Top 10 Leadership Principles
Strong leaders are crucial to a successful company. Without them, the whole hierarchy would crumble and the business would descend into chaos.
However, there is much more to being a successful leader than merely telling others what to do.
As well as ensuring the company's success, your role as a leader is to help those under your management triumph.
These 10 leadership principles will help you develop personally and allow those around you to thrive.
What Are Leadership Principles?
You can view leadership principles from two distinct perspectives.
The first would be the company culture, which considers the ethos and beliefs behind the business as a whole.
This might include aspects of the role that are important to individuals, including changing working patterns and remote working policies.
However, leadership principles are generally viewed on an individual basis. If you manage a team, you must have the correct values and temperament to ensure business success.
Put simply, a leadership principle is a rule or belief that every leader must possess.
Without these qualities, a person is likely not suited to managing others.
Why Do You Need Principles to Lead Well?
For those new to management, having a set of guiding principles to help shape them as a leader is vital. It will help build confidence and allow staff to work in a way that aligns with company beliefs.
Those who have been a leader for many years may not feel the need to refer to these principles constantly.
However, businesses are adaptable, and landscapes continuously change. Therefore, all leaders must regularly evaluate their styles to ensure they are working most effectively.
Another, often overlooked, benefit of effective leadership is that it provides consistency within a large company. When staff move between departments within an organization, they should receive the same level of support, regardless of who their direct manager is.
Consistent, efficient leadership will help your brand image and make the workforce much more comfortable, helping boost staff retention rates.
Top 10 Effective Leadership Principles
1. Be a Role Model
Outstanding leadership is not about telling your team what to do; it is about showing them how to do it.
Do not give your staff empty promises. Delivering on your word will show them you are serious about your commitments and inspire them to act accordingly.
An Example of Being a Role Model
There is a big deadline looming over the team. All staff have been arriving at the office promptly and working tirelessly throughout the day.
In the final week before deadline completion, you begin turning up late and making excuses to leave early.
This tells your staff that the upcoming deadline is not important and that they shouldn't be placing such high value on it.
Regardless of the number of emails you send advising on the importance of punctuality, your staff will not oblige if yours is not excellent.
Whereas, if you roll up your sleeves and get stuck in with everyone else, you will quickly reap the rewards of an enthusiastic workforce.
2. Facilitating Dialogue
Many people have had the displeasure of working in a toxic environment at some point throughout their career. Where there is no communication between staff, relationships quickly break down and managing workloads becomes impossible.
In the workplace, problems often spiral. Therefore, facilitating open conversations is an integral leadership principle.
What starts as a minor issue snowballs into something catastrophic and can affect the entire team. However, if open communication channels are encouraged, the problem can be resolved in the first instance, keeping staff and management happy.
Becoming a leader can cause many to fall into the trap of talking to their staff, rather than with them.
Your team will be bursting with excellent ideas and often have a much more thorough understanding of ground-level procedures than senior management do.
An Example of Facilitating Dialogue
There may be a current procedure or piece of technology that is hindering your staff. It could be slowing them down and may even cause them to miss deadlines.
Without proper communication channels, ineffective leaders jump to conclusions that their team simply is not working hard enough.
Open communication allows for a more content workforce and can facilitate savvy business decisions. Here, it could enable you to adjust the procedure, or invest in new technology, to rectify the issue.
The most successful leaders, and therefore businesses, are the ones who encourage honest, open and respectful dialogue, transcending all levels of staff.
3. Have a Clear Vision
Of course, leaders must remain flexible and adaptable to the needs of their staff. However, as an excellent leader, you must keep a clear vision of the company's end goals.
This means you must visualize the big picture at all times, appreciating how the small decisions inevitably culminate.
Having a clear vision can be challenging at times. There is a fragile balancing act between monitoring your team members and micromanaging them.
An Example of Having a Clear Vision
You have a team member who is fantastic at their job. They work autonomously and effectively, requiring very little support and often help with training other staff.
They now cannot come into the office for personal reasons and need to transition to remote working. However, company policy does not allow for this.
A leader who does not have a clear vision would view the policy in a linear way, resulting in losing this extremely valuable team member.
However, a leader who views the big picture understands the value this team member brings and how losing them would hinder the broader company goals.
Understanding that fluidity and flexibility will always be required (within reason) to reach the large targets will make you an incredible leader.
4. Admitting Mistakes
Being a leader is not easy. There is pressure from your management, your team and your peers.
Many leaders battle a great deal of anxiety daily, frightful of making any mistakes. However, taking a step back and realizing that you are just one person is a crucial leadership principle.
You will make mistakes along the way, but what will make you a great leader is how you handle them.
How Leaders Should Handle Their Own Mistakes
Most importantly, you should always own up to your errors. This will make rectifying the situation much easier and encourage other staff to do the same.
From here, you can put a plan in place. Admitting an error will help you assess the situation and solve the issue. It will also help cultivate strong relationships with your team as they will admire your honesty and lack of ego.
