A leadership philosophy is always evolving. Though this is my final draft for the purposes of PSEL, this document will always change as my career changes and the world I’m leading in changes. Composing and rewriting this has been a great experience in mindfulness and reflective learning.
Our world is changing more rapidly than ever before, and the effects of those changes are present in nearly all aspects of our lives. Our economy is feeling the increasing pressure of change, and in order to thrive in whatever environment we find ourselves in next, we need good leaders to see the organization through the storm.
Perhaps the most essential quality of a true leader is the way they treat the people they work with. Good leaders know that they are part of a team, and that their success is dependent on the success of their team. True leaders promote a safe environment that welcomes honest, direct communication and encourages open dialogue about any concern that members of the team may have. It is through those conversations and interactions that savvy leaders learn how to motivate the individuals on their team, how to make them comfortable with change, and preemptively know what their concerns may be about a given topic. This allows good leaders to plan for ways to make teammates feel comfortable with any initiative or change that comes their way.
Because they are in tune with their team and the other people they work with, quality leaders are able to empower those in their area of influence to also become risk takers, innovative thinkers, and smart questioners. Essentially, good leaders create the conditions that encourage those who are hierarchically below them to also become leaders. Good leaders allow and empower their teammates to lead from where they are and effect change in their own ways, all for the betterment of the team and the organization as a whole. Good leaders put a cycle into motion, creating everyday leaders who are able to use those traditional leadership skills and abilities to influence systems from where they sit on the org chart.
This is important because in the modern workplace, leadership isn’t limited to the person who sits at the top of the organizational hierarchy. People at every level can and should demonstrate leadership and have a positive impact on their area of influence by leading from where they are. Good leaders know that every small step in a new direction creates a path for others to follow, and that is all part of creating those conditions necessary to make others comfortable trying something new, such as taking ownership of their job role and leading the way in their area of influence.
Being in tune with their team and others around them means that stellar leaders are confident asking thoughtful, occasionally difficult questions. Good questioning ability demonstrates that a leader can analyze a situation and recognize what they don’t understand, and seek out the information they need to make the picture whole. Questions lead to discovery of pain points and open doors to potentially new ways of overcoming those points. Questions also lead to empowering others around the leader to provide answers, rather than yielding to the authority of the person with the job title. Through their thorough questioning, good leaders at any level should be able to generate a culture of embracing change by laying the groundwork early to prime other team members to be accepting of new ideas and strategies.
In addition to understanding the people involved in their organization, good leaders understand the organization as a whole. They know how key decisions are made, and they know what departments or people are involved in those decisions. This awareness of how the organization is managed and governed is essential for a good leader to be able to help their team contribute effectively to the organization’s goals.
This detailed understanding of the organization and its people all help leaders develop a vision. The leader’s vision should be for themselves, their team, and the organization. A leader with vision can picture how their team’s strengths and abilities fit in with the organization, and also how the team can help the organization transform and grow. Vision for the team means knowing how to help the team reach its potential by helping its members achieve their own goals and visions so that everyone can be a happy, effective contributor to the organization.
In the end, the key to this leadership philosophy is to start with where you are and enact small changes that help promote an environment that is welcoming, caring, and open to new ideas. This means getting to know the people you work with, understanding their goals, barriers, and belief systems, and managing those aspects of their character in a way that helps them be fulfilled while also contributing to the success of the team and the organization as a whole. Once a leader has their team of leaders standing with them, they can take on the organization together to empower everyone to think innovatively and embrace risks as we continue working in our ever-changing economy.