I’ve been leading a team for a few years now and lately I’ve been thinking about leadership more often.
Now, that I’ve gained some valuable leadership experience, I wanted to try and articulate my leadership philosophy.
First, I want to acknowledge that I’m always learning and trying to improve and thus my views on leadership are quite fluid. I’m likely to revisit this and update at periodically in the future.
When I’m at my best, I live these out. And, when I’m not, they’re affirmations to get me back on track.
Here’s my leadership philosophy in a nutshell:
I think good leadership starts with leading myself and, perhaps, as a result, leading by example.
I’m certainly a work in progress, but I try to lead myself by:
- Producing high quality work
- Behaving well under pressure
- Maintaining a calm temperament
- Being willing to get in the trenches
- Refusing to compromise my integrity
- Not asking you to do something I’m unwilling to do
- Having the courage to do what’s right even if it’s unpopular
What Employees Want
I believe that Daniel Pink is right when he says that employees need three things:
- Autonomy: The ability to be self-directed
- Mastery: The feeling of getting better at things that matter
- Purpose: Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing
I feel strongly that almost all great teams are built on trust.
I want my team to be able to bring their whole self to work and I aim to create an environment centered around trust.
Our team should:
- Refrain from judgement
- Admit mistakes when they occur
- Do what we say and keep our commitments
- Feel comfortable being vulnerable when appropriate
I always want to get to “the Truth” and want my team to feel comfortable calling out BS.
I believe that time is our most valuable resource. As such, I will try to never waste your time by assigning frivolous work.
I want you to understand the “why” behind the work you’re doing, and how it ladders up to broader, strategic goals.
I will always do my best to communicate the intent behind my decisions and actions.
I believe the foundation of accountability is clarity around expectations.
I hold myself to incredibly high standards and will hold you accountable for doing good work as well.
But, my commitment to you is that I will be as clear as possible about what you are accountable for, what resources are at your disposal, and what the time span is to complete that work. And, if you have reservations about any of those variables, I will trust you and we’ll pivot accordingly.
Be Intellectually Humble
For me, this starts with focusing more on processes, and getting the inputs right, and less on outcomes (i.e. things we can’t control).
It means being willing to change our mind and pivot in the face of new information.
I want people who understand their circle of competence (what’s knowable and what they know). In fact, I love people who are willing to say, “I don’t know,” or, “It’s impossible to know for sure.” I want people who will ask questions until they understand something.
If I had to sum it up, I would say that I want a team full of people who are “curious, not critical.”
Making Good Decisions
Decision making is both an art and a science.
To get to the right answers, you need to be able to gather the right data, to hone your instincts and to narrow the confidence internals (i.e. “I’m sure of this,” and/or “There’s a lot of uncertainty around this.”)
I want to cultivate a culture of people who make good decisions.
And making good decisions requires time to think.
The problem with thinking is that it doesn’t look like work and therefore a lot of workplaces discourage that. I encourage time on your calendar to think.
I yearn for feedback and actively encourage thoughtful, and respectful, dissent. That is how we learn.
I regularly ask questions like, “What could I do differently to make my leadership and our working relationship more effective?”
And I genuinely want to know the answer.
I don’t want people deferring to me because I’m the boss, I want to have a conversation and find the best way forward.
If I’ve done my job in hiring the right people, then it’s my responsibility to get out of the way and let them work. I’m committed to not being a bottleneck.
I will try to push you out of your comfort zone and challenge you to grow. And, when I do, I will be here to support you.
As a manager, I want the time you spend with me to be good for your career, and I want to convince you of this by showing you.
If you’re not learning, growing and enjoying yourself, then we need to re-examine or re-align incentives. And, if it turns out, you’re not a fit, but you’ve done right by the team, and the broader organization, I will proactively help you find something else that’s a better fit for you.