Leading With Leadership Principles

Today’s blog is about moving from frustration and confusion to confidence and orientation. Strong leadership principles can be very powerful if they are clear, if they fit your business and fit authentically with you as a person.

Principles should be focused and simple. One example is Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn. He prefers to work with people who do 3 things at work:
1. They dream big
2. They get a lot done
3. They are having fun

Another good example of effective leadership was from one of my 19 bosses. He led with only two leadership principles:
1. What is right for our customer?
2. What is right for our company?

I experienced the power of good leadership in particular with the following example: When I was marketing director in a global consumer goods company, we got a new global CEO in the year 2000. At that same time our stock price collapsed and our company was in real trouble. There were at least 500 people in our 300 seat auditorium when he gathered us. You could hear a pin drop. Our new CEO was noticeably tense. He said honestly, that he did not know what we had to do in our country, or around the world to get back on track. But he was determined to help us find out very quickly. He was crystal clear in his ‘10 Beliefs,’ in the 10 leadership principles he most believed in.

I was deeply impressed with how a leader could garner trust from me and my colleagues in just 30 minutes, with only 10 simple, clear beliefs. That was real Lead Wolf behaviour. I’m sure these 10 leadership principles were an important part of the success our company delivered in the 10 years after. It was one of the most successful decades in 180 years of the company’s history.

After this impressive presentation by this new CEO, I went back to my office and immediately began writing down my own leadership guidelines. Over the next few years, I continued evolving them. For a few years now, they have remained constant.

On a behavioural level, good leadership means to me: Clarity, focus and constructive energy.

On relationship level, good leadership means to me: Trust, respect, responsibility and consistency.

These are my 7 leadership principles. What are yours? What does good leadership mean to you?

Why is it even meaningful to answer this question? Because then you realise how you want to lead yourself and others. Because others feel that you live and lead according to clear principles. And that strengthens the trust of others in you as a Lead Wolf.

I see four things you can do to clarify and successfully implement your leadership principles:

1. Write down your leadership principles

Do you know what good leadership means to you? One way to be clear is to write them down. Many people realise what they mean when they write down their thoughts.

Therefore tip 1: Write down your leadership principles!

2. Implement and reflect

Once you have written them down, start implementing them. Orientate yourself and refer to them when making decisions. For example, suppose one of your leadership principles is “respect.” However, with your personnel decisions, you surround yourself with employees whom you like and who always do what you like. Then you run the risk that you have comfortable Yes-sayers around you. That your people would never dare contradict you, even if they had a better idea than you. Then you get a lot of niceties, but not necessarily the best ideas. You do not achieve maximum success, and your actions do not do justice to your leadership principle ‘respect.’
If you do not know exactly what the right solution is to a problem in your business, then relook at your leadership principles and apply them. And take time to reflect. What have I done well as a leader lately? Are my leadership principles still right? Or do I want to adjust them? Do I really implement them consistently?

So tip 2: Consistently implement leadership guidelines and honestly reflect!

3. Share your leadership principles

As a successful leader, you should share your leadership principles. When your employees, colleagues and supervisors understand what you believe in and how you want to lead, they have increased confidence in you.

Therefore tip 3: Share your leadership principles.

4. Get Feedback

Having good leadership principles is good, but not enough. The key is to implement them consistently. From time to time, ask for feedback from others, to what extent you actually implement your leadership principles according to their perception. Good feedback requires the courage to be honest. Your employees must have the courage to tell you what they perceive you are doing. For example, if ‘transparency’ is one of your guidelines, then you should share with your employees as much information as they need for good results – except for strictly confidential information. Then you will really live up to your principle of ‘transparency.’
And you must have the courage to admit to yourself if your behaviour contradicts your own principles. We all make mistakes. They are valuable when we learn from them.

Whenever I’ve seen executives adopt clear, well thought-out leadership principles that they live by, their teams were successful and motivated. That’s why these principles are so powerful. Have you already formulated your own? I can help you find your leadership principles.

In summary, here are my 4 best tips on leadership principles:

1. Write down your leadership principles
2. Implement and reflect
3. Share your leadership principles
4. Get feedback

Thank you very much for your time and attention,
your Lead Wolf Stefan.

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