How to develop a leadership philosophy that inspires | cleverness (2023)

Think of the world's most successful leaders, past and present. If you were to compare them to ineffective leaders, the difference wouldn't necessarily come from their skills. The most important factor would be how successful leaders can provide you with a clear and defined approach to how they lead others:your leadership philosophy.

In this guide, we define what a leadership philosophy is and the benefits of having one. We will explore the idea of ​​publishing your statement and provide the four steps required to create a leadership philosophy that guides your leadership.

How to develop a leadership philosophy that inspires | cleverness (1)


The combination ofguideePhilosophyit may sound pretty strange. At first glance, the terms do not seem to have much in common. So what does leadership philosophy mean? To understand it, it's a good idea to look at the two words separately first, as that way you can understand how they might fit together to provide guidance for leadership.

The definition of philosophy

When you think of philosophy, you probably first think of some of thethe greatest thinkersof our time, like Voltaire, Plato and Descartes. Also, you've probably never thought of using philosophy in your daily life and the concepts and ideas seem a little difficult to grasp. But as one of the oldest disciplines in the world, philosophy has a lot to offer and is part of our everyday experience if we consciously think about it.

The word philosophy literally means "the love of wisdom. The Oxford Dictionarydefinephilosophy as "a theory or attitude that serves as a guiding principle for behavior“. In fact, the guiding principle of philosophy is to live a good life. It is about the search for knowledge and personal and collective fulfilment. Philosophy could be viewed as the personal basis or belief in human nature; for work, to live your life to the fullest. Through philosophy you create a thought system that supports your journey and gives you guiding principles that you can apply in action or inaction.

Watch School of Life's fascinating video to understand why philosophy matters to all of us.

The definition of leadership

And the definition of leadership? Like the field of philosophy, with its numerous thinkers and theories, leadership has a number of definitions. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the essence of leadership is “the act of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do so“. But, as mentioned, definitions have evolved from this technical point of view, with various people reviewing the subjecta slightly different perspective.

At its core, leadership is about the ability to influence others and create movement toward a specific goal.have a visionWhere the team moves forward is critical. Also, the emphasis is on inspiration, because leadership is not the same as telling someone else to do what you want them to do. A leader inspires through their vision and motivates by leading by example rather than telling and intimidating a desired action.

The components of a leadership philosophy

The above definitions can already help you to understand the connection between leadership and philosophy. When you combine the philosophy, guiding principles, and leadership that models behavior to inspire others, you create a theory or attitude that provides the norms for behavior and action. The definition comes to life with four main components:

  • a theory– The way you define leadership and what it is about.
  • an attitude– Your attitude towards the leadership approach.
  • guiding principles– The principles and values ​​that are close to your heart when you think about leading others.
  • Behave– The behaviors you demonstrate along your journey to achieving your desired outcomes and outcomes.

You can see the leadership philosophy as a compass - it helps to define your expectations, your values ​​and provides the roadmap for your actions. With a clear leadership philosophy, you create a focused thought system around your leadership and define the behaviors and attitudes that you want to cultivate in yourself, but also in others. Not only does leadership provide you with a personal focus, but it can also let those around you know what to expect from your leadership.

Examples of leadership philosophies

Just as there are differences in the way philosophers think and disagreements about how leadership is defined, so too leadership philosophies come in many different flavors and styles. Because the framework is based on personal values, leaders can approach it from different angles. There are many options to choose from, but we've selected three unique frameworks to give you an idea of ​​the divergence.

let it be leadershipPhilosophy

democratic leadership Philosophy

autocratic leadershipPhilosophy

  • The leader believes that followers should have the power to make decisions.
  • The leader believes in empowering his followers with more responsibility.
  • Structure is effective when followers are well informed.
  • The leader believes that everyone on the team should have an equal voice.
  • The manager values ​​participation, advice and consideration.
  • The leader emphasizes cooperation and support.
  • Leader believes results are best achieved in a controlled system.
  • The leader has a clear vision, including how and when things should be done.
  • The leader is responsible for decisions.

