Four Strong Reasons to Develop a Leadership Philosophy

WE assume leaders have a higher responsibility, a higher calling than to simply follow authority —they must come up with a set of principles that they can live by and share with followers.

“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” — Mark Twain.

A transformational image of the mindset of Joan of Arc. Notice the image of the saints in the background.
A transformational image of the mindset of Joan of Arc. Notice the image of the saints in the background.

Weeds in the Garden of the Mind

You might say that weeds in a garden are like false beliefs in the mind. Periodically, one must clear them out if one wants to have a thing of beauty. A transformational mind-set requires one to continually question the assumptions ones makes to determine whether they is true or not.

Not everything you learned in school is correct. When one is young, one focuses on learning. As one gets older, you realize that you have to unlearn what you learned when you were young. Sounds weird, huh. But some of what you know is false, but you don’t know it is false. You need to transform your thinking, but fail to understand the simple truth.

•  Here are 9 questionable assumptions

Take a simple example. A true or false statement which goes, “The sun rises in the east.” If you think true, you are only partly correct. Actually the sun doesn’t rise, the earth rotates.

It is the begining of wisdom to understand that not all commonly accepted truths are true. However, when one encounters information that is not consistent with your accepted truth, we do not question the belief, we discount the information. In the case of the article, if you encounter a statement the runs counter to the what’s already installed,  you likely will reject the new information out of had and not even consciously think about it.

Every field has their set of false assumptions accepted as true. I once had a friend tell me that he liked business better than politics since, “The business types tend to be more rational and pragmatic.” Pragmatic yes, since you get more negative feedback. Rational, no since business has it share of false beliefs.

Lets take one assumption commonly stated today by many b-school professors. It goes, “You need to manage people.” Many of you have heard it before, and maybe think, “Yes, I am a manger of people.”

I accepted this for quite a few years but eventually came to realize it was not that accurate. Actually, a more accurate saying was said many years ago by Grace Hopper. In this case, “You manage things, you lead people.” She should know. She left the U.S. Navy as a rear admiral having started in public service during World War Two.

But if one accepts people can be managed, one will not devote the time and effort needed to develop leadership skills since one discounts leadership in all its many forms as unimportant to being a good manager.

Definition Of Philosophy

The word comes from Ancient Greek. It consists of two elements:
[sophos meaning wisdom] & [philos meaning Love]

A philosophy involves principles, values and traits— that continue and continue and continue through-out life. So it is more about the path, not the destination.

The key is live by, since a philosophy should serve as a guide to life and business. One sees this kind of leadership philosophy fully developed in the teachings and life example of great religious figures such as the Buddha or Jesus Christ.

Four Reasons to Develop a Leadership Philosophy

1. To Prepare Yourself

Library of Congress, Thomas Jefferson Building

“Life posses many problems, many crisis — we are all tested.” — M. Johannsen

Defining a philosophy includes looking at personal development areas that help one prepare for the challenges of life.

2. To Counter The Corrupting Effects of Money and Power

“Leaders without a philosophy are like the leaf not tied to the branch — you get blown anywhere the winds take you.” — Murray Johannsen.

There is a fundamental truth to Lord Action’s famous saying, the first half of which goes, “Power corrupts.” If he where alive today, Lord Acton would no doubt agree that in the modern world, money corrupts just as much as power.

And so we sometimes see in the powerful, the second half of his saying, “. . . and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We see too many individuals using their influence to benefit themselves or their in-group at the expense of everyone else.

Without a set of uplifting principles and a bedrock solid set of character traits, the elite tend to exercise selfish power.

3. To Counter a Lack of Meaning In Life

Benjamin West (1738–1820): "The Immortality of Nelson." And if you never stop improving yourself, there are few limits to what you can achieve. Check It Out

“The doors of opportunity more open for those best prepared to walk through it.” — Murray Johannsen.

It was Viktor Frankl’s belief that many people feel that life has no meaning. This is also seen in the very wealthy, according to Jessie O’Neil who wrote the book The Golden Ghetto. Because many feel alienated and alone, they may conclude that their lives having little meaning. However, we do possess the ability to create our own values and so add more meaning to our lives.

4. To Accelerate Personal Growth


“One definition of managerial insanity: Doing the same things, the same way but expecting better results.” — American Saying

Many businesses walk the path of continuous improvement. They understand that it’s required to successfully compete and execute on a competitive advantage. However, many managers and executives are stuck in a rut of the same routine. Establishing a philosophy can serve as one method of overcoming complacency.

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” — John Gardner, Source:


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:

Leadership Skill Development