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I had a mentor that strongly encouraged all of his front line managers to consciously develop and formulate a personal philosophy of leadership. He saw it as his mission to teach and develop; and he would provide book excerpts, quotes, and lessons learned that he used to develop his own philosophy. One of the lists that I ultimately adopted as my own was from Gordon Sullivan & Michael Harper.  What I love most about the list is the focus on the difficult task of leading individuals and forming a strong team.

  1. There are no universal truths. Each person you work with is unique. Each organization is unique. The leader, today and tomorrow, must be aware of that and must continually tailor his or her behavior to the situation at hand within a consistent framework of values.
  2. Leading means understanding that “we” are “they”. This is the beginning of accepting responsibility for your own actions and for the team.
  3. Be yourself! The best leaders act out of their own set of values and their own intellectual construct, and with their own style.
  4. Leaders respect people. The hardest decisions involve people – people who have family and friends affected by the things that happen to them. Treating people with dignity and respect is the only acceptable framework in which to make the hard decisions.
  5. Good leaders have a sense of humor, a healthy respect for the lighter side of life. The best leaders are unambiguous about what they are serious about, but they do not try to be serious about everything.
  6. Good leaders make time for themselves, family, and other interests. You need to sustain broad focus, keep the personal needs of your team members in perspective, and sustain your own personal renewal.
  7. Successful leaders know their team members. They know their needs, their unique talents, their goals, their strengths and weaknesses. By knowing their team members, leaders make more effective assignments, develop team members more fully, and better balance the needs of their people and the needs of the organization.
  8. Leaders generate enthusiasm. They are able to align organizational goals with personal goals for themselves and their team members ina way that motivates and inspires others. They cultivate a climate in which their team members feel good about what they are doing.
  9. Leaders take responsibility for their actions, especially when things go wrong. They get involved and fix things when they do go wrong – fix the problem, not the blame. In any event they learn, searching for systemic solutions so that a problem does not occur again.
  10. Successful leaders give credit. Teams can accomplish more when it does not matter who gets personal credit. A good leader will bask in the reflected light of organizational success without turning a spotlight on himself.
  11. Succesful leaders establish expectations. They make sure people understand goals and objectives, personal roles, individual responsibilities, and rewards, and they establish expectations about feedback and other communication.
  12. Successful leaders take charge. Their followers, their teams, expect them to take charge. Just as the leader establishes expectations for the team, so does the team have expectations for the leader. The team expects the leader to lead it to a win.