You can use these generalized models as a guide for defining your own leadership philosophy. However, you should not try to copy any particular leadership philosophy. While learning other philosophies can be a solid way to identify useful traits, you need to take a heartfelt approach. Later in this guide, we will provide a systematic guide to shaping your unique leadership philosophy.


The leadership philosophy has a key element to this. The various components included provide a solid foundation upon which to build and advance your leadership. With a leadership philosophy, you are better equipped to lead and succeed in your leadership because of three key benefits: character, consistency, and collaboration.


Developing a leadership philosophyClarity and focus on your character. Character is important because it influences your day-to-day decision-making and how you communicate with others. Without a proper understanding of your character and the traits you truly value, you are more likely to pick up bad habits and let emotions control you.

(Video) How To Develop A Leadership Philosophy That Inspires

By making a conscious decision with the help of a leadership philosophy, you outline the qualities that you want to strive for and that you also value in other people. Somehow,You can better control your behavior and strengthen the qualities required of a successful leader.


The above benefit ties directly to the second benefit of creating a leadership philosophy: consistency. The most important aspect of the philosophy is establishing and defining your values ​​and goals.

After you have defined them,You immediately create more consistency in your behavior and actions. You have guidelines to help you make decisions and take action. You will always place the same defining values ​​at the heart of your decision-making. Let's assume that your leadership philosophy is characterized by sustainability.

Whenever you are faced with a decision, evaluate the options by how they relate to the value of sustainability - hindering or enhancing it? This ensures that your actions and behavior are consistent. You do not switch from one value to another, but remain true to your principles.


Leadership always requires some level of collaboration. Because you need followers who will follow you willingly, there's not much you can do without understanding and a focus on teamwork. Dealing with people becomes much easier when you follow a clear leadership philosophy.

One of the things you need to define with your philosophy is your approach to collaboration. The framework requires careful consideration of engagement, communication and accountability. to define theseThey create more consistency and improve your chances of more meaningful collaboration.

People will know your values, understand your approach to teamwork, and therefore feel more comfortable because you follow these clearly defined standards of behavior. Essentially, people can trust you because they don't have to be on their toes all the time.

Overall, the leadership philosophy will bring clarity to your leadership. Economic strategist and author John Spence has written a good bookblog entryon the topic and gave an impressive example of the advantages of a leadership philosophy. He used Walt Disney's famous quote to explain why successful leaders need to set the framework for action.

The quote reads: "When values ​​are clear, decisions are easy.Spence turned him around and said, "When values ​​are unclear, decisions are difficult."When you define your leadership philosophy,You clarify your decision-making and sharpen your focus on the values ​​and actions that really matter.


My leadership philosophy is to surround myself with good people who have skills, judgment and knowledge, but most of all, a passion to serve.– Sonny Perdue (American politician)

In the next section, we describe the four steps to developing a leadership philosophy, one of which is to write down your ideas. Before we provide the format for your written philosophy, let's explain why it's important to have a published leadership philosophy.

As you will see in the next section, a written statement of leadership philosophy can be helpful in getting to the heart of your true values ​​and ideas. A written statement will surely give you a reminder of the ideals you want to achieve. But it may be more beneficial to publish the leadership philosophy or at least share it with some people becauseincreases your responsibility.

When you're the only one who is aware of your leadership principles, you don't have to worry about others accusing you of doing something against your values ​​because nobody knows them. On the other hand, if you lose your sense of direction, a person who has seen your leadership philosophy explanation can nudge you back in the right direction. The goals you want to achieve and the values ​​you want to keep at the heart of your leadership will be known. Even knowing that other people have access to your testimony, or that your closest friends or mentors know about it, can be enough to keep you focused on following your path.

