4 Must Know Guidelines To Develop A Great Leadership Philosophy

Discover how to build skills, the theory and the practice.

The page contains are some guidelines for developing your own leadership philosophy.

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” Lin Yutang, Source: wisdom quotes.com

Philosophical Guideline 1: A Good Philosophy Has A Number of Guiding Principles

Universities stress the written word. Image by lumaxart

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” —Seneca, Source: Said What

Editors and authors like to put numbers on things. For example, there are seven habits, (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), oops, I mean eight. Or maybe there are twenty-one. (The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You).

These are worthwhile books, but it’s important to realize there is no magic number since your situation and responsibilities are not the same as someone else. For example, a supervisor on an assembly line would likely have a different set than a Hollywood director.

Leadership Principle 2: A Faulty Philosophy Has Unintended Consequences

Image by Murray Johannsen

It’s sometimes easy to forget how easily untended consequences can occur. Take the following story as an example:

A businessman decided to to send his wife a quick e-mail when he was on a business trip. Unfortunately, he missed one letter and his note was directed instead to an elderly preacher’s wife, whose husband had passed away only the day before. When the grieving widow checked her e-mail, she took one look at the screen, let out a scream, and fell to the floor in a faint. Her family rushed into the room and saw on the screen:

Dearest Wife,
Just got checked in. Everything prepared for your arrival tomorrow.

Your Loving Husband
PS. Sure is hot down here

Years ago there was a very beneficial philosophy of business known as Total Quality Management. Those businesses that acted on these ideas improved product and service quality gaining a competitive advantage by doing so.

One of the central principles underlying this philosophy was known as, “Continuous Process Improvement.” There was nothing wrong with this leadership principle, but it was incomplete since it allowed businesses to perfect process, but not perfect people.

So you had a paradox of flawed (meaning unskilled people) trying to perform in a process requiring perfection. A better way to state this philosophical principle would have been, “Continuously improve people and processes.”

Philosophical Principle 3: Your Philosophy Should Change and Evolve

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

“Men like the opinions to which they have become accustomed from youth; this prevents them from finding the truth, for they cling to the opinions of habit.” — Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204, Egyptian physician and philosopher, Guide for the Perplexed

A good philosophy is not cast in concrete—it can change. This is easy to say, but usually this does not happen. This reminds me of a story:

The university president sighed as he went over the proposed budget offered him by the head of the department of physics.

“Why is it,” he said, mournfully, “that you physicists always require so much expensive equipment? Now the department of mathematics requires nothing of me but money for paper, pencils, and erasers.”

He thought a while longer and added, “And the department of philosophy is better still. It doesn’t even ask for erasers.” Source: Asimov, The Humor Treasury.

Moral of the Story: Beliefs Once Formed Rarely Change

Leadership Guideline 4: It’s Not Real Until Written

Wisdom, mural by Robert Lewis Reid. Second Floor, North Corridor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Caption underneath reads “KNOWLEDGE COMES BVT WISDOM LINGERS

“My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.” — Indira Gandhi

Wrap-up

A wise business leader will take the time to write something down on paper. This simple act forces you to clarify your thinking and define what’s important. To give you an example of how this works, you should look into the life example of author, publisher, entrepreneur, scientist, inventor, diplomat, statesman and leader known as Benjamin Franklin.

Learn to Put Together Your Philosophy

Greet leaders need to have a philosophy—a set of theory— that guides their actions. It helps you know whether you are on the right road and if your actions are wise. To not do so means you are like a leaf blown on the wind with no branch to hang onto in the tree of life.

“There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” — Cicero, Source: wisdomquotes.com

Leadership Skill Development