Encouraging a workplace with transparency and honesty is crucial. It will help the whole team feel much more relaxed and content, which will dramatically increase staff retention.
5. Remaining Resilient
Resilience is the power to overcome difficult times. When your business faces adversity, it is your job as a leader to encourage your staff to bounce back.
How to Demonstrate Resilience
Resilient leaders champion change. This doesn't mean that in times of hardship, they completely change their methods. Instead, it means that influential and resilient leaders are adaptable and open to evolving environments.
If your company faces a downturn, a great display of resilience is to discuss the reasons transparently, putting a plan of action in place with your team.
Your staff will value the openness and will be eager to help the company reemerge stronger.
6. Use Persuasion Over Power
As a leader, you know that you have the power to tell your staff members what to do. However, constantly issuing orders will not help workforce morale.
Instead, use the skill of persuasion. This involves talking with your team members, discussing the issues and coming to a conclusion together.
This helps your staff take ownership of the work they are completing and free up your time to tackle other tasks.
How to Use Persuasion
Together with your team, discuss the problem and the consequence of that problem. To develop a solution, you must fully understand the ramifications of the issue.
Next, talk through the potential solutions, discussing the benefits of each option.
Wherever possible, allow your staff to conclude in their own time, so they will be confident to progress without your assistance in the future.
7. Believe in the Mission
Every great leader must truly believe in, and align with, the company's goals.
As a leader, you will have to make difficult decisions, but you are also responsible for instilling pride and enthusiasm into those you lead.
Your personal opinion and goals will be evident from how you manage staff and the work you produce. This will transcend the chain of command and result in a higher calibre of work from those at a lower level.
Genuinely believing in the mission will allow you to make riskier decisions. To make significant change and progress, difficult choices are inevitable. However, with a passion for the company and industry, you will be confident in choosing the right path.
An Example of Believing in the Mission
You hire an intern for the summer period who, like many interns, makes a few mistakes. Those around you encourage you to let this person go once fall arrives.
However, you saw potential in this individual. Their skill set aligns with the gaps in your team, and you know that with suitable assistance and training, they will be an integral member of the department.
So, you decide to hire them permanently, and within 12 months they have transformed the team's productivity and catapulted you towards reaching those long-term goals.
8. Leaders Should Inspire
Effective leaders pave the way for the next generation.
Whilst there is an undeniable need to be firm with those you are leading, effective management should nurture the skills and qualities of the team.
How to Inspire Your Staff
To inspire your staff, you must show them that you care. Listen to their thoughts, ideas and concerns. Perhaps even more importantly, show them how you will put these into action and follow up with them at a later date.
Understanding your staff on a personal level is the best way to spark inspiration. Learning what makes an individual tick will allow you, as a leader, to encourage and inspire them to do incredible things.
9. Learn to Delegate
Just because you are a leader does not mean you have to take on every task.
In fact, the best leaders are those who can effectively delegate tasks. The key here is to ensure that jobs are carefully prioritized and allocated to staff with the ideal skill set.
Leaders who fail to delegate often find themselves suffering from burnout and will no longer be able to carry out their role efficiently.
Delegation is a difficult skill to master, especially if you are new to being a manager or leader.
An Example of How to Delegate
First, you must know what tasks can, and should, be passed onto another staff member.
Monthly appraisals or performance reviews are likely not appropriate to be handled by anyone else.
Once you have established the roles you can hand over, consider which tasks play to the strengths of particular employees.
There may be a report which needs proofreading and submitting, so delegating to a team member with extreme attention to detail would be ideal – showing again the importance of knowing your team personally.
An essential rule of delegation is to prepare yourself for failure. Unfortunately, mistakes happen and planning a contingency time budget will help avoid a last-minute panic.
Finally, always remember to give credit. Your team member was likely as nervous about carrying out the job as you were delegating it to them. A reassurance that they've done a great job will give them confidence in their role moving forward.
10. Innovate and Grow
Taking on a leadership role requires you to be fluid. Therefore, the job you initially applied for may look very different to the one you are occupying today.
Where there are humans, there is unpredictability. You will have staff leave, join, thrive, complain and everything in between.
Your role is to guide them along the way, delicately balancing their personal goals with the company targets. This is why being open to change and innovation is a crucial leadership principle.
An Example of Welcoming Innovation
Everyone knows that automation is becoming more prominent in our offices, and many staff, and leaders, are frightened. They are worried that computers will take their roles, and they will become obsolete.
In contrast, the best leaders flip this idea on its head and use it as a positive.
A computer completing the laborious, tedious tasks frees up time for your team to work on the intricate projects they are passionate about. Viewing technology as a tool to enhance the workplace, rather than something to fear, is critical for growth.
Leadership is a huge learning curve, and even those with years of experience often require support.
The 10 leadership principles center on balancing the company's needs with the personal targets of individual staff.
To be a great leader, you must be adaptable and flexible while remaining focused on the big picture.
You will undoubtedly settle into your own distinct style of leadership. Providing this works for you and is in line with the foundational leadership principles, then there is no reason you will not be a successful leader.