In addition to accountability, publishing your leadership philosophy offers another major benefit:the ability to reflect. While the philosophy should of course be built on your values ​​and the true goals you want to achieve, sharing these ideas with another person can provide an invaluable angle on your thinking. The ability to think about your ideas and discuss them with another person can add ideas to your thinking that you might not have thought of before. The way you see yourself will always be slightly different from the experience of others, and you can learn a lot about your qualities by asking others questions.

(Video) Leadership Philosophy

Sharing your leadership philosophy allows you to reflect on your ideas from a completely different perspective. Feedback can be helpful in ensuring your philosophy is the best roadmap for you to move forward. Don't worry about the negative feedback; A well-established leadership philosophy is sure to inspire others. Overall, the idea behind posting or sharing your leadership philosophy is about feedback. If you are being criticized, think about the words and see if there is any truth in them.

How do you publicize your leadership philosophy? For that there are different possibilities. You could, of course, share with a few close friends or colleagues and ask for their opinion. If you have a leadership mentor or coach, it's a good idea to discuss the statement with them. But you can go further and publish your leadership philosophy on your personal website. That might be a good ideaalso with regard to professional development, as future employers can better understand what your leadership looks like.

Finally, don't just use the statement post for feedback, make sure you have someone checking back in to make sure you're following your values ​​and goals.


I hope the above has convinced you of the importance of a leadership philosophy. We already talked about the features of the framework, but how to develop it? Here are the four steps you need to follow to develop a proper leadership philosophy that will ensure your success as a leader.

Step 1:Define your values ​​and priorities

The first and perhaps most important part of the process is defining your values ​​and priorities. You have to look deep within yourself to discover the values ​​that you want to emphasize and that you believe make great leaders. As part of this step you must be able to answer the following questions:

  • What values ​​do I consider most important in life and in business?
  • What are my personal strengths and weaknesses in terms of values ​​and behaviors?
  • What do I think are a leader's priorities?

But how do you define core values ​​and priorities? It's easy to make a list of the things you think are important, but you have to dig deeper when it comes to a leadership philosophy. First you really have to understandwhy do you think that a certain value has value. Second, you can't have a list of 20 values ​​because that doesn't really clarify your position, you have tofocus on a few core priorities. Entrepreneur and author Kevin Daum wrote a great post about itInc.about how you define your values. Daum suggests the following steps:

  • Identify the followingmoments of your lifeand describe them in detail:
    • three major achievements
    • Three great moments of efficiency
    • three biggest mistakes
    • Three great moments of inefficiency
  • Consider the above moments and examine thepossible common themesbetween them.
  • Using these common themes, identify theAdvice/tips you would give yourself. For example, if you avoid conflict situations, your advice might be: “Don't run away from difficult situations.
  • Refine your advice into a value. For example, the above advice could go to "face the difficulties

Additionally, once you have these core values ​​and thematic outlines, it is beneficial to take a moment to properly define them. Say you noticed'authenticity' is a value you value. Define what you mean by that by writing a few sentences. You can use the formula:

To me, authenticity means...

You can do this with all your values, either with the value 'Communication’, ‘Family', or 'competitiveness’. It is definitely worth doing all of this on paper as it will help you better communicate your ideas to yourself.

Once you've chosen your values, you need to further prioritize them. Once you've picked about 3-7 values, consider which ones resonate with you the most or which are most important in terms of leadership. An effective way to prioritize your values ​​is to compare them against each other. You can do this simply by adding two values ​​like "authenticity'e'respect', and make the following declarations with the chosen values:

  • Authenticity but no respect
  • Respect but no authenticity

Would you choose the first or the second sentence? The value you choose is the one you consider most important. You can prioritize all your values ​​by comparing them with each other. Eventually, you should have a value at the top that puts everyone else in the shade in comparison.

