12 Key Principles of Leadership - Becoming your Best

Leadership books come by the dozen and everywhere we look there is a new leadership book coming out. However the fundamentals never change irrespective of time.
Becoming your best by Steven R. Shallenberger is a nice book on the fundamentals of leadership. There are 12 key principles of leadership identified. Here they are with my take on each.
Be True to Character – This is a really simple principle but essential to becoming a great leader. Leadership requires a high self-awareness and when you are true to your character people follow you. Say what you will do and do what you say. This is really as simple as it gets. The best principle is to under promise and over deliver.
Lead with a Vision – The foremost responsibility of a leader is to paint a picture of a wonderful future vision which excites followers to take action. This is the key because if a vision doesn’t lead to action it won’t be of any use. Of course the best vision is the one to go to the moon by John F. Kennedy. It excited a whole generation and serves as a wonderful template on what a vision can do to enable action.
Manage with a Plan – Failing to plan is planning to fail. There is a myth that plans are done only by managers. However to be an effective leader you need to think through your plans to complement your vision. Only when the vision is broken down into manageable plans can it achieved with precision. Make sure you use your executive thinking time to create plans.
Prioritize your time – As a leader there maybe things you like to do because it is easy for you. However in order to lead effectively you need to plan your time by only working on high priority activities which only you can do. The rest of the items need to be delegated. This is why complementing your team with people who have diverse skill sets is critical to your long term success.
Live the Golden Rule – Obviously we all know this. Treat your people as you would like to be treated. I would also treat your people as they would like to be treated. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect. Kindness never goes out of fashion. A leader needs to be kind.
Build and Maintain Trust – Trust is the foundation of leadership. We have seen in politics that when trust is lost it creates mayhem. When you are building your team you need to ensure everyone trusts each other and there is a culture created which promotes transparency. Everyone should be able to disagree without being disrespectful. Keep everyone in the loop always especially when bad news is coming. 
Be an Effective Communicator – Communication is the number one skill of a leader or manager for that matter. We don’t need to use flowery language to be a leader. Instead being precise about what needs to be communicated and ensuring it is easily understandable makes a better communicator. Of course communication involves both written and verbal. A leader has to be good in all forms of communication.
Innovate through Imagination – All of us can be creative and it is our birthright. The best way to trigger creativity is to have a formal mechanism to record all ideas that people have. Encourage dissenting voices and formalize brainstorming sessions where a crucible for creativity is available. At an individual level keep notebooks at all times and track all your ideas. Once all ideas are in evaluate and take action on the best.
Be Accountable – As a leader you can delegate everything except final accountability. When things go right praise the team and when things go wrong accept responsibility. This is the key to being accountable and wins the trust of everyone reporting to you.
Apply the power of knowledge – With information, complexity and competition being the rules of the game the only way a leader can thrive in uncertainty is through knowledge. Knowledge is the cure for fear. A leader needs to understand their industry inside out and keep abreast of all the trends in the market place. Identify experts in your industry, read their blogs, listen to their podcasts and document what you have learnt.
Live in Peace and Balance – A leader’s time is always full and with the advent of technology we are all connected 24*7. The only way to achieve peace is to work one day at a time and handle the tasks for that day only. Focus only on what needs to be done that day. The next thing a leader can do is to ensure that there is some alone time every single day where they can work out, read or do anything that they like. Don’t forget your hobbies. Finally make sure you do decompress on a weekly basis to renew and rejuvenate your spirit.
Never Give Up – Your measure of persistence will determine how far the team will go to achieve the vision you have set. The authors provide 3 keys to ensure the leader never gives up.
Defeat the enemy within through hard work and action.
See the value of failure.
Hold to a purpose that inspires you.
All these principles are really simple but once we adopt them we will all become better leaders. Leadership is a choice and all of us are already leading in both our personal and work lives.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.


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