• WSL Leadership

Wise Leaders Thrive Because of Their Principles


I suppose good leadership could happen by chance. Someone with well-developed emotional intelligence and a deep understanding of the work and their teammates gets a promotion and seamlessly integrates into their new role, followed by impressive explosions of productivity and happiness. That does sometimes happen...right?


I know it doesn’t happen like that because I talk with leaders who have gotten the promotion or the new job. Some struggle to redefine their relationships in the new role; some flounder by diving in too fast and picking the wrong battles too soon. The leaders that fare the best have principles - not just some buzz words they use too often, fundamental principles they’ve synthesized and use every day.


Wise leadership principles integrate into every decision and action. They are not a rote process; they are foundational guidance and bottom lines. That doesn’t mean they’re easy to apply, however.


One wise leadership principle that’s been on my mind lately is: “relentless pursuit of trust and respect.”


This principle can be used as a quick razor to cut away choices that are not in alignment. If an option doesn’t build trust and respect, then that possibility is disregarded.


The principle also directs action moving forward. When considering the next step to take, what would maximize trust and respect?


When forming your leadership principles, it’s essential to pay attention to the words and be clear on your definitions. How relentless is relentless? What is trust? How can you tell if it is respect? Are there objective benchmarks or standards? Is it all subjective all the time?


Take a moment to reflect on your leadership principles.


If you’re stumbling to sort out what your leadership principles are, ask a few teammates or colleagues to share stories with you about when you were an excellent leader. After you consult 3 to 5 people, look for themes that indicate your leadership principles at work.


Write the themes down, define and refine the words until it resonates with you. Once you have named your leadership principle, claim it by sharing it with others and reminding yourself when using it.


Be intentional about calling it to mind when you’re about to make a decision or plan. Also, make time to reflect on recent accomplishments analyzing them for evidence of your leadership principles.


The practice of calling your principles to mind in the moment and during reflection will strengthen your principle into a habit (and help you refine it further if your actions don’t align with it).


I’ll be spending more time with wise leadership principles soon. For now, take a moment to reflect on your leadership principles. Can you name them? Are they setting you up to be a wise leader?



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