Step 2:Define the desirable outcomes you want to achieve

In addition to defining your values, you also need to examine the results you want to achieve as a leader. To do this, you need to examine the results you want to achieve in terms of your chosen values. First, you need to identify your leadership goals and possible operational goals that your organization intends to achieve.

What actions would you like or should you take as a manager? A promising way of setting goals is the SMART method, which is described in the image below:

How to develop a leadership philosophy that inspires | cleverness (2)
(Video) Great leadership starts with self-leadership | Lars Sudmann | TEDxUCLouvain

In addition, once the goals are identified, it is necessary to outline and write down the actions needed to achieve them. Actions can range from finding tools to motivate your team to leveraging innovation.

After you set goals, you should think about how your values ​​relate to and influence those goals. You can do this by answering the following questions:

  • How do my values ​​support the main goals of leadership?Remember that leadership was about influencing others to follow your vision. You must select each value and consider how it would help inspire others and bring you closer to your vision. If you valuehonesty' then you want to consider how this translates into influential leadership.
  • How do my values ​​support operational goals?You should consider this in light of the specific organizational goals you have identified.
  • How can my values ​​empower the actions required to achieve goals?Look at each action and consider how your values ​​would positively impact it. 'honesty’ could be seen as a way to build trust, which in turn would increase motivation, for example.
  • How are my values ​​reflected in the way I communicate with my teams?Think about the above and the positive or negative impact your values, actions, and goals will have on the team. You want to identify routes that support your values ​​but build a meaningful partnership with your followers.
  • What behaviors and actions do I expect from my followers?Your followers don't necessarily have to follow the exact same values ​​as you, or prioritize values ​​in the same way. However, you must consider the behaviors and actions that conflict with the goals you want to achieve as a leader and as an organization, and the behaviors that are unsustainable in terms of your own values.

The above will help you clarify what your leadership philosophy should look like in practice. It transforms values ​​into concrete examples of behavior and action.

Level 3:Write down your leadership philosophy

Once you have completed the above steps, you can begin to put your leadership philosophy on paper. We briefly mentioned the importance of a written statement in the previous section. Writing down your philosophy helps clarify your ideas and makes things a little more concrete. This can improve your focus and help you take on more responsibility since you can always go back and read what you created.

To help you write your guide format, we suggest using the format below, although you can always write a document in your own style. The format is based on the four core elements of the management philosophy:theory,attitude,principleseBehave.

Theory:I believe in _________________.

Write down the specific elements of leadership that you believe are essential to being a good leader. the values ​​you prioritize. An example sentence could be:I believe that confronting problems head-on is the key to better communication.

attitude:My thoughts ___________ and my words _____________.

These phrases relate to the attitudes you want to encourage in the workplace; the example you want to set with your own setting. The goal is to focus on the mindset that you believe will drive your success as a leader and help you achieve your goals. You can say, "My thoughts are focused on finding solutions and my words are based on honesty and integrity.

Principles:I will lead from/with ____________.

The focus is on writing the guiding principles that you will use as part of your leadership. These are the top priorities for you as a leader; the principles by which you do not negotiate and which you will consider in any decision-making process. You will probably end up writing down some of these and an example sentence might be:I will lead by understanding and embracing change and how situations and people can change over time.

Behave:I expect ___________ and ____________ in situations.

Finally, you need to write down how you will behave and react in the workplace, no matter the situation. Behaviors should reflect your leadership philosophy and highlight core ideas in action. Identifying your past successes and failures in Step 1 helps with the last point. you could claim"I look forward to considering the different options and listening to feedback in challenging situations."

There are a few things to keep in mind when creating the document. First,keep it short; You don't want the document to be more than one page long. You should be able to express the essence of your leadership philosophy in a few sentences. The other crucial point isstrive for clarityThat's why you also want someone else to look at your philosophy.

(Video) Why You Need a Defined Leadership Philosophy [and how to develop one]

You must define the philosophy in a way that others can understand without having to ask many questions. Even if you decide not to post it, you want at least one person to see it. Striving for clarity ensures you really understand what you are looking for with your philosophy and this ensures you stay focused on your intentions.

