What do you believe?
If we want to be optimally effective in leading, it is important to know well what we believe as leaders. Beliefs are statements that articulate what we value or what’s important to us. The terms beliefs, principles, and leadership philosophy all speak to the same issue identifying what is important, what we value.
Core values are those that are unchanging or are simply unable to change. For example, integrity is a core values for most leaders. Other values are more short lived, such as teamwork. Teamwork is massively important, but if the leader does not have integrity, an individual might forego teamwork for one’s personal power.
As a leader, principled leadership means to lead from a firm foundation of what we believe: i.e., core values translated into statements of belief. My personal core values are integrity, loyalty, and respect.
Many might list integrity as a core value with a different perspective from me, and for that reason, it is important to define a value with a statement of belief or statement of principles.
My belief statement for integrity: Integrity is the foundational principle of leadership (as a squadron commander I even attempted to diagram said core values).
What is significant about core values and the unique statements of belief/principles derived from them is that they influence the actions we take when decisions around the core values arise. A strong sense of principles will keep us focused on what we believe to be right.
So a principled leader is one who makes decisions framed by what we hold as unchanging truths based on our core values. If we stay principled in our actions, we will be absolutely consistent in our actions and decisions regardless of the environmental pressures.
Personally I am big fan of role models. George C Marshall has always been a favorite.
These five principles defined George Marshall’s leadership qualities:
Candor Speak honestly and responsibly
Commitment Faithfully adhere to what is right
Courage Be bold in speech and deed
Integrity Speak and act with honor
Selflessness Service above self-interest
Author and lecturer Jack Uldrich expanded the list in his book, Soldier Statesman Peacemaker: Leadership Lessons from George C. Marshall, American Management Association, 2005.
• Doing the Right Thing: The Principle of Integrity
• Mastering the Situation: The Principle of Action
• Serving the Greater Good: The Principle of Selflessness
• Speaking your Mind: The Principle of Candor
• Laying the Groundwork: The Principle of Preparation
• Sharing the Knowledge: The Principle of Learning and Teaching
• Choosing and Rewarding the Right People: The Principle of Fairness
• Focusing on the Big Picture: The Principle of Vision
• Supporting the Troops: The Principle of Caring