A leadership philosophy is a set of beliefs and principles that strongly influence how we perceive ourselves within an organization and those that we lead. It is an essential ingredient in forming our vision, goals and behavior within the organization that we lead.
First it is useful to define leadership. Leadership is the individual phenomenon of influencing others, inspiring them to do their best, Giving them purpose, guidance and motivation. The best leadership style is one that is adapted to the situation, otherwise known as situational leadership. Leadership is different from management as management does not have to involve inspiring or motivating others.
Most leaders in any role agree that vision, values, adapting to change, knowing oneself and others, professional knowledge and good communication are essential components of leadership. I believe that one of the most important elements of these is vision. Without vision a leader is lost.
Burt Nanus, a noted consultant in leadership, vision, and strategic planning for business, government, and non-profit organizations is a Professor at the University of Southern California. Nanus writes that vision must be idealistic and a "mental model of a future state of the organization." He asserts that vision must be appropriate and include standards of excellence, purpose, and direction. Organizational vision must be ambitious, easily articulated, and well understood.
Forming a mental image of where you want your organization to be and what it should look like in the future is essential before you plan, decide and direct others on how to get there.
Before directing others on how to attain that vision it must first be communicated, shared and understood by all within the organization. Ensure that the vision is clear, unambiguous, energetic, imaginative, inspiring, achievable and relevant to the organizations goals.
Values are critical to organizational success. Leaders know what they value and recognize the importance of ethical behavior. The best leaders practice both values and ethics in the workplace.
People do not know what they can expect in a leader if leaders never identify their values. If leaders identify and share their values, living the values daily will help to create trust.
As a leader, choose the values and the ethics that are most important to you, the values and ethics you believe in and that define your character. Then live them visibly every day at work. Living by your values is one of the most powerful tools available to you to help you lead and influence others.
Adapting to Change
Adapting to change can make the difference between organizational success and failure. It is essential you have a philosophy that embraces change. An organization that is resilient is one that can effectively innovate, adapt and perform in the face of adversity.
To cope with change ensure you have a clear focus around purpose and goals. Be flexible and open to new approaches, encourage a climate of learning and creativity and a culture of trust and cooperation combined with good communication.
True leaders posses the ability to analyze their own motives and decisions and make accurate judgments about their behavior. These judgments can result in constructive improvements in how they relate to others and help identify unhelpful reactions or practices.
Perhaps you have a tendency to control or dominate based on a fear of failure; perhaps you have a fear of conflict and a desire to appease others; or an excessive competitiveness that leads to distrust. Knowing yourself better will help you improve and make adjustments that will make you a more effective leader.
Knowing others is important to situational leaders who adopt different leadership styles depending on the situation and person they are dealing with.
Paul Hersey created a model for Situational Leadership in the late 1960's that allows you to analyze the needs of the situation you're dealing with, and then adopt the most appropriate leadership style.
The right leadership style will depend very much on knowing the person being led, which is the follower and should take into account that persons development, skills and knowledge. Therefore adapt your leadership style to the competency and commitment of the follower.
For example a new employer who lacks skills and experience will require a more supportive style of leadership where the leader takes a much greater role in the decision process. With a more experienced employer a leader may seek the ideas and suggestions from the follower.
Knowledge and skills is a very essential element to leadership as it insures trust in your competency which is necessary to inspire and motivate others.
Professional knowledge and expertise will vary for different organizations but the following are skills that are commonly required in the workplace.
• Knowledge of the rules of the organization
• Legal knowledge
• Business Knowledge
• Presentation skills
• Team Management
• Time management
• Managing complexity
• Organizational awareness
• Managing change.
Good communication is necessary not just for communicating instructions or tasks that need completed but also for motivating, inspiring and influencing others. Whether it is to motivate action, influence tough executives, customers, or stakeholders communication is an essential component of leadership.
Also remember that communication is not always oral. The way that you present yourself, your policies, and how your initiatives are designed and delivered communicates more consistently than your words.