The Importance of Developing Your Leadership Philosophy
Whether you’re the CEO of an internationally recognized conglomerate or the small business owner working to build a team fit for success, knowing who you are and what kind of influence you want to have on the people around you is the first step to becoming an effective leader. Getting ahead of the game and maintaining that momentum as an organization is all about establishing what’s at the core of your purpose and building up from there.
That’s where a leadership philosophy comes in. In this article, we’ll break down what a leadership philosophy is, why it’s important, the different types of leadership philosophies, and how to create your own – so you can lay the foundations and then hit the ground running.
What Is a Leadership Philosophy?
The big question we need to ask ourselves when it comes to developing a leadership philosophy is simple: what kind of leader do you want to be? In order for any company or organization to be successful, strong leadership has to exist. In order to achieve this status, you need to have a philosophy established before anything else.
A leadership philosophy is a set of values, beliefs and personal rules you live by that determine how you carry yourself, and in turn, how you guide and inspire others to follow by example. It influences how you move through the world and how you encourage others to do the same. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus”.
Why Developing a Leadership Philosophy Is Important
No matter what industry you are in, how many people you are in charge of or how profitable your company or organization is, developing a leadership philosophy is critical for several reasons. The first is that it helps you to understand your own character and how you operate based on all those things that make up who you are as a person, not only in your personal life but very much in your professional life too.
The next is that it acts as a template for how you conduct yourself in situations, challenging or otherwise, and creates consistency in terms of your actions and your behavior.
When things inevitably get overwhelming or stress levels start to increase, it can be easy to lose sight of who you are and what you stand for – a leadership philosophy can be powerfully grounding during change. Showing strong leadership consistently allows you to build trust within your relationships and instills in others a sense of loyalty to you and the organization.
It also sets a precedent. When people know what type of leader you are, they are able to interact with you better and communicate more effectively, as well as feel more open to working at your pace to solve problems and collaborate on ideas.
Personal Leadership Philosophy Examples
Depending on all of those things that make up your personal leadership philosophy, like your values and beliefs and what kind of leader you want to be, there’s a whole host of different ways that philosophy can be communicated. Here are some examples to help you establish yours.
Democratic Leadership Philosophy
The saying that there’s no “I” in “team” rings very true when it comes to a democratic leadership philosophy. Ultimately, it means that decisions are reliant on the whole group’s input, not just one person’s. Opinions and ideas are considered from all angles and an inclusive process is relied on to generate the best outcome. While this can allow for a range of voices to be heard, it can also give rise to conflicting positions.
Autocratic Leadership Philosophy
This is the complete opposite of the former. In this case, the leadership philosophy is based on the leader’s and only the leader’s beliefs and values and doesn’t consider any outside influence. This type of philosophy would include a lot of ‘I’ statements – “I will make any and all decisions” and so forth.
Strategic Leadership Philosophy
Leaders will maintain individual responsibility for all big decision-making, but they won’t work entirely away from their team. Instead, they’ll offer guidance and structure so that everything is done in the best interest of the business, while also allowing creativity and innovation to be fostered amongst the team.
Transformational Leadership Philosophy
Transformational leadership is where change is embraced and then adapted to in order to keep up with the constantly evolving nature of industries. A leader will work to set goals and map out how to achieve them to encourage organizational growth as a whole.
Transactional Leadership Philosophy
This is where individual goal setting comes in and there are incentives for team members to achieve them. It’s an incredibly motivating factor, but in order for it to be successful, team members have to be allowed the space to work towards these in a way that’s realistic.
Laissez-Faire Leadership Philosophy
Last but not least, Laissez-Faire leadership is when power is divided equally between the leader and the team. Team members are left with much more agency than in traditional leadership models, while the leader is left to focus on the business operations. The idea is that by having sole responsibility for themselves, team members will feel empowered. This philosophy is based on the idea that if you show your team that you trust them to do their job, they’ll work even harder to do it well.
How to Create Your Leadership Philosophy
Now that you know the ins and outs of a leadership philosophy, let’s go through how you can develop yours and then put it into action.
Develop Your Unique Leadership Style
We’ve covered all of the different types of leadership philosophies, so it’s now your turn to decide which one, or maybe a few, stick out to you most. Once you’ve done that, it’s about weighing up the pros and cons of each one and assessing how they align with your own personal values and beliefs.
Go back to asking yourself the question, what kind of leader do I want to be? It’s important to note that it’s totally normal to experience a bit of crossover, and depending on the nature of your company or organization, you will likely have to adapt your leadership style to align with the learning and management style of different individuals. While it might take some time to understand how various people respond best to leadership, it’s all part of the process of getting on the same page.
Identify Your Core Values
What is important to you? Are you someone who values reliability, integrity and compassion? Maybe your values look like something else entirely. Whatever they are, these are what define what type of leader you are striving to be. There’s no right or wrong answers, so diving deep and being honest with yourself is a must.
Define Your Role Models & Mentors
Who do you look up to? It could be a historical figure who led change provoking movements, or it could be a professor you admired in college. What is it about this person that you admire and aspire to replicate in your role as a leader? The other big question to ask yourself is why.
Determine Your Goals
Say for example you want your organization to generate a profit of X amount by a certain time frame, how are you going to make that goal achievable? The answer will be in your chosen style of leadership. Whether your philosophy is based on the fact that you are going to be responsible for making that happen or you’re relying on your staff to help you to get there, that leadership philosophy and how you implement it will determine if you get there or not.
As we discussed previously, the beauty of having a leadership philosophy is that it acts as a template and something to hold you accountable for getting to where you want to be. If you lose sight of your purpose or original mission, you can easily go back to your philosophy for guidance. No matter what, your goals need to be consistent with your professional growth as well as that of the organization.
Seek Feedback From Your Team
While it’s important to be confident in yourself and the type of leader you want to be, your leadership philosophy does need to take into consideration how it will be received by those you’re leading. Informing team members of what your leadership philosophy is and then seeking feedback on how it sits with them is key to knowing if it’s going to be successful in the work environment.
Some of the ways in which you could determine if it’s going to be a good fit is by talking with team members directly or taking on the anonymous approach and gaining feedback through surveys that they can fill out without pressure. You’ll find that knowing how your team members will respond to your philosophy and adapting it to meet them at where they are is totally invaluable.
It’s safe to say that establishing a leadership philosophy is one of the best ways to ensure long-term and fulfilling success in an organization. Without knowing what type of leader you want to be and deciding which type of philosophy best aligns with your beliefs and values, there’s no way to ensure that you will experience personal and big picture wins that are as rewarding as they are sustainable.
The bottom line is, your leadership philosophy has to take into consideration not only how you operate, but how that philosophy will encourage and empower those you are leading. Now that you know everything there is to know about leadership philosophies, it’s time to start working on your own. You’ve got all the tools, so all that’s left is to get started.