guiding principles

Guiding Principles for Leadership

By Marta Wilson

Superheroes use tools to achieve their mission. On your personal and professional path, I suggest you consider using a set of guiding principles for transformational leaders as a tool to help you achieve your mission. They are strategies so powerful that you will witness their tangible effect on your life.  As you transform, you will find more ways to positively impact those around you.

These guiding principles enhance emotional intelligence, which Psychology Today defines as “the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.” They are based on learning, growing, and risk-taking. The principles promote taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s relationships and endeavors. And they are based on holding oneself accountable at the highest level. I encourage you to turn to them to help guide your actions. My colleagues and I have applied these principles to help thousands of people in many organizations be more effective.

  1. Maintain a Supportive Environment

Recognize, encourage, and help people who take risks. Really listen to what others are saying. Ask questions to clarify anything what you don’t fully understand. Read the person’s body language and respond appropriately. Invite people to participate; including and involving people is one true mark of a leader. To make such involvement an active practice, engage others by opening up meetings to more people whenever appropriate; pull people into conversations and learn their thoughts. Taking actions like these to build a supportive environment will improve your organization’s culture. Never miss the opportunity for empathy, for recognizing common ground, and for learning from mistakes.

  1. Maintain Confidentiality

Weigh carefully the potential consequences of quoting coworkers and spreading gossip. This means guarding against attribution and retribution. As you encourage people to share their opinions and provide input, be careful not to punish them in any way after the fact if you don’t agree with their suggestions or point of view. Maintaining confidentiality by guarding against attribution and retribution builds trust and puts people at ease to be creative. The choice is ours to create a culture of trust.

  1. Stay Focused and Be Prepared

Define and understand what it means to be on-task and how to remain there. It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged by the million things in your life. But the way to really make things happen and achieve your goals is to clear your mind, pull together the tools you need, and fully embrace the situation at hand. For example, make sure you get enough sleep and that you aren’t overscheduling yourself to the point that you can’t pay attention. And, don’t hold the kinds of expectations that result in people being tired, overbooked, and unable to show up rested and alert at all times. Every leader can do little things like this to ensure that he or she shows up 100 percent in the moment and that all members of the organization realize that they, too, are expected and encouraged to arrive fully engaged.

  1. Manage All Agreements

Your cumulative record of adherence to your commitments forms the essence of how others view you. Prioritize your commitments, make fewer of them, and keep the ones that you make. Seek to minimize the impact of any obligations that circumstances force you to break by informing others well in advance. If this is not possible, acknowledge your inability to maintain a commitment as soon as possible after the fact. One example of an important agreement is time. How you manage scheduling time with your team is very important. If you set a meeting to start at nine o’clock and you show up at a quarter past nine, what message does that send to those in attendance? Beyond time, extend this type of management to every one of your agreements to build trust with everyone you know. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to set a great example of managing all agreements, especially with respect to time. People notice our behaviors and follow our lead.

  1. Use Open, Honest, and Direct Communication

Practice being open and direct: be clear as opposed to sending hidden messages. If a person walks away from a conversation with you and asks, “What was he trying to tell me?” the whole conversation was a waste of time. Practice being honest: truthfully share your thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Although stretching the truth or telling a little white lie may be convenient, keeping track of untruths is distracting and can cause leaders to lose focus. As leaders, it’s our job to be role models for impeccable communication, and others will be influenced to do the same.

  1. Hold a Proper Attitude for Learning

Remain open to, contribute to, and build upon new ideas. No matter what is said, remain open to the possibility that all ideas have value and that you can learn from them. Suspend judgment, seeking first to understand the message of the other person. Being open to the possibility of learning from everyone enhances social inclusion, active participation, and professional development. Effective leaders constantly seek to learn new things and encounter alternative beliefs, cultures, and values. When leaders stop doing this, their personal development stops, too.

  1. Be Self-Monitoring

View your behaviors and see how they play out. This leadership guideline is your reminder to continuously build your self-awareness. It is also your reminder to monitor your adherence to the previous six leadership rules.

These guiding principles, when put into action, help shape behaviors and attitudes that will keep us performing our best and will inspire those around us to do the same. Tools like the guiding principles elevate us and maximize our ability to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Follow them diligently, and you will find it easier to summon your superpowers to help the people you work with and care about to have more meaningful and joyful experiences.