling or satisfying. What values were represented in that experience? Think about what energizes and inspires you.
Pay attention to your emotional reactions. Situations that make you feel joy or pride usually align with your values. However, negative emotions may indicate that something is clashing with a value that is important to you.
2. Think about your preferred leadership style.
Next, consider your preferred approach to leadership. Are you a democratic-style leader that seeks input and collaboration from the entire team? Or do you like an autocratic, top-down leadership style where the decisions are made solely by the leader and then carried out by the team? Maybe you like a hands-off approach, allowing team members to make their own decisions and solve their own problems.
You can also think about your role models and leaders that have inspired you. What was their leadership style? Do you share that style or want to take a different approach? Identifying what type of leader you are and how that aligns with your values will help you craft a consistent philosophy.
3. Consider behaviors you will not tolerate in yourself or others.
Your written personal leadership philosophy will keep you from losing touch with your values in difficult times. It will also guide team members by letting them know about unacceptable behaviors. For example, leaders who value equity and inclusion will not tolerate harassment or discrimination. Likewise, leaders who value honesty and integrity will not accept lying or unethical behaviors.
4. Determine your leadership goal.
Think about your ultimate goal as a leader. Remember, this is not the same as an annual goal or a task you want to complete. Your leadership goal should encompass how you want to impact your teams, organizations and the world—now and in the future.
For example, your goal might be: To develop high-performing teams by creating an environment where individuals feel motivated, supported and empowered to achieve their full potential.
Or: To drive innovation and change by encouraging creative thinking, embracing new ideas and promoting continuous learning and adaptation.
5. Write it down.
Once you have contemplated the items above, write down your personal philosophy and keep it somewhere you can read it regularly. Your philosophy statement can be formatted however you prefer. Some leaders craft a short paragraph, while others have written entire books about their personal approach to leadership.
Writing a leadership philosophy meant to see you through an entire career can be intimidating. Remember that your personal leadership philosophy can evolve and grow— just as you will throughout your lifetime. Writing it down allows you to revisit and re-evaluate your values, purpose and vision over time.