Leadership in Action – The 4 Components of an Effective Leadership Philosophy

Leadership in Action – The 4 Components of an Effective Leadership Philosophy


Just as an effective organization has their Mission, Vision, Strategy and Values statements to guide their choices in making decisions, leaders need to be explicit to themselves and to their teams regarding what their underlying philosophy of leadership actually is. The transparency of a leadership philosophy helps the team to Energize Action and be proactive.

As a leader, you do have a leadership philosophy. You may not have explicitly articulated it, but over time your staff have come to understand it (even if you do not). They make their choices based on your pattern of past choices. Taking the time to reflect on what is important to you, when you make decisions, will help develop a more consistent set of expectations for you and your team.

The following four components are interrelated. However, looking at them first in isolation and then together PAVEs the way to pulling your philosophy into one coherent statement.

  1. Purpose: This is your big “why.” Reflect back on your life and choices you have already made. What has been the underlying compass? What excites your greatest passion? When do you have your greatest energy?
  1. Approach: This is “philosophy” part – it is your cause and effect view of leadership that leads to performance. What is your leadership approach or style? What is the underlying way that you believe you can motivate the greatest performance from your team? The key with any approach is that it needs to be authentic to who you are. This is where most of the leadership research has been focused on, what actually works and what does not. The good news is there are many effective approaches for you to choose from. Most of us develop our approach by emulating leaders we admire, and rejecting approaches used by leaders we did not appreciate.  What have you learned from your leaders?
  1. Values: The values of an organization define what is in bounds and what is out of bounds. In that same way, we all have certain values and beliefs that are non-negotiable. Your core values and beliefs are the ones that you consistently role model. What are the five or six values, or beliefs, that are core to everything you do?
  1. Expectations: These should reflect the values and beliefs above, but get more specific in terms of what behavior you want to see. Some common examples: “When you bring me a problem, have at least one idea of a solution.” Or, “Making a mistake is ok, just not the same one twice.” Take your five or six beliefs that are core to you and convert those into behaviors you want to see in your team.

As you review your thoughts and experiences in these four areas, you can start to focus down to the essence of you and your leadership. As you make choices of what is the most important to you, you may discover that integrity is more important than innovation.  This does not mean that you do not want innovation. It’s just that integrity has a greater connection to your core.

The first step in creating your leadership philosophy is to reduce it down to one page. The second step is reducing it to one slide. Third, is down to one sentence.  Finally, it is just a few words.  As an example, one leader’s philosophy has been to “Add Value.” That applies to the leader, to the team and to the entire organization. How are we adding value? Please note that you do not have to wait until you get to a couple of words before you share it with your team. As soon as you get it to one page, you can start to socialize your philosophy. The act of sharing that page, will help you move through the next steps as you refine your message and Energize Action.