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A leadership philosophy is a codified description of the leadership principles that you and your organization follow. It is essential that you write out and share these principles to maintain transparency and consistency between yourself and the people you lead. Your leadership philosophy should never be a secret. The more your employees understand the “why” behind your actions, the more likely they are to change negative behaviors and participate in mentorship. 

What should your leadership philosophy consist of?

There are four critical parts of a leadership philosophy that you should define: Your Ideology, your Mindset, your Guarantee, and your Actions. Each section should include both positive examples which you strive for and expect, and negative examples that you will not tolerate. Think of it as a letter to the people whom you lead that explains how you or organization operates and hold you accountable for your word.

How to structure your leadership philosophy?

The actual format you choose is less important than the information your leadership philosophy contains. Like we mentioned before, this is more akin to a personal letter than anything else. Your leadership philosophy should be genuine and written in a format that is consistent with your style. Below are the four main sections that you will need to cover, how you write them or how you format your document is entirely up to you.

IDEOLOGY:

This is where you give your thesis on what good leadership is all about. These are the inherent truths by which you operate. Providing your reader with your theory on leadership early in the document to give your readers context as they continue to read.

You could use the “I believe that___” statement format here. For example:

• I believe that you should never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself.
• I believe that a leader’s job is to inspire, not direct.

If you have been in business anytime, you could probably fill a whole page with these kinds of statements, avoid this temptation. Include three to five of these ideological summaries in simple language and make sure they aligned with your beliefs. The more straightforward this section is, the more impactful it will be.

MINDSET:

Here you will describe how your mind and senses work together as leadership tools. How do does your mind empower you as a leader? How do your thoughts support your actions? How do your speech and word choice affect others? You can think of this a description of how your physical body will work to make you a better leader.

You could use the “My ___ will” statement format here. For example:

• My eyes will see the good in someone’s work before the bad.
• My speech will ease tension and encourage cooperation.

Include as many of these statements here as is necessary to allow people to understand how you physically interpret your role as leader.
GUARANTEE:

This is a portrait of your truth and the definition of your integrity. What’s something that you will never do? What’s something that you will always do? Here you will describe scenarios where you draw a line in the sand. To be a good leader, people need to know that there’re certain things you will never compromise on. Employees need to be able to predict how their leaders will act in a given scenario for them to efficiently operate within the organization. If you continually change your position and are reactive, you will stifle creativity and create an environment that many will see as unjust.

You could use the “I will lead by/with___” statement format here. For example:

• I will lead with the understanding that I only orchestrate success; my employees are the ones who make it happen.
• I will lead by always showing that I have more interest in my employees than their products.
• I will lead by never tolerating racism, sexism, or ageism in the workplace.

This section should reflect your truths and serve as a contract between you and those you lead.

ACTIONS:

This is where you explain how you will act/react in certain situations. Here you’ll lay out exactly how your leadership philosophy will be translated into action. Think about your specific behaviors during difficult situations. How would you react? And how will that reaction show good leadership?

You could use the “I expect to ____ in ____ situations” statement format here. For example:

• I expect to remain calm in hectic situations.
• I expect to take the time to look at all the evidence before making a decision in difficult situations.

Like the old saying goes, your actions will always speak louder than your words. It’s your job as a leader to make sure that what you’re doing is consistent with what you’re saying.

Why will writing a leadership philosophy help your business?

An exercise like this is not only valuable to you as the CEO. Once your teams have a clear understanding of how you lead the company, they can more easily work together. It might even be a good idea to have your team leads write out leadership philosophies of their own. Creating a transparent and cooperation oriented work environment is paramount if you want to remain competitive. Furthermore, having a leadership philosophy can make it easier for your different departments like sales and marketing to work together. Check out the Aligning Sales and Marketing section of our Inbound Marketing Guide for more on this.

Even if you do not decide to share your leadership philosophy with your team, it can be a great exercise to help you hone your leadership strategy. Leadership is a skill to be developed. Don’t think that you have to get your philosophy right the first time; it is entirely possible that your views on leadership might change with your business experiences. The important thing is to realize that being a good leader is a journey, not a destination.