There is the availability of abundant literature on leadership with several definitions and new theories. Leadership is widely talked about globally but least understood. It is least understood because there is no universal definition of leadership. Some leadership scholars, authors, educators, researchers, and practitioners have come out with their own theories and styles by modifying the existing literature to suit their needs and prevailing business environment. When you run a search on Google you will find a huge number of hits on leadership. However, there is one area where there is inadequate research is—leadership philosophy.
What is Leadership Philosophy?
When you look at inspiring leaders including Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Herb Kelleher, Pat Summitt, and Donna Karan, they are associated with charismatic leadership, innovative leadership, democratic leadership, pacesetter leadership, servant leadership, situational leadership, and laissez-faire leadership respectively. They crafted their own leadership philosophies, followed them meticulously, and built their leadership brands.
You must have your leadership identity and philosophy to leave your mark behind for others to follow. The value system, culture, and principles matter a lot to create your leadership philosophy. You must have clarity about your areas of interest to draw your own blueprint on leadership philosophy. There are three areas you must create your leadership philosophy―personal, professional, and social. Although all three areas are important, both professional and social philosophy are crucial because they influence the people around you directly and society as a whole.
Having your own leadership philosophy is essential to excel in your life to provide meaning to your life. The majority of the people are born and die without leaving any impact on the world. When you have your own leadership philosophy, you live during your lifetime and you live even after you are gone from this world. That is the greatness of leadership philosophy! We remember several soft leaders including Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, and Nelson Mandela because they crafted their leadership philosophy and lived with it to leave an indelible mark on humankind.
Merits of Leadership Philosophy
There are innumerable advantages of crafting your leadership philosophy. It helps you understand yourself well. It helps identify your strengths and weaknesses and converts your weaknesses into strengths. It gives you a leadership identity and differentiates you from others. You will have a niche area and stand out from others. It enhances your image and builds your leadership brand. You inspire the people around you and become a role model for others. It helps you keep track of your status; checks any deviations; and avoids short-term temptations to achieve your success in all spheres. It helps you achieve success with integrity. It keeps you clearly focused on your goals and objectives, and provides meaning to your life.
A Blueprint to Craft Your Leadership Philosophy
Ponder the following few questions before crafting your leadership philosophy:
- What makes you wake up in the morning?
- Are leaders born or made?
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- What is your leadership style?
List out the leaders who inspired you. Find out why did you like them.
- Do you believe that leadership matters more than leaders?
- Are you prepared to struggle and sacrifice your life to live by your principles?
- How do you want to make a difference in the world?
Analyze your areas of interest. Take someone as a role model. Identify what traits made him/her stand out from others. Find out how he/she became an admirable leader. What are his/her extraordinary traits and qualities? Prepare a list of qualities you liked the most. Work hard to imbibe some of them to grow as the leader you want to become. Here is a blueprint to craft your leadership philosophy:
- Identify the purpose.
- Spell out your value system.
- Offer a well-punched title.
- Explain succinctly your philosophy.
- Explain clearly how you want to influence and impact the people around you.
- Unfold your ideas to serve society to make a difference.
- Conclude with your message.
- Publish your leadership philosophy to let people understand your principles to appreciate and support it.
After crafting your leadership philosophy, apply it meticulously to live up to it. If you find that there are some areas it needs to be improved, don’t hesitate to improve it. Take feedback from experts to improve it. Leadership is all about experimenting and learning lessons from mistakes to enhance leadership effectiveness.
My Leadership Philosophy
I crafted my own leadership philosophy. I share my knowledge with the world free on my four blogs. I want the world to take forward my knowledge to the next generation. I created Vision 2030 that is a nonprofit initiative. I want to build one million global leaders by 2030. I have trained more than 40,000 leaders so far. Currently, there is a leadership deficit due to the exit of baby boomers, and Gen Y is not equipped with leadership skills and abilities. As a result, global organizations and society may encounter a leadership crisis. To ensure a smooth supply of leadership talent in the leadership pipeline, I created my vision to make a difference to the global society. My style of leadership is soft leadership coined by me. It emphasizes partnership, unlike conventional leadership. It avoids micromanagement and empowers partners. I encourage my partners to dream and achieve big to build next-generation soft leaders. I believe in the philosophy of respecting everyone and appreciating cultural diversity. I believe in the philosophy of ‘love your mother but don’t hate another person’s mother.’
My favorite leaders are Abraham Lincoln who overcame challenges successfully by abolishing slavery and ensuring the unity of America; and Theodore Roosevelt for his energy, voracious reading, and time management. I admire leaders including Mahatma Gandhi for the character, Mikhail Gorbachev for the charisma, Martin Luther King Jr for the conscience, Aung San Sui Kyi for the convictions, Alexander the Great for the courage, Winston Churchill for the communication, Mother Teresa for the compassion, Nelson Mandela for the commitment, John Wesley for the consistency, Dalai Lama for the consideration, and Booker T. Washington for his contribution.
Don’t Compromise with Your Core Leadership Philosophy
Leaders must stick to their leadership philosophy after creating it. If they dilute their philosophy, it leads to a credibility crisis and losing their leadership identity. Sometimes, leaders change their philosophy based on their experiences during their leadership journey. In that case, such leaders must stick to their basic leadership philosophy and modify superficially to keep it relevant and vibrant.
Successful business leaders such as Satya Nadella, Bob McDonald, and Brad Smith have their leadership philosophy and communicated it with their stakeholders clearly. It helped others understand well and support it wholeheartedly.
It is a well-admitted fact that leadership matters more than leaders. Leaders are the means and leadership is the end. Hence, create your leadership philosophy to improve the quality of leadership by improving the quality of the leaders around you.