Choosing the principles to build your leadership foundation

In my last post we discussed the value of having a firm foundation and solid footings when it comes to leadership and being a leader of others.  In today’s post we will review this and also delve deeper into the “design” of leadership, the principles that we need to have to be the most effective leaders.  In doing this I hope to provide some realistic examples you can draw upon to see and understand the value of principles in leadership.  Let’s get started.

As a review we discussed that building a structure can be a pretty complex endeavor.  While most of what you see is above the ground, a great deal of what you don’t see is below the ground.  We have faith that what we don’t see has been done properly in order to support what we do see.  Think about what I just said as I will come back to that again later in this post.

Having a solid and long-lasting structure involves having an adequate footing and foundation structure.  The photo below will show you the footings for the new porch we are having built.  Consider this-I know the footings are there because I have seen them.  I saw the workers dig the holes and this aspect is so important that they had to have the holes and footings inspected before they could start to build the “visible” parts of the porch. 

In reading this  prior section there are a number of principles that are implied, but not specifically mentioned.  Let’s expose those principles.

  • Follow the design/plan-every structure has a design and following this design is of the utmost value.  The foundation design is also very important and if it is not followed then all that comes after is suspect and prone to failure. 
  • Have the right person doing the work they do best-elementary teamwork talks about having individuals with complementary skills who work together for a common purposes (read “Wisdom of Teams” from Katzenbach for more on this)
  • Stay on schedule, but not at the expense of compromising the plan/design-in many instances a team or organization has the right plan or design in place, but internal or external influences cause leadership to change the plan in order to meet some changing need; I am not saying that change can never occur, but you need to know what is essential and what is tertiary when it comes to the design or plan-no compromises here….

CCL-Center for Creative Leadership  released an insightful work recently that talks about the changing principles of leadership.  This new work reflects the increasing complexity of leadership and here are the key principles or skills that they emphasize in their work:

  • adaptability
  • self-awareness
  • boundary spanning
  • collaboration
  • network thinking

CCL is so convinced that these are essential that they have recently begun gathering data on a new 360 feedback tool that focuses primarily upon the boundary spanning, working with others and in the gaps.

Here are some other key principles that leaders need to consider when doing what they do.  They are mentioned by Vineet Nayar in a HBR blog post from 2012:

  • trust
  • empathy
  • mentorship

I think back to the foundation discuss and wonder how anyone could work with a builder that they did not trust.  This goes back to the “invisible” concept we have discussed both last time and this time.  You have to trust the leaders you have or you will only become cynical and divisive.  I look at the leadership vacuum in our country currently and the missing ingredient in most cases is that Trust.

Empathy and mentorship are also important traits for leaders.  Effective leaders need to be capable of hearing and understanding the needs of others.  They also need to be capable and willing to mentor and develop others in order to help their team or organization move forward.

Having a firm foundation is essential in being a successful leader.

Using principles such as trust, empathy and mentorship are important as guiding boundaries in this process.  Having a solid foundation, using foundational leadership, makes trust easier to have and give.