There are many ways in which leaders get recognised for their leadership – and depending on who is doing the recognising, those ways are what best serves those doing the looking. However, to determine what makes for good leadership by looking at external factors or other people is to lose sight of why we want or need leaders.
Leadership needs to come from the inside of a person, because of a set of beliefs or principles that they hold to because they see a higher way for themselves and others. Leadership suggests that the person innately has a vision or perspective that others do not have. This is a far more compelling way to be a leader – the way of integrity with self-determined principles – and this way inspires and leads in far more powerful and impactful way.
Unless a person examines themselves – their inner set of beliefs, values or principles – they can only assume that what they believe will always lead them to do the right thing. But in the heat and pressures of work most people will become influenced by others and their requirements to:
- Improve the share price for shareholders
- Improve the bottom line for profitability (so as to get one’s bonus or exceed the City’s prior forecast
- Cut expenses in order to improve profitability
- Find ways to manipulate staff to improve productivity
- Increase sales to achieve a) and b) above
- Innovate with new products and services to achieve a) and b) above
Such external factors pressurise people to think the same things and do the same things, without the inner examination of principle or ethic. When people are concerned to please others, they rarely concern themselves with whether they’re pleasing themselves (ie their inner set of values or principles). When leaders are motivated only by such external pressures, their own integrity is easily breached.
Therefore, the quality of leadership declines away from the inspirational vision or perspective that unique leaders could offer, if they considered their own principles and values first. Here are the five principles delineated in ‘Enlightened Leaders’
TRUTH: Value the truth, ask for the truth, listen to the truth.
In order to make good decisions, value the truth, ask your people to speak what is the truth and deal in the truth in all interactions. Be truthful in your communications. Demonstrate that honesty really IS the best policy and invite truthful communications from your people. Be prepared to listen and hear contrary views to your own. You will benefit from this; don’t let your ego prevent you listening to differing perceptions.
RESPECT: Respect the people you employ, respect your customers, your suppliers and your community
Respect means valuing each person’s contribution to your business. Whether they’re buying, selling or supporting your business, respect not just each transaction, but the relationship. Work to ensure long-term inter-dependent relationships because that is what you will need if your business is to survive long term.
JUSTICE: Be fair and just in all your contracts
Don’t always try to win at the cost of others. Ensure that contracts are fair, with both sides winning. Be the neutral point of fairness and justice and listen to all sides of an issue if your judgement is called for. Do not require your employees to work hours for which they are not paid. Do not pollute a locality and expect the council or local government to pick up the costs. Pay your way by contributing a fair amount to each contract.
INTEGRITY: Act in accordance with your principles and values
Spend time reflecting on whether what you say and what you do are in alignment. Practise what you preach to others. Lead by behaviour and actions in all areas which are offering leadership. And don’t allow yourself to be pressured into decisions or actions that others want you to take which are in contravention to your integrity.
TRUST: Be trustworthy, extend trust, invite trust
Creating an environment of trust is the responsibility of a leader. It begins with the leader themselves being trustworthy. Which means that they are not self-serving for starters. If increasing your salary and your bonuses are your driving passion, you will create distrust, because you’re putting yourself first, rather than other people – customers, employees, suppliers, community. To be trusted you must see yourself as a trustee of the business, the future and all the people who have a stake in that business and its future.
These are five of the principles that a leader may wish to use to build their inner life from which they can lead, and so become a person others want to follow.