Step 4:Evaluate your leadership philosophy

Finally, don't just write down your leadership philosophy and go about your daily activities; You must actively assess how well you hold on to your ideals. You should regularly reflect on how well your actions and behavior follow what you say. Essentially, you must hold yourself accountable.

Take time to review your leadership philosophy and reflect on your past actions. Do you practice what you preach? What are some things that you excel at and what behaviors and actions do you find difficult to follow? You can look at these questions every week or every month. Write a list of the main actions you took this week; For example, consider the three successes for the weakling and the three possible failures for the week.

Think about what principles you held and what actions or behaviors went against your beliefs. As you identify the actions and behaviors where you have not followed your leadership philosophy, consider why you did so. Why didn't you remember or discard your philosophy then? This will help you understand which areas you need to work on more, or even identify values ​​and priorities that may be unattainable for you.

In addition, you should occasionally talk to people you know or work with. Finding out what they believe to be your guiding principles can reveal a lot about how they view you and whether your philosophy is actually showing. If your followers identify values ​​that contradict everything you wrote in your statement, then you are doing something wrong as a leader. Conversely, when people relate to your values, which are at the heart of your philosophy, you receive reassurance that you are on the right track and a successful leader.

As explained earlier, evaluating your leadership philosophy will help you see if your philosophy is working or not. If not, you need to think carefully about the reasons for the failure. It could be that you are just not staying true and need more time to embed these values ​​more deeply in your actions. Just keep being more aware of your philosophy and think more about how to follow your principles. But your failures don't have to be due to a lack of motivation.

It could be that the actions and behaviors you choose are not really you and do not align with your leadership strategy. Therefore, you may need to re-evaluate each value and principle, adding new ones and removing those that don't match your philosophy. Successful leadership is a fluid strategy, and the philosophy should not be too rigid either. As you gain more experience, both in business and in life, you develop and grow as a person. This personal development could very well change the way you approach leadership, so you must be willing to make small changes to your philosophy if you wish.

The following self-reflection video clip is a valuable observation as it underscores the importance of being more aware of the implications of your decisions. It's an important lesson to keep in mind as you evaluate your leadership philosophy.


Leadership philosophy is a crucial element as it serves as the basis for your leadership. It helps you identify the guiding principles, behaviors, and actions you want to place at the heart of your leadership. By carefully considering your values, priorities, and goals, you can create a framework for effective, purposeful leadership.

A leadership philosophy brings clarity to your decision-making and actions, which helps you inspire and motivate followers to support your vision. You will be a leader with a clear mission and way of doing things, making it easier for people to respect and trust you as they always know where you come from.

When it comes to developing a leadership philosophy, it's important to take the time to analyze yourself and write down the things you believe in and value. Creating a document ensures that you are not only accountable but also easy to remember to focus on what matters. This ensures that you don't just think about certain actions and behaviors, but actually implement them in your leadership.

The leadership philosophy is often based on intuition, but also on a careful examination of your strengths and weaknesses. It's about finding the voice that really speaks for you, rather than pretending to agree with things you don't believe in or can't achieve.

How to develop a leadership philosophy that inspires | cleverness (3)


(Video) Developing a Leadership Philosophy: Why & How


1. The Leader Within: Leadership Emotional Intelligence
(Bluepoint Leadership Development)
2. How To Build A Winning Company Culture ( Leadership Philosophy )
(Sabri Suby)
3. Emotional Intelligence: How Good Leaders Become Great -- UC Davis Executive Leadership Program
(UCDavis Continuing and Professional Education)
4. HOW TO BE A LEADER - Motivational Speech By Simon Sinek
5. Why good leaders make you feel safe | Simon Sinek
6. Developing a Leadership Philosophy
(Bonnie Bowie)


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